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Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Spurs need a win in the North London Derby

This is a chance for Tottenham to get back on track.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Nuno Espirito Santo made the surprising decision to go for it midweek, sending out a fairly strong starting XI against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup. After Tottenham Hotspur took an early 2-0 lead, last season’s trials came back to life, as Wolves equalized and sent the match straight into penalties. Luckily Spurs survived after some rough attempts by the home team.

The attention now turns back to the Premier League for another massive match. Last weekend’s start against Chelsea seemed promising at first, but eventually the wheels fell off and left Tottenham with its second loss in a row after three straight wins to open up the new league season. Righting the ship is imperative, but that is never an easy task in a North London Derby.

Arsenal have started the exact opposite, with three embarrassing defeats to begin the year before winning its last two to now sit just three points back of Spurs. The Gunners do have a pair of League Cup wins over lower tier clubs as well, as they are not bothered by any sort of European competition this season (lol). Sunday’s derby is a big one.

Arsenal (t-11th, 6 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 9 pts)

Date: Sunday, September 26
Time: 11:30 am ET, 4:30 pm UK
Location: Emirates Stadium, London, England
TV: NBCSN (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

On paper, this one would seem to favor Tottenham, but recent form may suggest the opposite, and of course this fixture is never as straightforward as it seems. With many of the starters also playing on Wednesday, there could be a few fitness challenges, though no one who is capable of starting is going to be rested for this derby.

Last year’s matches featured a pair of memorable goals, with Heung-Min Son launching the opener in front of fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Erik Lamela leaving his mark with a sensational rabona at the Emirates. True to form, the December fixture was an exciting win that kept Spurs’ bigger aspirations alive, while the away contest in the spring ended with yet another blown lead and a depressing defeat.

Tottenham has failed to generate the type of attack that can consistently win matches, but perhaps the Arsenal defense is what it takes to get that going. This is one of the league’s worst teams by xGA, and Nuno needs to find a way to get the ball consistently into the final third. That responsibility does not solely fall on Tanguy Ndombele, but getting him into the side consistently is a must. He and Spurs absolutely need to find a way to bring home three points.

Three themes

  1. Said it last week too, but Spurs need Harry Kane. Clearly this summer messed with his head, but he is here now and still under contract and the squad will only go as far as he takes it. Generating chances may continue to be an issue, but if he can put himself in position to actually take some shots, his finishing is at the level to save this attack. Hopefully Wednesday’s goal can kickstart his league efforts.
  2. The reintroduction of Ndombele is huge, but having Giovanni Lo Celso and Dele Alli as staples in the lineup is a nice change as well. With Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn both dealing with injuries, Nuno may not have much of a choice, but Spurs are finally playing all of their best players at once. Utilizing them correctly is the next task, as it seems like Lo Celso and Dele might need to swap places, but at least the right players are seeing the pitch.
  3. Arsenal was the laughing stock of the league for the first month, but a loss will drag down Tottenham level with its hated rival. Even just six matches into the season, this one feels particularly important, especially after last weekend. North London Derbies are typically more stressful than fun, and unfortunately that looks to be the script again this Sunday.