Another season, another North London Derby. But coming into this we are seeing a Tottenham Hotspur team more banged up than ever. Kyle Walker, Jermain Defoe, and Mousa Dembele are all likely out. Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, and Scott Parker remain long-term injury doubts. We're already likely unproven players like Kyle Naughton forced into this crucial rivalry game. But perhaps the most important player is the man who just was recalled to the England National Team: Tom Huddlestone.
Huddlestone is the only healthy, proven "passer" in the Tottenham midfield. Pairing with Sandro, we've seen bright spots out of Huddlestone, reminding us of the younger, healthier version that was a Spurs' mainstay. However, he will have to run the show again this weekend, facing a daunting Arsenal midfield likely to include Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, and Jack Wilshire.
The good news is that Cazorla, for all his offensive talent, is not the type of attacking midfielder that should press Huddlestone and make him uncomfortable. The key then will be for Huddlestone to find the attacking midfielder and wingers in space, opening up gaps in the Arsenal defense. Wilshire and Arteta are likely to sit deeper in attack, daring Huddlestone to shuttle the ball forward. Huddlestone's ability then to spray long balls will be imperative to Spurs' success.
Defensively, Huddlestone will have to pick up the advancing runs of Arteta, allowing Sandro to worry about the dynamic Cazorla. Huddlestone's mobility is not back all the way yet (not that he was ever that athletic in the first place), so the Spurs defense may be forced to sit deeper and Arsenal to cross balls into Olivier Giroud.
Overall though, Huddlestone's passing chart will tell the tale. If he can succede in completing some diagonal balls in addition to his normal excellent short passing, then Spurs should have every chance to win. But if Huddlestone is found out and the Arsenal defense isn't afraid to press high, then it is very likely that turnovers will again lead to rival goals.
How do you see Huddlestone's role entering the North London Derby, and who's your choice First XI for the match after the injury crisis? Sound off below: