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Arsenal: 4 key player battles vs Tottenham in the derby

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4 key player battles in Arsenal vs Tottenham for Sunday’s North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal vs Tottenham has history. Lots of it. And it’s not just the results that are memorable as throughout the years these two have faced each other there have been meaty duels and player battles to add ferocity to the already fierce.

Patrick Vieira ended up picking a few scraps down the years, Abou Diaby didn’t think too much of Hossam Ghaly, and Jack Wilshere squaring up to Gareth Bale brings back a few memories.

In huge derby matches such as these individual battles tend to take on more significance. The matches are meticulously picked apart in the build up and every aspect of the clash is viewed through a microscope.

Either sides’ weaknesses and strengths are quibbled over and who gets the better of who in the one-on-one duels also gets a mention.

4 key player battles in Arsenal vs Tottenham for Sunday’s North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium

And it’s the latter of those that will be looked at here for Sunday’s North London Derby.

It’s engrossing and you can’t get it out of your head as soon as it’s the next fixture on the list. In truth, even before the AFC Wimbledon match it was there in the back of the mind. Even when the Premier League fixtures are first announced, Tottenham is the first name you look for.

In what will be the 204th North London Derby meeting, rarely, if ever, before have both teams come into the fixture on such a low ebb. Arsenal are at their weakest point for 25 years with no European football and Spurs find themselves as a Europa Conference League side who too are drifting away from the top four.

Multiple factors will decide who comes out on top in this one as Arsenal aim for their 84th victory over their rivals, with four particular player battles standing out as crucial in this tie.

Arsenal, Bukayo Saka

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur with Bukayo Saka of Arsenal after during the Pre-season friendly between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 08, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

1. Eric Dier vs Bukayo Saka

Will Bukayo Saka play out on the right? He should, it’s his best position, and if he does then it will see him undoubtedly cross paths with his friend from the England camp, Eric Dier.

(Nobody in the Emirates crowd shares Saka’s sentiment)

Playing on the left of the central defenders, he is slow and cumbersome. He is, in other words, a target.

Saka has many delightful qualities but arguably his standout is the out-to-in runs he makes. They’re majestic, graceful and beautifully timed. Few can stop them. Slow and cumbersome defenders are not part of the few.

Getting Saka running at Dier is one of the avenues where Arsenal will find joy. One of the best underlappers in the Premier League (seriously), if he’s supported down the right then he can exploit the space between Dier and Sergio Reguilon.

It’s inevitable that Dier will be part of the weekly rotational fouling Saka is subject to, therefore ensuring Saka is the in dangerous areas where such risks can be taken will be crucial.


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