Arsenal and Tottenham meet for the North London derby this weekend in what is bound to be a feisty affair.
Here are the five key battles which could determine the outcome of the match.
Laurent Koscielny v Jermain Defoe
Defoe was left out of the starting line up for Spurs’ match against Manchester City and he was also left out of the England squad to play Sweden. This means he’ll be as fresh as a daisy and should play with Spurs looking to exploit the massive pitch at the Emirates. Koscielny needs to stay organised and disciplined and be able to read the runs that Defoe makes without sacrificing the strength of the back four.
Thomas Vermaelen v Aaron Lennon
Vermaelen is currently playing in the left full back position due to the injury to Kieran Gibbs. He will be faced with a tricky and quick Aaron Lennon, who should return to full fitness in time to take his place in the Spurs team. Lennon will try to exploit Vermaelen’s weaknesses as a full back which means cutting inside and trying to create space by pulling the Arsenal captain along with him.
Mikel Arteta v Gareth Bale
This may seem like a strange one as Arteta is a central player against Bale who is a left winger. The reason Arteta is key in this battle is because he needs to be able to read the game and offer protection to Bacary Sagna when he needs it. Arsenal can afford to let Arteta drift over to the left to nullify the threat of Bale because Santi Cazorla is a good enough player to pull the creative strings in the middle when the side wins the ball back.
Lukas Podolski v Jan Vertonghen
Vertonghen is similar to Vermaelen in the respect that he is being forced to play out of position in the right full back role for Tottenham. Podolski has stated that he wants to play more of a central role in the Arsenal team but he needs to use the wide and central areas well. He has the pace to beat Vertonghen down that side of the pitch regularly, it’s just a case of how frequently he wants to try and get down to the by line, resisting the urge to cut back in.
Olivier Giroud v William Gallas
At long last Giroud seems to have hit a little bit of form in an Arsenal shirt. William Gallas will be tasked with keeping him quiet as Giroud is bound to make a nuisance of himself and push the Spurs defence back as deep as he possibly can. Physically Gallas is a good match up against his fellow Frenchman and this will be a battle of power more than anything.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald