Mikel Arteta will rely on the continent’s stars for Sunday’s north London derby as Arsenal look to capture Tottenham
Five games into a new season it is never wise to draw definitive conclusions, as the results of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur clearly show.
Mikel Arteta’s men played catch-up after three games, trailing their then-flawless opponent by nine points.
On Sunday, Arsenal could equalize on points with Nuno Espirito Santo’s men successfully at the Emirates Stadium. Win by two goals or more and the North London Red Half will celebrate the little thing of getting ahead of their fierce rivals on goal difference.
This weekend’s north London derby may not elicit as much neutrality as previous meetings between the two sides over the years, but both home bases will nonetheless relish the possibility of beating the sprint this weekend.
Spurs’ problems so far have been on both ends of the pitch. They are not creating chances in the offensive third (their expected 4.6 goals are the lowest in the league as they are now) and have had to reorganize their line of defense in the last few games due to injuries, suspensions and quarantine rules.
Arsenal’s African squad of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey is likely to start the Premier League clash on Sunday, and Arteta is hoping to help Arsenal score as many points as possible.
The challenges Arsenal faced at the start of 2021/22 mean the captain’s return to just one league goal has largely flown under the radar.
To be fair with the Gabon star, there are mitigating factors. His coronavirus contract prior to the opening game with Brentford caused a catch-up match, and he was introduced in the last 20 minutes against Chelsea with the match effectively over.
The 5-0 defeat at Manchester City was a total disaster, with Granit Xhaka seeing red after 35 minutes, so perhaps the striker shouldn’t be singled out in a match he saw only an hour of excitement.
Results in the last two matches were prioritized, and Aubameyang took home victory in the next match at home to Norwich City, a match in which Arsenal likely deserved an even bigger win.
While the big chances were high – five clear chances rank higher than just two teams in the league – xG’s current underperformance is the third-highest in the division, a situation they’ll want to improve going forward.
As Auba continues to rebound after his Covid absence, he has been striving to play a role in this potential rally… and Sunday would be the time to start.
The Ivory Coast striker has appeared in all but one of Arsenal’s matches – he was utterly lost in that defeat at City – with mixed results so far.
He has yet to open his account for the season and has scored a single pass, inadvertently setting up Aubameyang in the Norwich win, a match he was somewhat lucky not to score.
Oddly enough, while Pepe is not leading the way for the expected goals in the division, his poor performance in xG ranks second in the standings in the entire league.
Will the Ivorian’s luck change in front of goal on Sunday evening?
Slowed by the pre-season injury he suffered in the Mind Series defeat to Chelsea, Barty is back again catching up in his second year, albeit to a lesser degree until last season.
The former Atletico Madrid midfielder came back in the last half hour against Norwich, bagging 75 minutes in last week’s victory over Burnley and escaping unscathed after an hour of work in the UEFA Cup win over Wimbledon.
One of the highlights of the Ghanaian’s outing at Turf Moor last time was him taking positions at the center of defense at times in preparation for Clarett’s direct style.
Barty is unlikely to reclaim his role as an additional central defender against Tottenham, but there is an expectation to see West Africa play from the start in the north London derby.
Despite playing only 103 minutes of the Premier League so far, the midfielder’s tendency to be positive in possession was evident, though.
The Black Star’s nine forward passes are eight passes behind Arsenal’s best players (Xhaka and Emile Smith-Rowe) and 11 passes to the final third of the field are already third with the Gunners.
This was not surprising given the direction of Barty’s passing, with 46.4 percent intending to play in attacking areas. Admittedly, this comes after a small sampling of games, but this is a characteristic of the Ghana ball-possessing superstar and will help Arteta’s men take on Spurs.
Arsenal are seeking back-to-back league victories against Tottenham for the first time since 2013-2014, a long run in a competition that was one-sided in the 1990s and 2000s.
Arteta’s African team has had mixed start to the season, but everyone can be forgiven for a moment if they all win and score the most points in the Emirates on Sunday night.