Let’s admit that we’ve gotten off to a stutter-stop start, what with struggling to see off Nottingham Forest and Palace and drawing at home to Fulham before finally reeling off a trio of more-convincing results against Everton, Man U, and PSV. By contrast, pundits would have you believing that Tottenham are flying high. Why, they’re even above us on goal difference! Looks like another banner year for Tottenham. Heung-Min Son declared that “Arsenal won’t want to face us at this time. Everyone is running for each other, everyone is fighting for each other.” Hm. We’ll see.
On one hand, we can at long last close the book on Kane scoring in NLDs. He’s flown the coop. On the other, Postecoglou has, at least in these early stages, forged a freer-flowing side in which Song, Maddison, Kulusevski, and even Richarlison look more incisive. Without Kane clogging the middle and hogging the chances, Tottenham have a more diffuse attack, with goals coming from multiple directions. Kane is still a prolific and clinical scorer, but his absense has allowed others to fill the void.
What’s more, Postecoglou has gone beyond the stereotypical “new manager” bounce. After Pochettino, the club wallowed in misery to varying degrees under Mourinho, Nuno, and Conte. Frankly, even the appointment for Frank Lampard would have provided that bounce. Postecoglou seems like a genuine breath of fresh air, and he has players running and fighting for the first time in five years. He’s got them playing a bright, aggressive style for the first time since Pochettino did. Even if we might sniff at the relative softness of their early season fixtures (not that ours are all that different), we’d do well to be wary of the threat they pose both on Sunday and in the longer term.
In a sense, our midweek match against PSV might serve as decent preparation for what we’ll see from Tottenham on Sunday: an aggressive side trying to get up the pitch, quick movement and passing, and lots of shots. Squawka would like us all to know that Tottenham have had more touches inside the opposition box (230) than any other team in Europe’s big-five leagues and no side has attempted more shots (101). That’s something to be alert to, so it’s a relief that we can go in with our backline of Zinchenko, Magalhães, Saliba, and White ahead of either Raya or Ramsdale.
Those worried about our midweek fixture sapping our strength should comfort themselves with the knowledge that we essentially had the result in hand by the twentieth minute and could spend most of the rest of the match with the handbrake on to the point that key players like Saka, Zinchenko, and Jesus came off before the 70th minute with Rice coming off just a few minutes later. They’ll be well-rested and ready. If anything, the squad should go in with a spring in their collective step after three convincing wins of varying means.
Of course, as we all know, form goes out the window for derbies. Still, it’s been some time since an NLD saw both sides coming in with their tails up. Something tells me it’s be Tottenham that come into the Emirates feeling a little too full of themselves. Their early-season optimism may just come crashing up against the hardened shores of our hunger. That early stutter-stop start may have, if anything, given a keener edge to our desire to go one better than last season’s so-called bottle-job. I expect the Emirates to be in full-throat on Sunday, both to shout down and shut down our noisome neighbors but also to inspire and impel our lads onward and upward.
My prediction? Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham.
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