Tottenham travel to Arsenal today for the first north London derby of the 2021/22 season at a pivotal moment for the two bitter rivals.
The Gunners have won their last two games against Norwich and Burnley after a torrid start to the new Premier League campaign under Mikel Arteta.
Their visitors are in need of a pick up after a flying start under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo began to stutter badly.
Three 1-0 wins had Spurs top of the table going into the first international break, but back-to-back 3-0 defeats against capital rivals Crystal Palace and Chelsea have them wobbling.
Harry Kane has an intimidating record in this fixture but is yet to score in the Premier League this season after a summer in which he made a public push to leave Tottenham. Now would be an ideal time to step up.
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Arteta: Arsenal had to struggle to build ‘something incredible’
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta believes the struggles Arsenal have endured in his time at the helm so far were necessary in order for the club to bounce back, become stronger and “build something incredible” for the long term.
“We are in a different moment in our history,” Arteta told Sky Sports News.
“Every club has to go through different patches, and we went through the patch of the last 18 months with a big covid situation on the back of a lot of instability in the club in the last two or three seasons.
“That’s a difficult mix to suddenly turn things around and build something incredible. But I’m a big believer that this had to happen. For this club it had to happen – we had to experience this and that’s going to make us much stronger.
“I can feel what is happening here, and I can feel what is happening with the supporters, with the generation of players that we have here, with everybody that is involved in the organisation. I think it is going to be pretty powerful.”
Similarly, Tottenham were heading for the dubious honour of being England’s first representatives in the Europa Conference League and had just passed 13 years since their last trophy.
The two north London clubs appeared lucky to count themselves as part of such an exclusive club of 12.
As they prepare to meet at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, the heavyweight status of both clubs remains in doubt and their positions in the Premier League’s so-called ‘big six’ feels increasingly uncertain.
The make-up of the breakaway cartel of European clubs owed more to financials than football, and in pure money terms the “big six” is still a thing.
Nuno was also keen to stress the need for players to be careful in terms of their varying fitness levels amid a fixture pile-up and wants to see swift improvements after back-to-back 3-0 defeats, particularly in terms of defending set-pieces.
“Each and every one of our players has to be really careful,” he said.
“We have to be really careful in how we decide and all these things, because we have different players in different momentums in terms of preparation.
“But I believe that in the moment that we are in that we must use the games and the matches to increase our levels of fitness, our levels of performance and the technical aspects of the team.
“So we still have a session to go. Today was the second day of recovery after the Carabao Cup game and tomorrow we will look at them and make the decisions.
“We have Lucas back which is good news so let’s try to make and prepare the game. It’s a different game. We must feel it.
“A lot of aspects that we have to improve. Set pieces, the way we conceded, especially with the momentum of the game, we were in control, so dominant and created so many chances and we allowed our opponent to get back into the game. A lot of improvement has to be made.”
Nuno: North London derby is not ‘just another game’
It is common to see managers attempt to play down the significance of fixtures like today’s in order to manage expectations, but Nuno attempted no such ploy ahead of his first north London derby in charge at Spurs.
“It’s not another game. It’s a special game. A special game for us, a special game for our fans,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough match but no doubt, it’s a different game.
“I had many, many situations in derbies but this is a new one, a tough one, and a good one, a special one for our fans. If it’s special for our fans, it’s very special for us.
“We expect a tough match. Recent weeks [they had] better results, this is the assessment we make. We have to try and get the right info to the players to deliver.”