Arsenal’s confidence is growing as defence and midfield takes shape
The one aspect of the past two wins Mikel Arteta will be most pleased about will be the clean sheets because that always gives you a chance. He’s assembled a defence that’s of his making. He’s trying to build that base and clean sheets always help confidence.
Now he’ll want to see his team being a bit more of a goal threat. But when you’re trying to recover from what was a dreadful start, the first port of call is always at the back and keeping out the opposition.
In midfield, Thomas Partey was always a vital cog in the machine. He had a disappointing time last year. I don’t know why or what was going on but physically he didn’t look right, he looked shattered at times in matches. But hopefully now he’s set for a good season. He’s a fine player, there’s no doubt about that.
It will be interesting what kind of shape and line-up Arteta sees around him in the middle of the park but if you’ve got that holding presence and you’ve got those creative players just ahead – and Arsenal have got plenty of those in Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka – it begins to look promising.
I think you then go into matches a lot more optimistic. The middle ground is always a key battle area in any match and Arsenal have got to try and hold their own in there. So it’s about getting that balance right.
Gunners showed fight at Burnley and must maintain that mentality
Burnley away was an acid test for Arsenal. The key when you’re playing at Burnley is not to turn it into a scrap. Of course, you have got to fight at times, but try to impose your football on them rather than the other way around. Arsenal did that during periods of the game.
They had to try to combat a lot of the high balls into the box but they did that. They fought. They were in a much more determined mood to show everybody that they could cope with a physical game.
Maybe in the opening game of the season, they went out against Brentford with all sorts of tactical things in their head and they forgot to scrap. That is the first port of call for any footballer in any match: win your individual battles and don’t get out-fought.
Nuno’s style isn’t getting the most out of Kane so far – and Spurs fans will be keen to see more expansive football
I don’t think Harry Kane would have enjoyed playing in the left-sided position that he was asked to against Chelsea, that’s for certain. It didn’t enable him to get in the box.
There are comparisons with Jose Mourinho’s first few weeks and months, when a lot of people thought ‘he’s not going to enjoy playing under Mourinho, he’s going to be asked to do a lot of defensive work, they’re not going to get the ball forward to him very quickly…’ But look at the season he ended up having. It’s a bit early to be jumping to conclusions.
It’s quite easy and convenient to say, ‘well, he wanted to get away so his heart’s not in it’. I think any footballer, once they know that they are at a football club for a certain amount of time will knuckle down and do their best, and I’m sure Kane is doing his best.
But at Wolves Nuno was a cautious coach. At times they weren’t the most attractive side to watch. They were mystifying by how negative they were and how much they sat back in first halves of games and then in the second half they opened it up a bit.
Spurs fans traditionally don’t want to see that type of football. So is he going to adapt to his new club and his new players and try to get the most out of those forward players, where the strength of Spurs is, with Kane and Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura and the like.
There’s a big focus on Nuno to see how he takes the team forward. And if he can get a win in the derby he’s going to win over a lot of fans, as Arteta will for Arsenal.
Where’s the key area on Sunday?
It’s going to be interesting to see Arsenal’s attack against Tottenham’s defence, given those creative players and if Arsenal can get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moving and making good runs and playing with confidence.
Tottenham have got a couple of new boys in Emerson Royal and Cristian Romero and that might be an area that Arsenal can exploit, perhaps down the left flank.
Just like Spurs, that’s the strength for Arsenal: the creative players they’ve got. They’ve got energy, ideas, real talent there.
In the coming weeks, if those creative players just behind Aubameyang can build up a relationship with the centre forward, then you’re in business. But so much depends on Aubameyang. If it’s all falling down with him, if he’s not making the runs, if he’s not finishing his opportunities, then all that creativity comes to nothing.
A derby win could be a launchpad for either side
A few weeks back, Spurs were top of the Premier League and Arsenal were bottom for the first time ever and now one has come down and the other has gone up and they’re meeting in the middle.
It feels like a battle for sixth, seventh, eighth place really. That’s where the two clubs are at the moment. But a win here could act as a launchpad to go on a little bit of a run and have a decent, steady season.
I don’t think either team’s going to be pulling up too many trees, in terms of challenging the top boys, but both are looking to improve now and gain a bit of consistency and there’s nothing like a derby win to kickstart that.
Premier League preview: North London derby assessed | Chelsea vs Man City to reveal title favourite? | Liverpool’s encouraging start
Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith, as well as football writers Ben Grounds and Adam Bate, to look ahead to the Premier League weekend’s standout fixtures…
PART 1 | Will a north London derby win be a launchpad for Arsenal or Tottenham? Former Gunner Alan Smith gives his verdict on the two teams and where the match will be won or lost on Sunday.
PART 2 | We preview Man City’s trip to Chelsea on Saturday, where two title favourites collide, and reflect on the start made by another Premier League challenger in Liverpool, ahead of their game with Brentford.
PART 3 | After an encouraging draw at Man City, will Southampton get off the mark against a goal-shy Wolves this weekend? And we look at what Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira has to do to land a breakthrough win over Brighton on MNF.