I don’t know about you, but I hate North London Derbies, because they cause too much nerves and often too much stress. The build up is fraught with terrible “what if” scenarios and sharing a birthday with one isn’t exactly my idea of grand day of celebration. 

We always seem to be playing them at this time of the year, usually on our home turf too, but it doesn’t always end in birthday three-pointage for your humble narrator here. Last season the game was on the day after my birthday and we were rescued by a late Kieran Gibbs goal. We were quite poor that day and I remember thinking about the dreaded November curse and why I had to share an anniversary of birth with it. 

This season I’m hoping for different, starting today, but I can’t help but get worked up and worried during the build up. In theory I shouldn’t be. Arsenal are on a good run of winning games, scoring goals and we’ve already exorcised one demon by beating Chelski this season, so why can’t we overcome the hoo-do by winning most of our November games?

 Coupled with this, you have a Spurs team that haven’t won in six and were thoroughly outplayed in midweek against Leverkusen. So everything points towards an Arsenal win, right?


It’s one of the greatest footballing cliches in existence, but big derby games are levellers, it doesn’t matter who it is and how poor the opponent is. It doesn’t matter if they have an entire team out injured or suspended. The game will be tight. We will give away chances. They will give away chances. So it will come down to who takes the chances they are given. 

We all have to grudgeningly admit this: that Spurs team is half decent. Pochettino has crafted a team in his own image and they are hard working, hard running and have some decent players who we know can hurt us. One in particular has caused us grief in recent years – Harry Kane – hasn’t played for six weeks. You know he’s going to start today, don’t you? It’s destined to happen. He’ll play, so will Dembele, and they’ll miraculously show no sign of fatigue. The Spurs team will play out of their skin and all of pundits who have talked up Arsenal winning before this game, will round on the team as spineliness and incapable of going on to win the league.

Sorry, I shouldn’t sound so down, but that’s what the nerves of an NLD does to me. It even took the joy out of City slipping up at home to Boro yesterday. My thoughts turned to Arsenal, with the carrot dangling in front of us that we could go top with a win, and how the football gods will inevitably turn us away come 2pm today.

So let me try to counter balance some of my own negativity. For starters, we have plenty of players in form, scoring goals. Alexis, Giroud, Özil, have all been on the scoresheet in the last couple of games. Theo hasn’t played, but if he’s fit today, that’s another player who has had his share of goals. We’ve had improved performances from Coquelin and I think he’ll certainly start today, but the decision Arsène has is who partners him, because it’s obvious that there isn’t a hierarchy established yet. Elneny will be the metronomic passer and ball retention specialist. He showed he’s got an eye for a through ball with his assist for Özil’s superb goal on Tuesday night in Bulgaria. But there’s no doubt that Xhaka is the better passer of the ball. Personally I think we should go with Granit. Tottenham have the best defence in the league and we will need players who can see a pass, perhaps be the one threading the eye of a needle, so with him on the pitch we have one more player who can do that.

Defensively I suspect we’ll see the return of Hector and Nacho, which means our first choice back five should remain in tact. But they will be tested today – we know they will. 

Spurs will look to hit us on the counter and utilise the trickery of Erikson and Dembele, with willing runners in Kane and Alli, who will be supported by the full backs looking to get in behind ours. That’s the style Pochettino likes and I expect no different today. What we have to do, is keep our temperament, because at their place last season I thought we were slightly on top whilst it was 10v11, only to go a bit pear-shaped with Coquelin’s card. So he needs to keep his cool, as does the rest of the team.

We have our two most expensive signings as our game changers, and I hope they’re up for it today. The crowd certainly will be, despite the awful kick off time, so let’s hope to three points. 

Catch you all tomorrow.