Tottenham vs Arsenal: The Arteta Mourinho era commences
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
A new era begins on Sunday in the history of this prestigious local derby encounter. Arsenal travel to the toilet bowl for the first time, marking the commencing of the period of modern stadium North London Derbies. Highbury and White Hart Lane are things of the past, with commercialised arenas officially taking over. A sense of irony certainly prevails, with a stadium built for the purpose of increasing matchday revenues not being able to attain any income for it's biggest spectacle thus far.
The more notable beginning of an era that comes alongside these new stadiums is the two managerial changes from the last derby in September. The Pochettino-Emery spell didn't last long, but the two men in the respective North London hot seats now may be here a while longer. Jose Mourinho will be sitting in the Spurs dugout on Sunday, adding significant fuel to his pantomime villain fire amongst Arsenal fans. The sight of Mourinho and Spurs coming together is enough to induce vomit from myself, and I feel this is probably a shared feeling in our fanbase. Two evils colliding to forge one greater evil. I've personally never wanted to thrash them more.
After his long-standing rivalry with Arsene Wenger, Mikel Arteta is the new man to carry this anti-Mourinho agenda into the future. Hopefully, a new fiery and ferocious feud is created, and one that has significant longevity. The longer Mourinho is at Spurs, the greater their decline will be in my eyes.
Whilst Mikel Arteta represents the new wave of intellectual, tactically innovative and charismatic young coaches, Mourinho serves as the foil to his Spanish counterpart. Outdated man management and old fashioned tactics- it's truly incredible Daniel Levy has made the financial commitment to a man that has been finished since 2015. The cost of ridding themselves of such a horrifically out of touch coach is too great for a club deep in financial turmoil following their extortionate stadium move. Thus, Mourinho is likely to continue to pull Spurs down back to their more natural level- you truly love to see it.
The ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager's dire managerial style is certainly reflected in Spurs' recent form. A lacklusture performance in Sheffield, where the Portuguese's supposed strength in building defensive solidity was exposed, resulting in a 3-1 defeat which kicked off their poor run following the restart. A somewhat lucky 1-0 win over Everton where both sides struggled to create any high quality chances and had to be separated by an unfortunate own goal from Micheal Keane followed that disastrous defeat. And finally, just yesterday Mourinho's men traveled to the south coast to take on relegation threatened Bournemouth, who looked incapable of picking up any points prior to this game, but somehow held Spurs to a stalemate, and probably should've won it late on.
Yes, the old cliches that form goes out the window in these sort of games are valid, but we certainly look like the side full of confidence, and probably enter this game as favourites for the first time in a while, despite our frustrating draw against Leicester on Tuesday.
As for our line-up, I expect Arteta to continue with this 3-4-3 shape that has seen a stark up turn in results for us in recent weeks. Emi Martinez will inevitably retain his place in goal, whilst Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz will comprise 2/3 of our back three, given their impressive form of late. As for our third centre-half, I'd personally switch it up. Sead Kolasinac's limitations on the ball have slowed down and decreased the fluidity of our build up play in recent weeks, so personally I'd like to see Rob Holding in there, who has vastly superior ball playing abilities and thrived on the left of a three in the first half of last season prior to his injury. Having said that, I can't see it happening given Arteta's insistence on using a left footed player on this side.
As for our wing-backs, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin's impressive displays against Leicester mean they should retain their places, and will both play a key part in providing width for us offensively. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos' ever improving double pivot should be continued, particularly with Matteo Guedndouzi's continued absence.
As for our front three, here's where I'd mix it up. Arteta has thus far been reluctant to deploy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang centrally, favouring his movement to be coming in off the left, and favouring Alex Lacazette's hold up abilities down the middle. Lacazette doesn't look physically capable of playing all of the next three games, so I'd rest him for this, shifting Aubameyang centrally. Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka will then be able to play in their favoured inside forward roles either side of our captain.
My Line-up: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Holding, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Tierney, Pepe, Aubameyang, Saka.
Prediction: Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal