5 Key Battles That Will Shape Tottenham vs. Arsenal
The latest installment of the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal comes to us on Sunday from what is sure to be an energized Emirates Stadium.
In transfer terms the two sides could not be better polar opposites at the moment: Tottenham has spent money on new player after new player, while Arsenal has brought in only two free transfers, a decision that has been widely criticized by many.
On the pitch, both clubs had strong weeks in European play and they will both look to carry that momentum into Sunday's match.
As for the match, here are the five key battles that you must watch on Sunday.
Etienne Capoue vs. Santi Cazorla
As with almost every match in the English Premier League, midfield will be key to earning the full three points.
This is particularly true about Sunday's match with both clubs lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
One battle to watch will be the one between Tottenham defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue and Arsenal attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla.
Since arriving from Toulouse on August 15, Capoue has earned plenty of praise for his physical nature while playing alongside fellow new signing Paulinho.
Capoue's physicality will be tested by Cazorla.
The speedy Spaniard was one of the Gunners' best players last season, and his creativity combined and small stature could cause problems for the 6'2" Frenchman.
Watching Capoue and Cazorla compete in midfield will showcase a huge difference in styles, but whoever comes out on top could propel their club to victory.
Jan Vertonghen vs. Olivier Giroud
With Lukas Podolski out for eight to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury (via The Guardian), the goal-scoring responsibility at Arsenal will shift to the shoulders of Olivier Giroud.
Giroud has handled that pressure well by scoring in each of the Gunners' two EPL clashes.
The 26-year-old Frenchman also scored in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League tie with Fenerbahce last week.
With Giroud in fine goalscoring form, Spurs center-back Jan Vertonghen will be tasked with keeping the Frenchman from creating chances on goal.
Vertonghen was a stud on defense last season as he played both left-back and center-back out of necessity.
This season, the 26-year-old Belgian has been moved to the center of defense due to the emergence of Danny Rose at left-back.
While plenty of aerial duels are expected between the two, pay attention to the tackling of Vertonghen as it may well keep Giroud off balance for the duration of the match.
Roberto Soldado vs. Wojciech Szczesny
In two league matches this season, Tottenham's two goals have come from the penalty spot.
Both were converted by freshly-minted signing Roberto Soldado.
If that trend continues into the North London derby, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny will be asked to deny the skillful Spaniard.
In Arsenal's season opener against Aston Villa, Szczesny saved a Christian Benteke penalty before he was beaten from the rebound.
If the match comes down to a spot kick by Soldado, one of these two trends will have to cave.
Even if the duo do not meet face-to-face on a penalty kick, they will most likely be involved in a duel throughout the match.
Soldado knows how to take advantage of opportunities, and if there is anything we have learned from Tottenham's first two matches, those chances could either be sparse or fly in by the minute.
All Szczesny has to do on Sunday is deny Soldado, which is a lot easier said than done.
Aaron Ramsey vs. Moussa Dembele
Aaron Ramsey has arguably been the Gunners' best player this season, and he will look to maintain that in the heated derby.
Ramsey will be up against tough midfielder Moussa Dembele, who may now be fighting for a place in the Tottenham squad.
With the addition of Erik Lamela, and the potential arrival of Christian Eriksen from Ajax, Dembele could find himself on the bench if he does not keep up his high level of play.
Going up against Ramsey will not be easy for the 26-year-old Belgian, but he will have to best the 22-year-old Welshman to impress manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Ramsey will most likely line up in the defensive part of the 4-2-3-1 midfield that Arsene Wenger will employ.
When Ramsey stays back, he will have to deal with the forward threat of Dembele, who can find chances in small pockets of space.
If Ramsey is able to shut down Dembele and launch Arsenal's counter-attack, his club could be on the victorious end of the North London derby.
Andros Townsend vs. Kieran Gibbs
With plenty of world-class talent on display, Andros Townsend of Tottenham and Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs may be overshadowed by their teammates.
However, the battle between Townsend and Gibbs could be crucial.
Townsend has impressed in attack on the right side of midfield this season, and with a spot in the England squad for next week's World Cup qualifiers already in hand, the 22-year-old is playing with plenty of confidence.
With a plethora of competition ready to replace him in a heartbeat, Townsend has been forced to be maintain his early-season form.
The defender who will have to mark Townsend throughout the 90 minutes will be Gibbs, who has not been all that spectacular so far this season.
But in derby games an unexpected hero often steps up and delivers a quality performance.
Arsenal fans will hope that happens with Gibbs as he looks to deny Townsend opportunities all afternoon.
What do you think are the key battles in the North London Derby?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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