Spuds v Arsenal Preview: A Close Look at Our Opponent and How to Mash Them

Is it the time for an away win in the North-London Derby? (15/01/23) – Game preview

There are many clubs based in London. In fact, there are 7 this season in the PL; in alphabetical order: Arsenal, Brentford, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. So literally we have a $h*tload of London derbies in a year (in fact there are 42, but who’s counting?), however only one – technically 2 – of them have the traditions, emotions and passion and prestige to rule them all. On Sunday we visit the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to fight for 3 points and the bragging rights.

I wish I could say that we are the favorites to win that game, because we sit 11 points ahead of Tottenham. However, that would be misleading. The ‘good ole days’ when we defeated Spurs by 5:2 back to back games are far in the past. Nowadays the tradition of the derby is that the hosts keep all 3 points, irrespective of the squad quality, the current form or the table position. That happened in the last 7 encounters, and Spurs will do their ugliest best to keep the tradition alive. Let’s collect the good and bad omens before the game, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses and the style of play of the infamous opposition. Nevertheless, the winning streak of the hosts is the worst sign of them all.

Bad omen II: Harry Kane is in an exquisite form. He is their talisman players – as well as the record scorer in NLDs – and he is in a fine form. Except for England’s 0:0 draw against the USA and their 01/01 home loss against Emery’s Aston villa, Kane has made (at least) a goal contribution in every game he played since mid-November. We are talking about 8 games here with 7 goals and 3 assists, and in his last 2 encounters he was awarded MotM. While I do not particularly like the guy, this is a performance worth admiration.

Bad omen III: Tottenham has an annoying tendency of coming back from losing positions. Out of their 37 goals, 10 have been scored in the first half, and 27 in the second. This could help them turn the game around if they concede early, but also shows that Conte has serious skills in making proper mid-game changes both from tactical perspective and also formation-wise, deviating from their preferred 3-4-2-1.

Bad omen IV: they are motivated. The North-London Derby is a huge motivation on its own accord, but taking into consideration that the top 4 places seem to have sailed away from Tottenham (should be allocated among Arsenal, Newcastle and the 2 Manchester teams), they have this game as a minor cup final. And I’m not sure it is the same for us, but even so, it’s a smaller final. Plus they have to get us back for the earlier defeat, so they won’t have to dig deep to find their cojones.

Good omen I: They have a long injury list, that includes quite a few (half-)decent players. According to the latest team news, they will be missing the services of Richarlison, Bentancur (their 2nd best in form player), Kulusevski (#5), Moura and Bissouma. On the other hand our match-day squad only lacks Jesus and Nelson, and while the former is indeed a big blow, he is seemed to be properly substituted by Eddie Nketiah, who scored 5 goals in his last 5 starts.

Good omen II: they are error-prone. Tottenham is not only known for making individual errors, but also for struggling when defending against skillful players. Now all 4 attackers are in great form, especially if we disregard our streak-ending draw against Newcastle. There is a good chance that Odegaard, Martinelli or Saka could open them up, and even though Romero is a fresh World Cup winner, his performance hardly reminds of that this season. Son doesn’t resemble the hitman he used to be, so if we focus on neutralizing Kane, we have good chances for a decent result, and even decent chances of a good result.

Good omen III: referee Craig Pawson. He is among the more reliable officials in the PL. Our only game with him this season was our 0:3 victory at Bournemouth (got a single yellow only). I’m not looking for favors here, but Tottenham is known to play the referees and diving, and I hope Craig will not be too susceptible with those tomorrow. And let’s not forget, VAR might help us with offside and handball, but when there is a minimal contact, everything will be up to the official’s interpretation.

Good omen IV: their strong and weak suits fit ours. Tottenham’s goals came from open play (25), corners (10!) and penalties. Arsenal only a single goal from corner, and none from direct free kicks or set pieces. Despite their really tall squad, Saliba and Gabriel M will fight off their aerial threats, while our creative players can cause problems to their robust, yet not too technical CBs, Davies and Dier.

Tomorrow’s game is not simply the clash of two antagonistic neighbours. It is also the fight of 2 different footballing philosophies. Tottenham represents the clubs where they bought their best players for big money (Romero, Richarlison), and they demand established, decorated managers to coach them (Mourinho, Conte). On the other hand, Arsenal prefers the smart purchases of undervalued players (Odegaard, Saliba, and all 3 Gabis), plus we pick our coaches based on long-term strategy and club DNA. Arsenal is known for their strong academy and giving chances to the young starlets (Saka, ESR, Nketiah), however this might be changing with Arteta (And the upcoming Mudryk-transfer is putting our smart transfer tradition in a different perspective, but this is a topic to be discussed under a different post.)

So we need to have Harry Kane disengaged, concentrate and focus while defending corners, disregard the intimidating atmosphere, and avoid situations where Tottenham players can appeal for penalties, free kicks and cards. I don’t think we need to have a preferred wing or particular tactics to score goals, as Spurs are not really good defensively, and without Bentancur they will struggle at midfield too. But they do have a lethal force, and even with 3 injuries Son and Kane are to be taken seriously.

Not surprisingly, I expect Tottenham to play in 3-4-2-1 (with Perisic and Royal on the flanks, and Gil + Son supporting Kane from the middle), while – even less surprisingly – we will be keeping our standard 4-2-3-1 with the usual starting line-up. I think even back-to-back NLD victories are on the table, but to be realistic I predict an enjoyable draw of 2:2 or maybe even 3:3.

What do you think of North London? Is it red? Is it blue? Or purple maybe? Be kind in the comments, but mostly to yours truly, not with Tottenham. 😛

By Peter Barany.

43 thoughts on “Spuds v Arsenal Preview: A Close Look at Our Opponent and How to Mash Them

  • Great post, Peter!

    Are you going to share your personal news with the rest of us? 🙂

    I think you have highlighted the key issues really well in your post. I reckon that Spuds love it when they get attacked so they can play on the break. The dream of almost every Italian, and Conte is not different. They will aim to win the ball in their own half and spring counter after counter. Sol and Half-Moon-Face love that sort of space.

    I think we will be in a good space mentally. Had Citeh beaten Manure then we would be sweating about this NLD much more, but now we can play our own game and still keep the gap at five points whatever happens. So I expect the boys to go for the win with playing our superior game and taking our chances this time. We need much better efforts from our left-footed players like the Ode and Xhaka. In fact, I predict a goal by Xhaka and one by the Ode too.

    I am also looking forward to the battles between Saliba/Big Gab and Half-Moon- Face and Soniboy. Let’s get at them and play for all three points.

    Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!!

  • Thank you PB I enjoyed reading your post, you are a natural writer.

    I dislike the NLD’s intensely, I’m always to nervous to enjoy them – unless Arsenal get a substantial lead then I can relax.

    I agree with you that Kane should be our focus and hopefully man marked out of the game.

    A loss will hurt Spurs more than Arsenal but a win by us would lay down a huge marker and enhance on our overall chance of actually winning the EPL.

    What is your personal news PB? – happy news I hope.

  • Fine post, PB, and a fine comment from Total. I share that nervous tension acknowledged by GN5 and Kev, but, despite those omens, I think our boys are going to give them a spanking.

  • Fine preview and well delivered, PB. Indeed, it is apt to remind us of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses (omens, as you refer to them), but these things don’t matter in the derbies as form usually goes out the window and players highly motivated.

    It is in that area that we trump them; we have the greater motivation to win and extend our lead at the top. All they have is pride and a desire to get their fans the bragging rights; it even helps that we are playing the better football and have the better offense. We should make it count. I like that you assessed the officiating situation too; we just have to be mature and avoid those opportunities for the officials to affect the result, adversely.

    While a draw is a worst case scenario, I fully expect a win otherwise, Manure may start to get encouragement.

  • Impressive, as always, P.
    Maybe GO – V could’ve been the sheer quality of the football Mick’s Young Guns deliver.
    In the wake of a (relatively) disappointing result, happier recollections might get blurred, but our first ten minutes against Howe’s boys were just mind-blowing, just as were some chunks of the first 60 minutes against BHA.
    I try to hold my horses here, and I write this after watching several games of the Champions’ League’s group-stage’s most exciting team – Napoli – who are a joy to watch too, but I don’t think there is another team in Europe playing at the level Mick’s youngsters can reach for 15, 30, sometimes 45 minutes in a game.
    This has never been 90 minutes so far, and yes we are in great danger during the remaining minutes – the last minutes of the Brighton game were a serious wake-up call, if that was needed – but we know at some point our boys will put the spuds under terrible pressure too.
    And as not all teams can get out unscathed of the kind of bombing Newcastle somehow successfully dodged 2 weeks ago, even with the penalty HK will get … well, it’s hard not to consider the possibility of a gloriously red afternoon in North London.

  • Thanks for the warm reception, guys.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm. I honestly think so that a fully fit Tottenham squad would defeat us today (as usual in away NLDs), but without Bentancur, Richarlison, Kulusevski and Moura they should be playing for the draw. Apparently Bissouma was deemed fit to play, so I expect him to start alongside Højbjerg – and I thought Aubameyang has a name difficult to spell -, making them a defense-minded line-up, focusing on counterattacks as TA predicted.

    Regarding my personal news: we are in the process of an open adoption (meaning that we have already met and befriended the birth mother, as opposed to a closed adoption where she would be classified or unknown). Yet, according to Hungarian adoption regulation, the birth mother has 6 weeks to change her mind; therefore Artemis – who was born on Monday and placed to our home on Friday under our ‘temporary guardianship’ – will legally and irrevocably become our daughter only on the 21st of February, assuming things progress as hoped and planned. Fortunately I’m not superstitious, so I shouldn’t worry about jinxing our chances by coming out here.

    Since breastfeeding is not an option we are splitting and alternating nutrition duties with my wife, limiting continuous sleep at 5 hours, but still doubling the 2.5-3 hours given to an infant’s biological mother (and noise-sensitive spouse). Nevertheless I sincerely hope that the NLD will keep me awake, and would not lead to confrontation with the missus on conflicting priorities. 🙂

  • Congratulations again, PB! Artemis – could be a female version of Arteta! – is a wonderful name and I hope all goes as planned for you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Their XI:
    Not far from their best (Bentancur for Sarr it’d be)
    Forster-Davies-Bissouma-Perisic-Gil-Richarlison: not exactly a weak bench, too…
    As for us, no surprise except on the bench where Matt Smith’s back, which means Emil’s there as Eddie’s backup
    Fulham’ve been doing to Howe’s boys exactly what they did to us
    I don’t bet, but the odds for having a goal scored in a Newcatles game are gonna get more and more tempting
    Oh, btw:

  • Chelsea are getting a huge bounce from having sealed the Mudryk deal and having him in attendance today.
    Potter will eventually get them back to being a force.

  • The Spurs line up suggests an attack minded set up. They have a good bench too (an area we just have to address fast, if we want to give us a chance for top 2).

    Newcastle 1-0 Fulham, with a few minutes to play.

  • Chavs are desperate and singing him for that sort of money is rediculous. I am sad not to get him but East European players are always a gamble in terms of being able to settle in.

    Bah the Magpies are the Chavs of the North these days.

  • Congrats PB on the baby. Babies are a sure joy in the household. Beautiful name as well. Great post as well.
    Iam very nervous though and would watch the game with my son. Hope we won or atleast a draw would be good as well. Just keep the momentum.

  • Wow Ode what a goal I would have expected that from Fabio in terms of the distance.

  • The boys are doing us proud all over the pitch, and especially Saka and the Ode are playing world class football. Midfield is ours and we can even afford the misplaced passes of Thomas.

    Eddie is making a GJ9-esque nuisance of himself and Martinelli provides enough threat on the left. However, he could do with a bit more support from the left back, if indeed we have one on the pitch.

    And what a shot by the Ode!

    Second half needs focus and a third goal would be bliss.

    CoyrrGs ⚽ ⚽ ⚽ ⚽

  • Wow what a performance. A clean sheet to the boot. No Kane record as well. What a superb controlled performance. Great refereeing as well. Proud of the boys. Love them

  • The first was pure art. The second pure grit. Proud of every single Gunner tonight. 47 points, just seven dropped in 18 games. What a season so far.

  • Congratulations PB and thanks for the excellent preview. That was an NLD to savour. As TA said more eloquently, two very different halves but so much to appreciate from our boys. N.B. What is it about Richarlison that he feels that he has to get in people’s faces from the moment he comes on? If he stuck to playing football he might be quite good…

  • That was so dominant in the first half; and a controlled job of brinkmanship in the second. They have named Ramsdale man of the match, suggesting Spurs peppered our goal. Balderdash!
    Martin Odegaard was the deserved MoTM.
    We have really matured and starting to show willingness to apply some of the dark art that champions need to ensure they get there: Xhaka staying down to ensure a review of that flying kick by Romero who was on a yellow card, then the way Gabriel kept drawing fouls at critical phases of the game, like the one off Kane.

    The team is growing and we are in a good place where we just need to win the next game.

  • Wow congratulations PB – I’m so happy for you and your wife. I truly hope that February 21st is a red letter day in your lives.

  • I think Gabriel just seems to dislike Richarlison, for some reason not too far from how he tried to get him sent off in a previous game. He gets riled up with him about and goes into tackles against him with a heightened fervour.

    Could it have started from the Brazil camp?

  • Congratulations, PB. Such fine news for your family. Hopefully, Arsenal put the icing on it.

  • Eris, it wasn’t just Gabriel. Richarlison pushed Ben and was whinging and getting upset about an incident in which he wasn’t directly involved and he continued trying to verbally bait our players for the rest of the match. He obviously missed out on being cast as the pantomime villain this year!

  • Like others here I’m not too upset about losing Mudryk. He’s evidently a good player and would have improved the squad but the prices we were bidding were insane. Take a look at Wilfried Gnonto’s performance for Leeds against Villa on Friday. He was outstanding, only 18, yet mature for his age, and Leeds bought him from FC Zurich in the summer for only £3.8m.

  • Well, OX10, problem is every team in Europe would know we have an unutilized sum of €95m which raises the bar of our player negotiations this window. Hopefully, we still have some reasonable clubs to seek players from.

  • OX10, I had to scroll up to see if I could get context to your reaction to my Richarlison post. I had made my observation without even realising you had made a comment along similar lines about the man.

    I never liked his attitude and didn’t include him in potential Arsenal buys, while he was at Everton. Too big for his small breeches and looks to me he thinks he’s better than he truly is. A few trophiless seasons with Spurs should bring him down to earth.

  • Eris I’ve always seen Richarlison as overrated. Some raw skills and strength, but doesn’t have a handle on it all. Never seems focused or under control, and even when he scores it seems kind of haphazard.

    Also a punk.

  • Yeh, perfect 10’s, LG. Craig Pawson and his team gets a 10 as well. As do our fans at the ground. Even my mother in law gets a 10 today.

  • Yeh, perfect 10’s fully deserved, LG.
    Craig Pawson and his team get a 10 as well. So do our fans at the ground. Even my mother in law gets a 10 today.

  • Stuart, me old All Black mate, we are currently at the top and that’s where we’ll remain. Victory Through Harmony.

  • 03:39!!
    Working night, Kev?
    Or … celebration night? Or both …
    Was your boy among the away fans? They were outstanding again
    Mood this morning:
    ” – I had imagined this moment for so log. Is this real?
    – Mick, wherever you are, Thank You”

  • “I believed, I believed”.
    Great stuff LG. I can tell you where Mikel is, he’s awake and planning the tactics for the Manure game.

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