Arsenal vs. Tottenahm; North London Derby Preview

Arsenal travel to White Hart Lane Saturday to play Spurs in a NLD that could have significant implications in the race for Champions League places. Arsenal sit fifth in the league and trail Southampton for the final Champions League position on goal difference; Spurs are just two points adrift in sixth. The reverse fixture at the Emirates in September ended in a 1-1 draw with goals from Nacer Chadli and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a game largely controlled by the home side.

Here are some potential tactical features to look for and some interesting stats.

  • Arsenal have taken 15 out of 18 possible points from their last six matches; Spurs have taken 13 out of 18. Only Liverpool have recorded more points in their last 6 (16).
  • Mauricio Pochettino has used Moussa Dembele in a central attacking midfield role behind Harry Kane in Tottenham's last two fixtures with Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen on the right and left flanks respectively. Both Lamela and Eriksen like to tuck inside to central areas. For Arsenal, this could cause Francis Coquelin, whose main matchup will be with Dembele, to become overloaded in central areas at the base of Arsenal's midfield. It'll be important for Aaron Ramsey to get close to Coquelin when Spurs are in possession so that Lamela and Eriksen can't find pockets of space either side of Coquelin.
  • With Alexis Sanchez set to miss out with a hamstring injury, Theo Walcott will likely get his second successive start. Sanchez is obviously a big miss- he's arguably been the Premier League's best player in his opening season- but Walcott is a strong replacement and provides Arsenal's attack with solid balance. His pace poses a threat in behind the opposition defense that you don't get from striker Olivier Giroud and he's usually a proficient finisher when through on goal. He also gives the Gunners a threat in wide areas where he can beat the opposition fullback with his pace, get to the endline and cut the ball back into the box.
  • The positioning of Tottenham left back Danny Rose when Spurs are in possession will be interesting. With Eriksen likely to be tucking inside ahead of him, he could be responsible for providing Spurs with width in the attacking third. However, by getting into advanced positions he'll allow Walcott space in behind down the channels to counter into, an area where Walcott's pace can be deadly.
  • Spurs are 11th in home goals conceded while Arsenal are third in away goals scored. I'd be shocked if Arsenal didn't score at some point during the 90 minutes. In order to secure three points Spurs will need multiple goals but they proved in their 5-3 home win over Chelsea they're capable.
  • Spurs have just the 9th best home record in the league; Arsenal have the 5th best away record.
  • All eyes will be on Harry Kane. The 21 year old has been a revelation this season. His 20 goals in all competitions lead the Premier League and he combines that proficiency in front of goal with a tremendous work rate off the ball. The battle between him and veteran Arsenal center backs Laurent Koscienly and Per Mertesacker should be fascinating.