Us versus Them
The North London Derby
We’re heading to the first of two North London Derbies in quick succession.
This one on Sunday will be in the league, with the latter of course in the League Cup.
It’s always a momentous occasion when we play our “good friends” from the Borough of Haringey.
Our “friends” who’ve won fewer trophies, have a lower global brand/standing, haven’t achieved as much as us in the development of football (the fact that Alex Scott is an emerging pundit says it all, and no female Spurs team has achieved as much….), and hasn’t won a league title in two generations, are coming to town…
But moving back to the game, with all objectivity they aren’t the Spurs of 15-20 years ago. There is a reason why they’ve been a consistent top four team of late. Pochettino, despite not winning anything, is a decent manager, and Kane is world class. Eriksen, Alli, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Son, Dembele, etc. are all decent too. They do have a good and balanced side, and it’s showing.
But then we’re no slouches. They beat Chelsea convincingly, but they also struggled against Wolves and Palace. They beat Inter but did just enough to get over the line. It was far from a vintage performance. Like us of late, their performances have been erratic, despite getting positive results. It’s advisable not to read excessively into the Chelsea result, and observe their overall form.
A little luck here and there has been the difference between us, that’s all.
So where would the danger areas here be? What factors can aid in us winning this game?
Auba and Kane are both world-class forwards. Yes, Kane has scored a lot against us, but Auba is his equal, nay better. His scoring record since he joined us is phenomenal. And to date, he’s scored more PL goals than Kane currently.
We both can hurt each other, and which strike force comes trumps is evidently key.
They are supported by Ozil, Laca and Iwobi, and Kane has Alli, Eriksen, and Son. All are quality players, and surely we cannot discount their forward line. However, they cannot disregard ours.
From our standpoint, it’s pretty much that Auba and Laca have to start, as whilst Spurs’ defence is a capable one, Pochettino has to handle arguably the best strike-force in the country at the moment. It would be a different proposition to what he and Tottenham are used to, but it’s our best chance in my view.
The midfield is evenly matched, at least compared to last season. Our midfield balance has improved, with both Guendouzi and Torreira bringing both fight and additional work-rate.
Their midfield is of a similar mould, and I believe who wins the pressing/physicality battle is primary here.
Moreover, I would play a midfield three here, and look to dominate them in midfield, and nullify the supply to Alli, Son, Eriksen and Kane.
I like Mustafi, but I don’t want him playing here. He has good strength and physicality, but his rashness is something Kane and co will look to exploit. Holding and Sokratis in my mind will bring a better balance, and both have the pace and strength to handle Kane.
Kolasinac improved vs. Bournemouth, as opposed to Wolves. I would play him here in truth, since their full-backs provide as much width as ours do. Most teams these days utilise advanced full-backs, but then it would give their full-backs something to think about if they have to get back to watch both Bellerin and Kolasinac.
Hugo Lloris is a WC winner, evidently. But for me, this is where we trump Spurs. Leno has come in only in the past month or two, and Lloris (with admitted personal/criminal issues that may have impacted his form), has looked average at best this season. Leno saved our skin in a few recent games, and despite Cech being more seasoned, I’d punt for Leno in this instance. As Kane is deadly, Leno’s shot-stopping and agility will be critical in getting a result. Lloris’s dodginess, on the other hand, will be something both Auba and Laca will be looking to exploit.
Poch, despite hilariously winning nothing for them, has done well to get them as a consistent top four side.
However, Emery is in some principal ways the anti-latter Wenger, as it were. Poch knew how Wenger would set up. But Emery is a different beast. One would think that Emery, with the senior players not travelling to Ukraine, would formulate a plan here to defeat our “friends”. Poch put in a good tactical display in nullifying Chelsea, but we don’t play in the same way. Sarri in some ways is like a Wenger or a Klopp, in that there is more emphasis on pace, technicality, and fluency than tactical precision. Wenger even got the team to press the hell out of Spurs last time, and it worked. So there’s no reason why we cannot do better this time around, in our new regime.
That lot is a very good team. But I believe if we can dominate the midfield, push back their full-backs, and control the supply to Kane, we can get the win. Pochettino may be thinking the same about us, but they don’t play with two dedicated forwards. Son and Eriksen are wide forwards, and Auba will drift inwards as opposed to playing primarily from the wing. This may tip in our favour, as Spurs will be playing in a more classic 4231.