There is always a fair amount of hype in the build-up to a much-anticipated fixture. The majority of it is to ride the crest of the wave as fans look forward to the game, but some is simply filler designed only to ruffle feathers and guarantee a reaction.
The North London Derby is no different, but the parameters for this latest bout have changed. For over twenty years, Arsenal have governed this constituency, but this game sees tottenham in the ascendency. They are favourites – and for good reason.
So much so, that a recent Combined XI from respective club legends Ledley King and Thierry Henry recently for Sky Sports, saw just one Arsenal player in this amalgamated team.
Just one. Is this fair?
Here is a more balanced version of an eleven made up from spurs and Gunners players. What do you think?
Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris?
Verdict – Hugo Lloris
Petr Cech has been a bastion of excellence and reliability ever since he came to the Premier League, but this season has seen a slip below his usual standards. Facts are facts, and he has 14 clean sheets to Cech’s 9, and has conceded 13 goals less. Hugo Lloris has maintained his performances, and his athleticism racing from his line sees him take the gloves for this team.
Hector Bellerin or Kyle Walker?
Verdict – Hector Bellerin
Kyle Walker seems to have the England spot nailed down, and his rapier speed has long been his trademark. Walker’s control has been his weakness, but he has really shaped up this season. Does it see him rise above Bellerin?
Walker has more assists this season, but Hector’s passing percentage is higher. It really is closer than it was a couple of seasons ago. Hector’s haircut seemed to coincide with a drop in form, but he is faster than Walker, and his control is good enough to see him make the Spain squad. Bellerin for the win.
Toby Alderweireld or Shkodran Mustafi?
Verdict – Toby Alderweireld
The Belgian defender is a threat in the air on set pieces, and has strength and positional awareness in stock. Mustafi had a great start to his Arsenal career, but a drop in confidence for the whole team saw the German start to make errors. In spite of this, this is closer than most would give Mustafi credit for.
He has more goals than Alderweireld, and has more aerial success than the Belgian. It is defensive stats that Alderweireld edges the German though. More clearances, more blocks and he makes less fouls. It is close, but in short, Mustafi is often shrugged off the ball, but how often have you seen Alderweireld suffer the same fate? Toby grabs the shirt.
Laurent Koscielny or Jan Vertonghen?
Verdict – Koscielny
Koscielny is viewed as a mandatory name in the side, and in the last few seasons, he has elevated himself and his displays so much that it wouldn’t be unfair to class him amongst the best in his position in Europe. Vertonghen is consistent, he is tough and when he is not in the spurs side, they look a little lost. But who should play?
Koscielny scores more goals, and is a big-game player. He has a superior tackling percentage, makes less fouls and has played more minutes. Vertonghen makes more clearances and blocks, but he is blocked out of this eleven.
Nacho or Danny Rose?
Verdict – Danny Rose
Once the figure of ridicule, Rose has really improved. Up and down the left flank tirelessly, Rose is perhaps the most improved player in the spurs team. Nacho has been recalled into the Spain squad, and his attacking prowess is a real asset for Arsenal.
Despite this, Rose has more goals in the League, and more clearances and blocks, as well as a superior tackling percentage. Rose has more than double the amount of bookings, but this Rose is planted into the eleven.
Eric Dier or Granit Xhaka?
Verdict – Eric Dier
The Swiss star is still adapting to the League, and his tackling style is continuing to get him unwanted attention from match officials. Eric Dier is adaptable, playing all across the backline and in defensive midfield, and the England man is strong aerially too.
He has the edge in the defensive side of the game, with more clearances, blocks and less fouls. In terms of passing though, Xhaka obliterates his rival. Long balls, crosses, key passes are all in favour of Arsenal’s man
So who takes the shirt? Seeing as it is a defensive role, Dier edges it.
Santi Cazorla or Moussa Dembele?
Verdict – Santi Cazorla
Of course, the Spaniard is injured and has missed half of the season, but we are comparing teams, and Santi is undeniably part of this Arsenal side. Cazorla has played far less than his ounterpart, and yet still has more goals and assists, as well as key passes.
Dembele takes the defensive side of the duel, but Santi isn’t far behind, despite giving away so much in terms of physicality. Santi would benefit any team, this is a no-brainer. If it wasn’t for injury, this wouldn’t be a contest.
Theo Walcott or Heung-Min Son?
Verdict – Son
This is a toughie. The South Korean has more goals and assists than Walcott, but Theo better dribbling percentages, is dispossessed less, and has a higher match rating. Son is super-efficient in terms of chances though, and Son just gets the nod.
Christian Eriksen or Mesut Ozil?
Verdict – Eriksen
This is an oft-debated issue. Mesut Ozil has a fine pedigree, and his reputation precedes him. Eriksen’s star is still rising, and although last season he was eclipsed by Ozil, this season is a different story.
The all-important assist totals is a one-sided battle, with Eriksen registering 12 to Ozil’s 6. Ozil has a better passing percentage, but Eriksen has more goals. The Dane has played six more games than the German, but this season has seen him become more dangerous, where Ozil has had to change his role with Cazorla missing.
In terms of talent, Ozil bests Eriksen, but this season, Eriksen is in the eleven.
Dele Alli or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?
Verdict – Alli
This is a toughie. Arsenal’s left side is often changed, with no one really holding down the spot. So, we go with the player who has played most from all the candidates, and that is The Ox.
Here is a surprising stat; The Ox has the same amount of assists as Alli, even though he has made far less appearances. He also has a better passing percentage too. He has improved so much this season, but Alli has been talismanic. For such a young player, his threat in front of goal is huge.
Alli must go into the team, but The Ox has pushed him hard.
Harry Kane or Alexis?
Verdict – Alexis
Both players are their teams leading goal-getters, and Kane is top of the charts when it comes to goals. In terms of assists though, Alexis leads the way with 9 so far. The Chilean also has better passing, key passes and shots per game. Although Kane has more goals,
Alexis offers more than just goals. How can you leave out Alexis?
Lloris, Bellerin, Alderweireld, Koscielny, Rose, Dier, Santi, Son, Eriksen, Alli, Alexis
This is viewed by some as the tipping point for North London. This season has finally seen Tottenham emerge from Arsenal’s shadow. This is their best ever Premier League season, and they fully deserve to be where they are. Will this mean that from here, Tottenham are the bigger team?
No. They may kick off a few seasons of superiority or they may not. Much depends on transfer activity and how spurs play at Wembley. For them to usurp Arsenal’s dominance in North London though they must first win the title, then win it at The Emirates twice, win more FA Cups and continue to be a presence in the Champions League.
Enjoy this season spurs, but this is not over.