GOING into Sunday’s North London derby, Arsenal fans must be coming around to the fact that Tottenham are going to finish above them.
It has been 22 long years for the other half of North London, but as Spurs challenge for the title, the Gunners will want to spoil the party as much as they can.
Football Whispers breaks down the North London derby and the five key areas that will decide Sunday’s fixture.
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BATTLE OF THE 3-4-3
SUNDAY’S game could come down to who deploys this formation with more success.
For Spurs, the move to a back three worked superbly, not only getting the best from their attacking and powerful wing-backs, but it helped Mauricio Pochettino unleash the power of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
The formation is still new for Arsene Wenger, but the improvements are easy to see.
They are no longer shipping goals, but we still haven’t seen the best of them offensively.
Spurs’ defence is better suited at the moment… they have the movement of Jan Vertonghen, almost playing as a left-back or left-winger when on the ball.
Eric Dier is comfortable at pushing the game up the pitch and they have wing-backs that are effective in both attack and defence. Arsenal still have a lot to learn in this system.
The late injury to Laurent Koscielny against Leicester could be a huge factor in what team Wenger is able to pick.
The French boss admitted on Friday that he has a “60 per cent chance” of playing.
If the former Lorient defender misses out, it’s hard to see the Gunners boss not reverting to a back four.
Perhaps he will see safety in numbers, not experience.
RE-BIRTH OF HECTOR BELLERIN
SPANISH defender Bellerin, after what was an excellent campaign last year, has dropped off and was almost labelled a liability in the Gunners defence.
However, moving to the three at the back formation pushes the 22-year-old, still linked with a move to Barcelona, higher up the pitch with extra protection behind him.
Similar to what Spurs have done with Walker, this puts Bellerin in the areas of the pitch where he can make the biggest impact.
Against Leicester, with Gabriel at right centre-back, the Spaniard had three key passes, touched the ball 93 times and attempted three crosses.
This formation helps him tremendously and this re-birth could be crucial to Arsenal’s chances this weekend.
MOVEMENT BETWEEN THE LINES
IN Arsenal’s game against the Foxes and Spurs tough 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, both sides struggled with the number of bodies both teams planked in front of the ball.
Sunday should be different, but with stubborn defences holding firm, you need players to break from midfield and get beyond the forwards.
Alli has done that so well this season, that’s been key to his amazing campaign.
Harry Kane’s movement opens up holes and it’s something Arsenal have to work on in the hope of replicating that success.
The 4-2-3-1 was predictable at times. Aaron Ramsey, at his best, can offer something different, timing his runs from deep.
Mesut Ozil needs to do it more and that is what would make them a much tougher opposition.
CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN vs MESUT OZIL
THE Danish midfielder showed his importance on Wednesday, scoring his eighth of the season and helping Spurs to a very important three points.
“It was a masterclass. I’ve played with him now for eight or nine seasons,” beamed Vertonghen after the game.
“I’ve known him since he was 16, 17 and the way he has played this season, I’m very impressed. He’s improved a lot.”
Ozil has started to regain a little bit of form, with four key passes and 15 crosses against Leicester, it may not have paid off, but his contribution was there.
Picking those passes, getting in behind, finding the gaps in the defence.
Both players can do that so well, and if Arsenal are to stun White Hart Lane, their playmaker has to be the difference maker.
SPACE BEHIND THE WING-BACKS
IF both teams play 3-4-3, the space you need to expose comes from behind the wide players.
Ozil and Kieran Gibbs taking on Kyle Walker and Alli, Ben Davies and even Vertonghen trying to expose Bellerin and Gabriel.
“You know, for the style of play that the team has, it works really well,” said Bellerín when asked about the change in formation.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to keep switching system and make the other teams just think about it for a second and I think the team is doing really good.”
It definitely helps Bellerín, but this is the toughest test Arsenal will have faced since Wenger made the switch. He’ll have to push back to help Gabriel.
Shkodran Mustafi is a more natural fit at the right centre-back, but with the German out for another two weeks, the Brazilian will have to step up again.
The Gunners will be happy that Danny Rose isn’t coming at them, but Spurs have strength down that flank and stopping ammunition coming into the box may be more important that providing an attacking edge.