How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Tottenham Hotspur

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIMarch 14, 2014

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, centre, struggles to control the ball as Tottenham's Nabil Bentaleb, right, comes in to challenge during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Arsenal and Tottenham will meet again in another north London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Both sides absolutely need a victory in what will be one of the most intense matches in either's season.

The Gunners are almost totally out of the title race at seven points behind Chelsea with a game in hand and two points ahead of Manchester City with two extra games played. But there is still a glimmer of hope ahead a run of fixtures against all the title challengers.

For Tottenham, the race for the Champions League is almost certainly lost, as the top four is pretty much set as Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. The scrap is now for fifth place, and thus a spot in the Europa League.

Manchester United sit five points behind Spurs but have a game in hand. So the pressure is well and truly on Tim Sherwood heading into a match against his biggest rival.

As we have seen numerous times, form is thrown out the window in a derby match as soon as the referee blows the opening whistle. With that in mind, let's think of how Arsene Wenger might align his men.


The team looks very similar to that which drew 1-1 against Bayern Munich in midweek, but there are a couple of notable changes.

First, fit-again Nacho Monreal will replace Thomas Vermaelen at left-back. Wenger reported in his pre-match press conference that the Spaniard is completely ready to rejoin the team, while Kieran Gibbs' fitness is uncertain.

Given the very subtle difference in quality between Monreal and Gibbs, Wenger will probably opt for the healthier of the two. If Morneal is more capable of playing the full 90 minutes, he'll get the start.

In midfield, injuries to Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey give the manager relatively few options and not nearly as much flexibility as he would like.

However, Wenger very recently informed us that Kim Kallstrom, signed on loan in January amid much consternation, is fully fit and available for selection.

Wenger has pulled some odd stunts this season (like giving Yaya Sanogo his first two starts against Liverpool and Bayern Munich, respectively), but it would be stunning if he chucked Kallstrom into the fray immediately.

Instead, he would be wise to persist with the conservative pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta to combat the considerable attacking verve Tottenham will derive from playing at home.

Arsenal are quite a bit less dynamic and quick when the two play together at the base of midfield, but the pair can work off each other's strengths. Flamini can stay back and get yellow carded to his heart's content, allowing Arteta to push the ball forward and set the tempo.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Ozil's hamstring injury leaves an opening at the tip of the midfield, which in all likelihood will be filled by Santi Cazorla.

That frees up the right wing for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been Arsenal's most exciting and incisive player recently. And it allows Lukas Podolski to slot into the left side, where he could either shred Tottenham with his cannon of a left foot or disappear as he too often does.

Wenger would not be criticized if he took a more conservative route and started a fresh Tomas Rosicky in Podolski's place, but the German was quite impressive in the second half against Bayern Munich and probably merits another try.

He would round out a starting XI that is fairly conservative in some places and aggressive in others. They can certainly match Tottenham's quality, but they will have to defeat the energy of White Hart Lane in order to emerge with a derby victory.