Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Sunday’s North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham will be the 199th iteration of one of the longest-running and most caustic local rivalries in football.
From Canonbury to Islington and Enfield to Walthamstow, pre-match apprehension is already starting to simmer, though tensions are certain to reach boiling point by the time the points and bragging rights are up for grabs on the Emirates pitch this weekend.
Ahead of what promises to be a monumental afternoon of Premier League action on Sunday, let’s take a closer look at some of the most important individual duels that could play a key role in deciding the outcome of the North London Derby.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Moussa Sissoko/Eric Dier
Ahead of Sunday’s crucial contest, Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is facing a selection crisis at right-back.
With Kyle Walker-Peters nursing a hamstring injury, Justin Foyth also on the sidelines, and Ivory Coast fullback Serge Aurier being shopped around Europe, it looks as though Pochettino will be forced to shoehorn either Moussa Sissoko or Eric Dier into an unfamiliar position in his backline.
The makeshift defender that makes the cut will likely come up in frequent opposition to Arsenals’ red-hot striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this weekend.
The Gabon international scored twice in his opening three Premier League appearances for the Gunners this season, and though the 30-year old has been deployed more centrally and even from the right by Unai Emery so far in 2019/20, the emergence of Nicolas Pepe should see him pushed back to his more natural position nearer the left.
Aubameyang scored twice for Arsenal in last season’s corresponding fixture against Tottenham, and with Spurs’ injury crisis at right back a major factor, the former Dortmund star will back himself to register again.
Our Premier League analysts have also tipped Aubameyang to score anytime in their detailed match preview for Sunday’s game – make sure to check it out.
David Luiz vs Harry Kane
Having convinced themselves that signing David Luiz was a clever move, Arsenal fans were dealt a double dose of reality in the Gunners’ 1-3 reverse at Liverpool last weekend.
The 32-year old Brazilian defender was at fault for both of Mohamed Salah’s goals at Anfield, cementing his reputation as one of the more calamitous centre-halves in the Premier League.
Luiz gave away a penalty when he pulled Salah’s shirt in the box early in the second half, and the former Chelsea employee was left red-face 10 minutes when Liverpool’s winger left him for dead miles from goal en-route to grabbing his second.
Arsenal supporters will fear Luiz’ rashness and recklessness could cause problems again this weekend when the defender comes up against the threatening figure of Harry Kane.
Spurs’ talismanic hitman will have been practicing his spot-kicks this week, and with good reason – remarkably, five of the last 14 goals scored in Premier League games between Arsenal and Spurs have been penalties – in fact, no Premier League fixture has seen more penalties scored in the history of the competition.
The chances of a penalty being awarded to either team on Sunday were already high, however, David Luiz’ involvement pushes Spurs’ chances of winning a spot-kick through the roof, and if Kane is presented with that opportunity, he is almost certain to take it.
Nicolas Pepe vs Danny Rose
Although he has only shown his obvious ability in flashes so far, the signs that Arsenal’s club-record signing Nicolas Pepe will eventually take the Premier League by storm are all there.
After his sporadic moments of brilliance against Liverpool, the 24-year old Ivorian will test his mettle against one of the league’s most experienced left-backs Danny Rose on Sunday, though Pepe will be relishing the chance to attack the defender’s flank and his reputation.
Rose is a player who regularly likes to leave his mark on his opponents. The 29-year old was booked eight times in the Premier and Champions League last season, and the England international has already picked up first domestic booking of the new campaign.
Rose was also carded the last time Tottenham faced Arsenal in March, and we think he looks great value to be booked again in his attempts to combat the searing pace and close control of the improving Nicolas Pepe.
You can find more cards and bookings predictions in our dedicated Premier League corners and cards betting tips article.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles vs Son Heung-Min
Until Hector Bellerin completes his recovery from injury, versatile youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles will hold on to the right-back spot at Arsenal.
The 22-year old has started his 2019/20 campaign in largely positive fashion, though Maitland-Niles struggled in the Gunners’ most recent outing at Liverpool, completing fewer of his passes (75%) than any of his teammates at Anfield, and generally looking overwhelmed by the Reds’ attacking swarms.
Having failed to deal with the movement of Sadio Mane last week, Maitland-Niles will be tasked with tracking the intelligent movement and rapid-fire shooting of Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min this weekend.
The wide-attacker started his first Premier League game of the season for Spurs in their shock loss to Newcastle, though the South Korean did his best to claw Tottenham back into the game, racking up six attempts on goal in total.
Son is never shy about letting loose – his 2.4 shots per Premier League game average last season was the second highest at Tottenham behind Harry Kane, and Son also ranked second at the club in the same metric in the Champions League (2.8).
The 27-year old will be equally desperate to get off the mark in 2019/20 and to make a positive impact in Sunday’s derby, and we think that makes him well worth backing to register over 2.5 shots at the Emirates.
Did any Arsenal or Tottenham players make the cut in our Fantasty Football tips this week? Click to find out!
Granit Xhaka vs Erik Lamela
With Christian Eriksen’s Tottenham future and his status at the club in a state of flux, Mauricio Pochettino is likely to keep faith with creative Argentinean attacking midfielder Erik Lamela this weekend.
The 27-year old has started all three of Spurs’ Premier League fixtures so far this term, and though his passing lacks the finesse of his Danish midfield teammate, Lamela’s ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations brings something to the table that Eriksen doesn’t.
Arsenal enforcer Granit Xhaka will be out to impinge on Lamela’s innovation at the Emirates, and the Swiss international certainly has the tools to put up roadblocks in front of the Gunners’ defence.
Xhaka has averaged two tackles per Premier League appearance for Arsenal so far this season, though it’s worth noting that the anchorman made a bone-crunching nine tackles in the Gunners’ brace of meetings with Spurs at the Emirates in 2018/19.
The 26-year old is guaranteed to be in the thick of the action again this weekend, making him great value to attempt over 2.5 tackles in the game.
You can read more of our experts’ Premier League betting tips and predictions over on our home-page here.
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