It’s became an annual ritual for Arsenal fans to get excited by their team’s chances of winning the Premier League, only for their team to let them down. Once again the Gunners are threatening a title challenge.
However a north London derby meeting with in-form Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday offers a major test of Arsene Wenger’s team’s title credentials.
Desperate to bounce back
Arsenal’s Premier League form has saw them pick-up five straight wins, but last time out they suffered a confidence shattering 5-1 mauling at German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The defeat came against the backdrop of the Gunners missing ten first team players. The Allianz Arena is a tough place to visit, even at full strength, but with that many players missing it was always going to be difficult for Wenger’s side to claim a win.
The defeat not only damaged Arsenal’s chances of progressing in the Champions League, but it could also knock the players confidence heading into the north London derby, which is rarely an easy game for either team.
The Gunners will be desperate to make amends for that horror show in Bavaria and who better to do that against than their local rivals.
However, Arsenal has become infamous for their injury problems in recent years and once again they have major personnel issues heading into the derby.
Spaniard Hector Bellerin was a major absence against Bayern Munich, as his replacement Mathieu Debuchy did not exactly cover himself in glory in Germany. Bellerin has been fantastic going forward for the Gunners this season and his absence could be vital against a stubborn Spurs defence.
Just hitting form
Tottenham arrive at the Emirates Stadium having won three consecutive games in all competitions. Spurs have been hard to beat this season, having not lost this season in the top-flight since losing 1-0 at Manchester United on the opening day of the season.
The consecutive league victories have moved Spurs up to fifth-place in the Premier League table and just five points behind the Gunners. It seems that the Tottenham players are now buying into Mauricio Pochettino’s ideas and style of play.
Much is made of Pochettino’s preferred style of play when it comes to attacking, but the Argentinian’s side have also looked very reassured in defence this season.
A big part of Tottenham’s recent success has been the form of Belgian centre-back pairing Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Only Arsenal and Manchester United have conceded fewer goals than Pochettino’s side this season in the Premier League and the pair have been key to that defensive solidarity.
At the other end of the pitch, striker Harry Kane has scored five goals in his last three games in all competitions, after looking like he couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo in his previous nine top-flight games.
Kane now looks like the player who made such a splash last season and could be ready to test that Arsenal defence to the limit.
German centre-back Per Mertesacker’s weaknesses were ruthlessly exposed by Bayern Munich last time out, and the possible absence of Laurent Koscielny could mean the experienced defender partnering Brazilian Gabriel at the heart of the Gunners defence.
Kane will certainly not be intimidated by that defensive pair and will fancy his chances of scoring for a fourth consecutive game in all games.
Derby betting news
The home side are favourites to claim a win in this clash at odds of 8/11, the draw is odds of 3/1 and Spurs are odds of 4/1 to claim just their second win at Arsenal in 21 games in all competitions.
This game could be a defining one for the Gunners’ season. Arsenal’s mental strength has been questioned in recent seasons and what effect that the defeat in Munich remains to be seen.
However, if Arsenal wants to mount a serious title challenge this season then they have to put in a strong showing and put their local rivals to the sword.
Can Arsenal bounce back from the Bayern defeat with a win against Spurs?