Could Mesut Özil’s right boot deliver the telling contribution in a tight North London derby ?
Tottenham Hotspur have the best defensive record in the English Premier League, having conceded fewer goals than any other team but that statistic faces a severe examination on Sunday, when they travel to the Emirates Stadium for an eagerly anticipated North London derby with Arsenal.
The Gunners rearguard has been performing admirably, with Rio Ferdinand going as far as to say that it is the strongest Arsenal defence he has seen for many a year. No team has conceded fewer corners this season and the blossoming partnership of Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny seems to have added solidity that has been sadly lacking in recent years.
Goal projections – Arsenal 1.70 Spurs 1.20
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Team news & predicted startling line-ups for Arsenal v Spurs
Arsène Wenger is not expected to stray from his customary 4-2-3-1 formation. The veteran Gunners’ boss has used his tried and tested system in all 10 Premier League games in 2016/17.
Mauricio Pochettino on the other hand, has been far more experimental this season. He’s flirted with the 4-1-4-1 and may do so again here, depending on what personnel are available to him. Harry Kane is closing in on a first-team return but is unlikely to start.
Arsenal fantasy player to watch
All eyes will be on Mesut Özil who scored an absolute peach of a goal against Ludogerets to seal a stunning comeback by Arsenal.
Following the match, Martin Laurence produced a fascinating piece for WhoScored, examining the German international’s newfound goal threat but it could be argued that the winning goal summed Özil up perfectly.
The Arsenal midfileder could easily have slotted the ball home with his right foot, after dinking the ball over keeper but he expertly worked it onto his left side, with a deft touch then chose to bide his time, before finally slotting the ball home with his left.
Of the 25 Arsenal goals Özil has scored in the English Premier League and Champions League, only 5 have come courtesy of his right foot, including 2 in the 6-0 rout of Ludogerets earlier this season. Could this help to explain why he often looks for the killer pass when he could easily take on more shooting responsibility himself?
Arsenal team news
Granit Xhaka is available again, after completing his suspension but it remains to be seen if Wenger will recall the volatile Swiss midfielder.
The Arsenal boss is also sweating on the fitness of a number of key players, with Hector Bellerin,Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs all far from certain to be available, while Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Lucas Perez are definitely ruled out.
Predicted starting line-up for Arsenal
Spurs fantasy player to watch
Victor Wanyama will be tasked with keeping Özil and Co quiet, so if Spurs are to get a result he will need to be on top of his game.
He’s made an impressive start to his career at White Hart Lane, playing the anchor role in Pochettino’s 4-1-4-1 formation on occasions, a system the Spurs boss may choose to go with again on Sunday.
Spurs team news
Moussa Sissoko is suspended, while neither Harry Kane nor Toby Alderweireld are likely to be risked from the off.
Moussa Dembélé faces a race against time to be fit, after hobbling off in the Champions League defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, while Érik Lamela has been ruled out because of a hip injury, so Harry Winks could be in for a shock start.
Predicted starting line-up for Spurs
Will these two North London giants cancel each other out or can Mesut Özil settle the affair, with a moment of magic from his right boot?