The Premier League returns following the international break with a blockbuster North London derby on Saturday lunchtime, as Arsenal play host to Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates.
One week after the women’s teams made history in their North London derby, the men’s crops will battle for supremacy and the chance to sit pretty at the top of the Premier League table.
A total of 47,367 supporters made the journey to the Emirates to watch Arsenal Women thump Tottenham 4-0 during the men’s international break, and if Saturday’s contest is anything as one-sided as the Women’s Super League version, Gooners are in for a treat.
Taking after his namesake Patrick, Arsenal new boy Fabio Vieira scored the pick of the bunch as Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners over Brentford on September 18, during which William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus headed home for the dominant Gunners in the first half.
Having successfully avenged their 2-0 loss at the Brentford Community Stadium last year – irking some with their ‘Nice kick about with the boys’ comments – Arsenal ensured that they would head into the international break one point clear of Spurs and Manchester City in first place.
Ending a four-game run without a clean sheet was also a sight for Mikel Arteta’s sore eyes, as his Arsenal side continue to demonstrate a ruthless streak notably absent in teams gone by, even if their only Big Six clash so far this season ended in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
The hosts have also prevailed in each of their last six Premier League matches at their Emirates headquarters, although they have conceded at least one goal in all of them, and Tottenham’s famed attacking line have more than one incentive to silence the home crowd.
After facing countless calls from Tottenham fans to drop the goalless Son Heung-min to the bench due, Antonio Conte’s bold move paid dividends against Leicester City, as the South Korea international ended his profligate streak in some style.
Son was introduced into the match in the 59th minute, and by the 86th minute he was confirmed to be walking home with the match ball, as his 13-minute hat-trick complemented strikes from Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Rodrigo Bentancur in a 6-2 romping.
Conte joked that Son can expect to be benched week in week out if he delivers similar super-sub performances in the future, as Tottenham remain on the coat-tails of Arsenal and reigning champions Man City in third spot prior to the trip across the capital.
The Lilywhites bounced back from their Champions League disappointment at Sporting Lisbon in perfect fashion versus Leicester, but only two of their last seven competitive matches away from home have ended in victory, and the Emirates is not their happiest hunting ground.
A 3-1 Arsenal triumph in this fixture last season means that Spurs have failed to win any of their last 11 North London derbies away from home in the league, but they served their capital counterparts a slice of humble pie with a 3-0 win in May, and Conte’s crop are not the same side that Nuno Espirito Santo led to their demise at the Emirates last term.
While Arsenal are sure to be without Mohamed Elneny (hamstring), Emile Smith Rowe (groin) and Cedric Soares (knock), there is optimism that Kieran Tierney, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey will all shake off their physical problems to be ready for the contest.
Takehiro Tomiyasu is also set to feature after his release from Japan due to ‘club circumstances’, while Martin Odegaard battled back from a knock to feature for Norway in the international break and will most likely demote Vieira to the bench.
Smith Rowe – who scored in this fixture last season – is now out until December after undergoing groin surgery, but there may be a place in the squad for Reiss Nelson as he aims to make his first competitive appearance of the year following a quadriceps injury.
A slice of personal history could also be on the line for Arteta, who is aiming to become only the third manager in Arsenal’s history to win their first three league games against Spurs at home, following in the footsteps of George Morrell and Terry Neill.
Tottenham have concerns of their own on the injury front for Saturday’s derby, as number one goalkeeper Hugo Lloris withdrew from France duty with a thigh injury, and it is currently unclear if he will be fit to return this weekend.
Lloris’s issue was described as a small one, but Fraser Forster is on standby, and Conte will also hope to have Ben Davies (knee) and Lucas Moura (tendon) fit and available here.
Ivan Perisic has also been given the all-clear after being forced off for Croatia in the international break due to a rough challenge from teammate Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but Dejan Kulusevski has reportedly returned to England with a hamstring problem.
The Sweden international is therefore a doubt for the contest, which could see Richarlison hold his spot in the attack, but there have been calls for Conte to switch to a 3-5-2 and introduce Yves Bissouma from the off.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus
Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Romero, Dier, Lenglet; Perisic, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon; Richarlison, Kane, Son