Arsenal welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the Emirates on Saturday for the first North London derby of the season.
The gap between these two clubs is the narrowest is has been in recent memory (if, indeed, any gap even exists anymore) with Mauricio Pochettino’s side now firmly established as Premier League title contenders and the Gunners aiming to find their bearings after a stuttering start to the season.
That being said, a home win would reduce the points difference between the two to just one, and could have a massive impact on the respective teams with the busy winter season fast approaching.
Both have first elevens that are the envy of every team below them, but how do they compare when compared side by side?
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham). Petr Cech’s decline makes choosing between the two goalkeepers an easier task, and Lloris’ status as one of the league’s best goalkeepers seals it. With the exception of David de Gea, the French international stands head and shoulders over pretty much every other goalkeeper in England.
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham). Tottenham will feel his absence over the next ten or so games as he recovers from injury, such is the Belgian’s influence at the back. There are few better than Alderweireld in his position in the Premier League, and his command of a penalty area would improve most teams in Europe.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham). Spurs’ Belgian defensive axis has formed the backbone of their recent success, with the two club and country teammates working brilliantly well together. Vertonghen’s tackling ability cannot be spoken of highly enough, and has arguably adapted the best to Pochettino’s shift to a three-man defence.
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal). Arsenal’s has come in for some serious scrutiny in recent months, and while Koscielny’s own performances haven’t been up to his usual standard,
Eric Dier (Tottenham). The England international is somewhat afflicted by being proficient in multiple positions, making his best position a bit harder to nail down. The most acclaim he has received has been in the centre of midfield, however, and that would appear to be his standout position right now.
Dele Alli (Tottenham). Dele is still not quite there yet in terms of matching his performances from the last couple of seasons, but his all-round ability in just about every area in the midfield mean that it’s almost inconceivable that he will not master at least one aspect of that region.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham). His performance for Denmark against Ireland in midweek only confirmed what Tottenham fans had been screaming for months, and that is Eriksen’s ascension to the ranks of a top class playmaker. Right now, he’s the player that Mesut Ozil wishes he could be.
Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal). Kolasinac has made a solid start to life at the Emirates on a free transfer, finally solving Arsenal’s left-back problem and doubling up (surprisingly) as a goalscoring threat. Edges out Danny Rose in this lineup.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal). Having seen a deadline-day move to Manchester City collapse late on, Alexis has been a little disjointed in this campaign. The Chilean is a far better player than his recent performances have suggested, but the worry for Arsenal is that he may not get back to that level until he leaves the club.
Harry Kane (Tottenham). The ‘one-season wonder’ is still tearing the league up three years later, and is now in the realm of world class strikers. Kane’s finishing ability is second to none in the Premier League, and he will be a major factor in Spurs’ success in the years to come.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal). Arsenal’s record signing has shown signs of promise, but Wenger’s bizarre habit of leaving him out in the bigger games is hampering his progress. He is undoubtedly the Gunners’ biggest goal threat, and yet he may not even start on Saturday.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we’re joined by Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson to analyse Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat to Denmark.