Arsenal have recently turned a corner and they will be looking to build on that recent form with another victory in this afternoon’s widely-anticipated north London derby.
On the back of three successive victories, Mikel Arteta and his side welcome arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur to the Emirates Stadium and they know that another three points could see them leapfrog today’s opponents in the Premier League standings.
It’ll be no easy task, even if Spurs have seen back-to-back 3-0 defeats in the top-flight.
The Spaniard has plenty to think about ahead of kick-off, especially after his fringe stars put in a decent performance during their Carabao Cup win over League One minnows AFC Wimbledon in midweek.
One player who he must turn to is summer signing Takehiro Tomiyasu – their turnaround in fortunes has come with him in the starting XI and that’s no mere coincidence.
Signed in a €20m (£17m) deal from Serie A outfit Bologna, where he was once described as a “true Japanese warrior” by teammate Mitchell Dijks, the 22-year-old defender has excelled at right-back for Arteta.
Indeed, after just two appearances for the club in the Premier League, the 6 foot 2 beast already sits as the Gunners’ second highest-rated player (7.21), as per WhoScored figures.
He tops the charts for aerial duels won (five per game), which suggests he’s a physical specimen in this Arsenal side, whilst he can also do a lot further up the pitch, having recorded two shots and one dribble on his debut against Norwich City.
Arteta has been impressed with his impact both on and off the pitch. He told reporters (via the Mirror):
“First, more than the performances, it’s the way he’s settled, the way he’s gained everybody’s appreciation, the way he is.
“And then, yeah, he had no time to prepare against Norwich and then a proper Premier League traditional game at Burnley where I think he was exceptional.”
Tomiyasu should have no problems in adapting to such a big occasion.
Spurs may be struggling in attack after The Athletic revealed they had the worst expected goals total (4.42 xG) of anyone in the Premier League before this weekend’s fixtures, but on their day, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son will trouble pretty much any backline across Europe.
Nuno Santo’s side have fired off the second-fewest number of shots, too, but you can forget things like that in a game of this magnitude.
The pair scored 58.8% of the Lilywhites’ 68 league goals last season and on top of that, they registered a combined total of 24 assists, showing just how crucial and devastating they can be.
Tomiyasu, who can also play in the middle, could be the man to help thwart this threat, particularly as he often acts as a third centre-back when Kieran Tierney is bombing on up the left flank.
The £18m-rated Japan international simply must start at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.