Here we go again.
Arsenal have won the league at White Hart Lane as many times as Spurs have ever been champions of England.
“It’s a massive game for the club and the fans.”
“This one has got a special something about it.”
“I think with the month we’ve just had, the confidence is going to be high.”
Evidence, there, that I could have just let Francis Coquelin write my match preview for this weekend’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal go into the derby in high spirits and great form, facing a Tottenham side which has won six of their last eight league games.
Last weekend’s 5-0 win over Aston Villa was a confident one, with a solid defensive approach (albeit against the worst attack in the country) and a blistering counter-attacking gameplan.
That scoreline resonates with this weekend’s particularly fixture – I’m sure you’ve all seen Liam Brady’s long-range effort from 1978.
If not (or if so) watching the highlights from a five-goal win in N17 is a more than decent way to prepare for Saturday.
(Spare a thought for Alan Sunderland – only the second player to ever score a hat-trick in this fixture and it has been all but forgotten, such was the majesty of Brady.)
Back to 2015 and Arsène Wenger will be hoping his side click as assuredly as last weekend.
Arguably even more vital is the solidity we’ve displayed of late.
Per Mertesacker said this week that “We know from recent years that defensive unity is vital especially against our north London rivals, so we have to be really cautious on the defensive front.”
Mertesacker also spoke of ‘keeping the crowd quiet’ in the opening stages, and it seems as though Arsenal will continue allowing their opponents sterile possession, rather than looking to keep the ball.
In that case, it may be a blessing of sorts that Wenger doesn’t have many decisions to make with his starting line-up. The team will look very similar – if not the same – to the one which beat Villa so convincingly.
The game comes too early for both Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sánchez, even though Wenger has said that the latter is incredibly keen.
Wenger said on Friday morning that it “isn’t easy to tell him he’s not playing” and it certainly isn’t a task I’d want to undertake.
Unless some mind games are being played, the Chilean won’t feature at White Hart Lane.
Danny Welbeck is able to make his return, but it would be a shock to see him start the game given it will be his first game back, and the team has looked so good offensively.
Gabriel Paulista is ready to play but the manager has expressed some concerns over his English, and whether or not he could play with our other defenders so soon.
The only possible change would be whether or not to include Tomas Rosicky from the start – the Czech has been in fine form lately, and has 3 goals in his last two games against Spurs – including two unforgettable winners last season.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin; Walcott, Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil; Giroud.
A goal form Theo Walcott would take his tally in North London derbies to six goals – he’s currently level with Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry for goals against Spurs.
They have everyone available (that must be nice), so there’s little to say.
Harry Kane is proving prolific in front of goal while all the strings are being pulled by Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen.
He’ll operate in a free role from a wide position so it is vital that Arsenal keeps tabs on him at all times.
Eriksen has developed a penchant for late goals as well as hitting a deadly free-kick, so discipline will be required around the box.
Possible XI: Lloris; Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Mason; Lamela, Dembélé, Eriksen; Kane.
Went to Rome to see the Pope
The derby is always played at a frenetic pace, and Saturday will be no different.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be more attacking than they were in September, with Arsenal sitting on the back foot waiting for spaces and opportunities to launch an attack.
This fixture evokes so many memories for Arsenal fans.
Winning the league there (TWICE). Tony Adams winning it at Wembley. Poaching their captain and greatest ever defender (Double, Double, Double, Sol Campbell has won the Double!) and famous 0-5 and 4-5 victories.
Oh, and the 5-2 results.
Considering form and ability is often said to go out of the window in such passionate affairs it is quite incredible that Arsène Wenger has lost just SIX of FORTY-FOUR games against the Middlesex side.
Hopefully he keeps up his excellent record this weekend and Arsenal come back down the Seven Sisters Road with all three points.
What do you think of Tottenham?!