Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal – Wembley Stadium – February 10, 2018 – 12:30hrs – EPL Preview
If one were to assume that Arsenal will be buoyed by their 5-1 thrashing of Everton last going into their crucial trip to Wembley to play Tottenham Hotspur, that assumption does not have legs purely on the Gunners' record on the road.
Arsenal haven't seen a turnaround in their performances in away games, which is why the outcome of Wembley clash doesn't hold much hope for them. Thier Win-Draw-Loss record at home and away reads 10W/2D/1L and 3W/4D/6L respectively.
Among the losses have been those to teams as lowly as Stoke City, Swansea City and a totally off-colour Watford. They have lost to teams in the Top 4 like Liverpool, Manchester City & Manchester United and not by small margins.
Arsene Wenger's big hope when his boys play at Wembley will be that his recent multi-million dollar acquisition, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, comes good. In fact he will have to do one better than what Alexis Sanchez did during his stint with the Gunners.
Aubameyang looked good in his opener agsinst Everton where he earned his maiden goal. But his real test could come against much better defenses like those of their Saturday's rivals. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, another import, this time from Manchester United, played much better than his United days and had a hand in at least three of the five goals in the Everton clash.
Aubameyang is already beginning to show the fearsome pace he was known for in Dortmund and with the likes of Ozil and Mkhitaryan assisting him upfront, the Tottenham defense could have a stiff job on their hands.
Meanwhile, Petr Cech, who had to limp out owing to a calf-injury in the Everton clash may not recover fully for the Wembley clash and the mantle of keeping the posts could fall on David Ospina.
The Arsenal defense of Bellerín, Nacho Monreal, Koscielny and Mustafi could come under real pressure since all of them have begun taking attacking roles of late and left huge holes at the back as a consequence, something that happened in their 1-3 defeat to minions Swansea. This is something that Kane & Co. could ruthlessly look to exploit.
For Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham, there could be a host of injury concerns. Toby Alderweireld is yet to recover from his injuries and looks doubtful for the North London derby. Danny Rose who was missing in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool last weekend could find find himself prowling the left flank at the Wembley.
It's a 50-50 chance for the £25 million Lucas Moura for Saturday's clash as he still seems to be facing fitness issues since his arrival from Paris St. Germain. Victor Wanyama, another absentee in the mid-field space against Liverpool, is likely to feature in the starting XI against Arsenal.
For now, Spurs' attacking quartet will be Del Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane. But in a mid-field crowded with names like Eric Dier, Wanyama and Mousa Dembele, it will be interesting see how Lucas Moura will fit in once his fitness issues are over.
Arsene Wenger will probably adopt the same 4-2-3-1 he did against Everton with Aubameyang as the lone striker and trio of Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Lacazettes playing behind him.
For Mauricio Pochettino, it will be his recent and unusual formation of 4-1-2-1-2, where Eriksen will be the lone upper mid-fielder feeding dual strikers Harry Kane & Son Heung-min. Lucas, in case he comes in at Wembley, could be seen prowling the right flank.
Tottenham face Newport County at Wembley in a 4th round FA Cup game on Wednesday night before they get ready to host Arsenal on February 10, Saturday.
As far current forms of both the teams are concerned Tottenham are on a run of six unbeaten games, of which they have won four while Arsenal managed three wins, one draw and lost a couple from the same number of outings. Of the seven times these two have met since 2015, the honours have been evenly shared with two wins for each.
Bookmaker odds for the Wembley game are in favour of the hosts, but the North London derby should be a real cracker whichever way the game goes.
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