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Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: It may be early in the season, but the stakes feel high already

North London Derbies are always scary, but this one is even more tense.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Seven matches into the season and Tottenham Hotspur should not be able to complain, having earned an impressive 17 points and sitting just one point off the lead. However, with the play on the pitch not always inspiring a ton of confidence and with Arsenal being the team at the top of the table, there are plenty of grumbles from supporters despite this solid start on paper.

Those complaints will either be confirmed or refuted depending on this weekend’s North London Derby. Spurs finally dropped a match this season, helplessly falling to Marseille in the Champions League, but a big win over Leicester sent the club — and Heung-Min Son — into the international break in good spirits.

The task this Saturday is a bit tougher. Tottenham has not recorded a league win at the Emirates since 2010 and was battered last fall in what turned out to be the beginning of the end for Nuno Espirito Santo. This is the best Arsenal side Spurs have faced in some time, and facing their in-form rivals on the road is going to be a test. A win, though, would feel especially sweet.

Arsenal (1st, 18pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (t-2nd, 17pts)

Date: Saturday, October 1
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Emirates Stadium, London, England
TV: USA Network (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK)

On one hand, Arsenal is second in xG and second in xGA, which combines for a clear second-best xGD between Manchester City and Liverpool. The results follow these metrics as well, as most wins have come with a multiple-goal advantage, including most recently a 3-0 handling of Brentford.

It should be said, though, that the quality of competition has not exactly been high. Arsenal did beat Fulham, but a loss to Manchester United was the only other opponent of quality faced in the league thus far, so it is fair to question how good this team really is. Mikel Arteta’s squad was streaky last year, and a bad run of form soon would not shock anyone, especially if it kicked off with a NLD loss.

Recent results:

While May’s dominant victory did not technically seal fourth place over their rivals — Arsenal still ended the day ahead by a point — it sure felt like Spurs would be the ones who ended up in the Champions League by the end of the season after the lopsided outcome. It was a classic showing by Harry Kane and Son, and a typical performance by Rob Holding and the visitors as well.

The teams seem to be on opposite ends of that momentum now, with Arsenal feeling their best since Arsene Wenger and both Kane and Son having their share of disappointments as of late. But coming off the win over Leicester (and a few goals during the international break), the attackers are getting back into prime form, and that could be the difference in a match that will sure provide some counterattacking opportunities.

Given Arsenal’s formation and reliance on midfielders, one has to wonder if Antonio Conte will leverage a 5-3-2 for at least part of the contest. The last match before the break featured plenty of rotation and substitutions, but the introduction of the midfield three was a new wrinkle that many supporters has been asking for. It is a difficult decision to swap out a forward, but tactically this could be the way to go to help spark some chances this weekend.