Arsenal make their first trip to Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium on Sunday, looking to pick up three points against Jose Mourinho’s side.
The circumstances are far from ideal for the first North London derby at Spurs’ new ground. For a start, no fans can enter the stadium. Then there’s the fact both clubs are nowhere near even competing for the top-four right now.
Still, it’s a big game for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s Arteta’s first North London derby as a coach. Secondly, a win would put Arsenal on the brink of guaranteeing a finish above their local rivals. It would make it a four-point gap with three games left.
Most importantly, it’s a chance to stake a claim for some form of European football, even if it is the Europa League. Plus, Spurs look terrible right now, and it would be nice to keep it that way.
Given Arsenal have just had their longest break since the Brighton game, you’d expect Mikel Arteta to go as strong as possible with his starting lineup. Let’s have a look at our predicted Arsenal team for the derby clash.
Emi Martinez will start in goal, with Matt Macey on the bench. After 10 years at the club, this is his first senior North London derby.
Bernd Leno is progressing well with his recovery, and may even make it back before the season ends. But there’s no chance he features in this one.
There’s no real reason to expect changes in the back three. We know Mikel Arteta is picking Sead Kolasinac on the left for his left foot, so there are few replacements available in the squad. Then David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi are the two favoured starters whatever system Arsenal play right now.
Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are available, but I wouldn’t expect either to suddenly get starts in the derby. Kieran Tierney can fill in at left-centre-back, but he’s more likely to start further forwards.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka are clearly the in-favour midfield pairing right now. To be fair, they’ve played well enough to deserve it in recent matches.
The likes of Joe Willock and Lucas Torreira will settle for a spot on the bench. As usual, we don’t expect Matteo Guendouzi or Mesut Özil to even make the squad.
Kieran Tierney should start at left-wing-back, and we’re predicting Cedric Soares on the right.
It seems Arteta is rotating between Cedric and Hector Bellerin at the moment, which makes sense given their recent injury problems. Bellerin started on Tuesday, so it’s Cedric’s turn now.
Up front, there’s no (likely) alternative to Alexandre Lacazette. Eddie Nketiah has a suspension, Gabriel Martinelli an injury, Tyreece John-Jules is ineligible after his loan and Folarin Balogun isn’t in first-team training.
The fans want Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka in a front three, but I can’t see it happening. At least not for the first time under Arteta in a game of this importance.
I’m predicting Arteta will opt for experience with Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe. Reiss Nelson and Saka will make the bench.