08 November 2015

Alexis? Alexis Sanchez, where are you?

There's nothing quite like a North London Derby to rinse away the bitter dregs of a midweek Champions League loss, and while we've been licking our wounds, Tottenham come in fresh on the heels of a 2-1 win over Anderlecht on Thursday, meaning they've lost just three matches all season and just one in the Prem. They've quietly kept close on our heels and look more-organised than they ever have in recent memory. Will that be enough to enable Spurs to escape with a point? That might be Pochettino's plan.


In recent seasons, after all, Tottenham have struggled to score, but their real troubles came at the other end. Last season, for example, they conceded 53 goals. Only four squads were more-generous. This time through, they've conceded just nine goals in eleven matches. While their scoring is still average, that stinginess has helped Tottenham build momentum. For those with an eye to such things, Harry Kane has scored five goals in his last three appearances, suggesting that he might be starting to rediscover the form that made him such a darling to Spurs fans a season ago. If, however, we can deny him service by closing down Eriksen on the left, this would go a long way towards quieting Kane.

Unfortunately, this is a situation that might have been ideal for Héctor Bellerín, but he has been ruled out. We'll have to hope that Debuchy can rediscover the kind of form that convinced us to to sign him in 2014. He's looked rusty and even diffident at times, and his tendency to drift to towards the middle rather than staying wide could give Eriksen the time and space he needs to create chances for himself and for Kane. It might be reassuring to see that Joel Campbell put in so much effort tracking back against Bayern; he'll likely be called on to do the same again on Sunday.

Going forward, I'm anointing a certain Chilean, who's been a bit quiet lately, to provide the spark we need to score. Since erupting in late September for seven goals and an assist in four matches, Alexis has found just one assist in his last four. There's no way though that the tireless sparkplug can be kept quiet for long. For as improved as Tottenham's defense is, they play a high line, and both Vertonghen and Lloris take risks as well. These are factors that should afford Alexis opportunities to either get in behind on a counter or to discombobulate that back four. With Cazorla and Özil pulling strings, I wouldn't be surprised to see Alexis get his first goal since mid-October and his first-ever versus Tottenham.

Shake off the Bayern result. It means nothing. For a North London Derby, all bets are off. Few other pairings can offer the same passion, intensity, or pride that this one can. Our lads know it. If anything, some of them may have looked past Tuesday as they thought ahead to Sunday. What's more certain is that they'll bring an extra bite to their game, enough to put the fear back in our foes while putting them back in their place.

LAST 3
Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal (23.09.2015)
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (07.02.2015)
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham (27.09.2014)

FACTFILE
Under Wenger, Arsenal have scored more goals against Tottenham--88--than against any other club.
Arsenal are undefeated in 19 of 20 home matches against Tottenham.
Tottenham are undefeated in their last ten Prem matches.

INJURIES
Wilshere, Rosický, Welbeck, Ramsey, Walcott, and Oxlade-Chamberlain are still out; Bellerín has been ruled out; and Koscielny faces a late fitness test.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Debuchy; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Campbell; Giroud. 

As always, expect a pulsating match, and one in which Arsenal find and finish a few chances to win it.

PREDICTION
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham