FIVE key battles that will decide the north London derby

It looks set to be an incredible weekend of Premier League football, with no less than two local derbies on Saturday afternoon.

The action starts as Everton take on Liverpool in a blockbuster Merseyside clash at lunchtime, and  finishes with Tottenham’s visit to Arsenal.

The Lilywhites will be keen to readdress the balance in north London – the Gunners have won in their last three outings against Spurs, keeping three clean sheets and all with their noses ahead at half time.

It will be Mauricio Pochettino’s first experience of the iconic clash too, so he’ll want to make a difference.

The quality of the Premier League is so high these days however that most matches are settled by individual performances. With that in mind, here’s a list of FIVE key individual battles that could settle the north London tie.

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Arsene Wenger[/ffc-gallery]

It could be worse Nando, you could be one of these guys…

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JAN VERTONGHEN VS DANNY WELBECK

Danny Welbeck
Summer signing Danny Welbeck will be in high spirits after finding his first goal for Arsenal last weekend – this strike amid a 3-0 win over Aston Villa:

The 23 year-old offers immense athleticism and will be prepared to run the channels all afternoon to create space for Arsenal’s attack-oriented midfield.

Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen needs to keep one eye on him, and Lilywhites fans will expect an improved performance from the Belgium international, who has quite frankly been rather subdued over the last 18 months.

His commitment will also be questioned, having refused a contract extension at White Hart Lane earlier this week:

As we all know, the 27 year-old likes to get on the ball and join the attack. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the 212/13 campaign, which saw Vertonghen net six times in all competitions:

But the defender will have to be more cautious against Arsenal – particularly bearing Danny Welbeck in mind; the Gunners forward is built for counter-attacking football.

Centre-back partner Younnes Kaboul, slightly sharper off his toes than Vertonghen but also famed for lapses in concentration, will have make sure he’s covering the former Ajax man at all times.

NACER CHADLI VS CALUM CHAMBERS

Nacer Chadli
It remains to be seen just who will start at No.2 for Arsenal against Spurs, with first choice right-back Mathieu Debuchy out for the next three months following this rather hilarious stack:

But whether it’s Hector Bellerin or Calum Chambers, Arsenal’s No.2 will have to keep a tight leash on Spurs winger-forward Nacer Chadli. Hardly a common name when you’re discussing the Premier League’s most potent entities, but he’s enjoying a rich vein of form and is currently leading the Lilywhites’ scoring charts:

spurs goals

He demonstrated the quality of his finishing at the end of last season with this curler against Newcastle:

There will be more obvious threats in the Spurs starting XI but the 25 year-old is in strong form and he’ll be keen to take advantage of any inexperience shown by Chambers or Bellerin.

JACK WILSHERE VS MOUSSA DEMBELE

Jack Wilshere - Arsenal
Jack Wilshere’s game is still lacking that all-important consistency, but the central midfielder ran absolute riot against Manchester City at the Emirates earlier this month, finding a goal, an assist and completing no less than ten dribbles, as shown below:

wilshere vs city

Here are his highlights from the 2-2 draw:

Tottenham must prevent a repeat performance, and that task could be handed to Moussa Dembele.

The Belgium international has come back into Spurs’ starting Xi recently after several months on the fringes of the squad and possesses the natural athleticism to go toe-to-toe with Wilshere for much of the match.

The Gunners star will undoubtedly leave gaps behind him for Dembele to exploit and, as shown below, the 27 year-old certainly has it within in him to hurt Arsenal on the counter:

That being said, there’s no guarantee Dembele will start, and focusing too heavily on Wilshere will leave Tottenham susceptible to the equally talented Aaron Ramsey.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN VS MATHIEU FLAMINI

Attacking Midfield - Christian Eriksen
It looks like Mathieu Flamini will get the nod over Mikel Arteta against Tottenham, with Arsene Wenger declaring the Frenchman is back in contention after being sidelined with a dead leg against Aston Villa last week:

The Gunners could certainly do with Flamini’s defensive stability too – if he can shackle Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen, the Lilywhites will struggle to create going forward.

Indeed, the 22 year-old’s output this season has been poor as have a couple of his performances – particularly against Liverpool and West Brom.

But he’s still Tottenham’s most creative force; the Danish prodigy has made the most key passes of any Spurs player this season, as detailed below:

eriksen passes

If Eriksen sees enough of the ball, he will hurt Arsenal. Here’s a look at the attacking midfielder in action:

ALEXIS SANCHEZ VS DANNY ROSE

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez could start on either side of Arsenal’s midfield but the common consenus appears to be that he’ll line up on the right against Danny Rose.

The Spurs left-back loves to get forward – here’s a look at his heatmap during a recent 2-2 draw with Sunderland:

The 24 year-old’s defensive game leads a lot to be desired however and he’ll inevitably leave space in behind; not only through his natural marauding style, but attacking full-backs are a major feature of Mauricio Pochettino’s philosophy.

Arsene Wenger will expect his summer signing to exploit the gaps down Spurs’ left. The former Barcelona star is more than capable of doing so – he’s frighteningly quick and already proving to be Arsenal’s leading attacker in most departments:

sanchez vs

He also netted this stunning freekick against Southampton in mid-week, so the Lilywhites will have to keep fouls down to a minimum: