North London Derby: Who will finish fourth?
Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur, two sides with a historic rivalry known as the North London derby, are now neck and neck in the race for top four. No one really expected the two North London clubs to be in this position at the start of the season, as most assumed Man United would cruise to a place in the top four after a very impressive transfer window. It was not to be, the awfulness of United this season left a window of opportunity for less favoured clubs to compete for the UCL spot.
Now it comes down to just two clubs, Arsenal, and Spurs. Arteta vs Conte, Red vs White. Let us take a look at how the table looks at the moment.
- 4th Arsenal – PLD 35- W 21 – D 3 – L 11 – PTS 66
- 5th Tottenham Hotspur – PLD 35 – W 19 – D5 – L 11 – PTS 62
As you can see, it is nip and tuck between the two sides heading into this fixture, a win for Spurs would see them just a point off Arsenal with two to go, a win for Arsenal would see them qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2016.
A Tactical Overview
Both managers have a pretty distinct style of playing. Arteta plays a similar system to that of his mentor Pep Guardiola but with parts slightly downplayed due to the difference in quality between his and Pep’s side. Arsenal play to keep possession and create openings with a combination of intricate passes and individual creativity from players such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, while midfielders Emile Smith-Rowe and/or Martin Ødegaard link everything together with their short passing and ability to see between the lines. Arsenal create a lot of chances in games, and it is obvious what they’re missing, a ruthless goal scorer. Lacazette has never been that man for them. They are crying out for a figurehead at the top end of the pitch to take them to that next level.
They have been linked with a few strikers recently, they missed out on hot property Dusan Vlahovic in January as he joined Juventus. They are also keeping tabs on Jonathan David, Alexander Isak and Darwin Nunez, who have all impressed for their respective sides this season. Once Arsenal get this position locked down with young quality, we could see them explode even further. A man they could really do with having in their side is Spurs’ Harry Kane. He has once again been brilliant this season as his role in the Spurs side has changed slightly. He has been less prominent in front of goal as he has adapted to two new managers. Instead, he has been the link between Kulusevski and Son who make runs beyond him constantly. He has still bagged thirteen in the league and been a key player in Conte’s system, but it is the wingers who have been the real stars.
The counter attacking style that Spurs play, particularly in the big games has allowed Son and Kulusevski to take centre stage, both technically gifted players who are well capable of scoring. Son is only three short of Mohamed Salah in the golden boot rankings and has had an incredible season once again. He will be a major threat to Arsenal’s defence. It looks like Conte’s side will play behind the ball for large spells as that is usually how the Italian sets up in the bigger games. The magnitude of this fixture, both historically and currently will definitely play a factor. Emotions will be running high and do not be surprised if by the end, tactics are out the window and a slug fest enthrals.
- GK: Hugo Lloris
- CB: Cristian Romero
- CB: Eric Dier
- CB: Ben Davies
- RWB: Emerson Royal
- CM: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
- CM: Rodrigo Bentancur
- LWB: Ryan Sessengon
- RW: Dejan Kulusevski
- ST: Harry Kane
- LW: Heung-Min Son
I can see Conte fielding an unchanged XI from their trip to Anfield, after a spirited performance earned them a point against Klopp’s men. They struggled to maintain possession in that fixture, but that worked to their advantage. The rigid defensive structure that Conte has implemented throughout this season has made Spurs exceedingly difficult to breach. Arsenal will have a job on their hands trying to break through.
Spurs will look to hit Arsenal on counters, with Kane hitting long balls in behind to Son and Kulusevski. This has been a trademark of Spurs for a few seasons now. Kane and Son have been one of the deadliest duos in Premier League history, statistically. Adding Kulusevski to the team has made counter attacking even more fluid for the Lilywhites.
- GK: Aaron Ramsdale
- RB: Cedric Soares
- CB: Rob Holding
- CB: Gabriel Magalhaes
- LB: Takehiro Tomiyasu
- CM: Granit Xhaka
- CM: Mohamed Elneny
- RW: Bukayo Saka
- CAM: Martin Ødegaard
- LW: Emile Smith-Rowe
- ST: Eddie Nketiah
Arsenal will field a similar line-up to the side that beat Leeds United last weekend, as despite returning to the squad, I do not see Ben White coming straight back into the starting side. Especially with the fine form of Arsenal’s other defenders. Tomiyasu will play out of position again at left back, with Tierney is still out injured.
Emile Smith-Rowe will return to the XI over Gabriel Martinelli on the left flank. He has performed well in previous North London derbies and is an Arsenal academy product. This will give him particular motivation to get one over Spurs and fire his side into the Champions League.
Eddie Nketiah will keep his place after bagging two braces in four starts. He has been preferred over Lacazette but will likely return to the bench next season or move elsewhere as Arsenal will be on the hunt for a new striker in the summer.
Both sides will have played 36 games after they meet on Thursday night, leaving just two remaining fixtures to seal their fates. Let us take a look at the remaining fixtures.
- Burnley (H) – Sunday 15th May – 12:00 BST (BT Sport 1 & 4K)
- Norwich (A) – Sunday 22nd May – 16:00 BST (TBD)
Two sides that are in and around the relegation zone face Spurs before the season ends. The first being Burnley who are desperate to survive the drop. Since the dismissal of Sean Dyche, Burnley have been playing with heart and desire. They will be desperate to grab a result and will make life very difficult for Conte’s side. Burnley, like Spurs, are known for their strong defensive style, they will be behind the ball for large parts of that fixture.
Their final game of the season will see them travel to already relegated Norwich. Dean Smith will be looking to guide his team to a victory before they trot back down to the Championship. I still think this one will be a walk in the park for Spurs, with the quality they possess, they should cruise to a victory.
- Newcastle United (A) – Monday 16th May – 20:00 BST (Sky Sports Main Event & Premier League)
- Everton (H) – Sunday 22nd May – 16:00 BST (TBD)
Arsenal have a trip to the North East on the horizon after the North London derby. Newcastle United is not an easy place to go at the moment, since the arrival of Eddie Howe there has been a renaissance at the club. Some great signings have come in and Newcastle have all but survived the drop, but they will still undoubtedly cause Arsenal problems.
The final Arsenal fixture of the season is a home game against Everton. This fixture shares similarities to Spurs’ game against Burnley. Everton are also in a relegation battle; they have a game in hand over the other relegation candidates and the three points they picked up at Leicester has put them in good stead to stay up. It could all be decided before this fixture, but do not be surprised if both sides have everything to play for.
Where to watch the North London derby live in the UK
This blockbuster clash will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 19:00 BST, with a kick off time of 19:45.
It is set to be a thriller in North London, will Arsenal return to the top flight of European Football? Or will Conte’s Spurs throw a spanner in the works? We will find out on Thursday night…
Author: Jude Sutcliffe