Sunday, December 10, 2023

Jesus could be key to North London derby

Morning all, it’s North London derby day.

There wasn’t much in terms of team news in Mikel Arteta’s press conference, but he did say Gabriel Martinelli would be assessed before a final decision was made on his availability. I strongly suspect that’s him playing his cards close to his chest, and given even a mild hamstring strain requires at least a couple of weeks to heal, we won’t have him available today.

If I had to guess, today’s team will be exactly the same as the one we sent out against PSV in midweek – although if it was Fabio Vieira rather than Kai Havertz, I wouldn’t be too surprised. The minutes we got into Gabriel Jesus were particularly important, and the quality of his midweek performance was very encouraging. He scored one, had six attempts on goal in total, and gave the PSV defenders a lot to think about.

It looks like this will be a Spurs team that is coming to play and to ‘scare the life out of’ Arsenal according to their new manager, so while that presents its own challenges, it might just be the kind of game that suits the Brazilian. His ability to drop deep, win it, and spark attacks which he’s also capable of getting on the end of will hopefully be a feature of today’s performance. If David Raya’s long passing is accurate, I think he’ll look for Jesus early when that option is on.

Control has been a key feature of Arsenal’s season so far, so it will be interesting to see what kind of balance we find today against a team that isn’t going to sit deep and defend first and foremost. Perhaps there will be parallels with the Man Utd game in that we were content for them to have more possession, but given how sterile most of it was, it never really troubled us. Obviously though, it’s what we do with the ball that counts most, and finding and exploiting the spaces they leave will be key.

Mikel Arteta says of this version of the opposition:

A new challenge, a new opportunity. Obviously they have a new manager who has done really, really well and changed the vibe and everything around the club. It’s a different style as well, so we need to adapt to that, be ourselves and produce the performance that we need to beat them.

While Bukayo Saka is hoping home advantage and raucous support will be a help:

The support that the fans give us, not allowing us to lose, gives us that extra confidence boost. Since last year, all the players and everyone around the club has realised what the fans have been doing at the Emirates and they’ve created a really beautiful atmosphere.

I’m forever grateful for the love and support that we receive. I really appreciate it every single time I put the shirt on.

This is the first derby for a long time without Harry Kane, so it will be fascinating to see who takes up the mantle of diving to win a penalty – my money is on Richarlison. Nevertheless, we won both derbies last season, and let’s hope we continue our good record at home again today. I think it will be tough and tight, as these games mostly are. Although last season Antonio Conte basically threw in the towel after an hour. I’d take more of that later on, but however we do it, let’s hope we can take three points.

There’s an unpleasant nervousness about this game for me, which winning does away with very nicely, so I’ll be fretting around the house and walking dogs until kick off.

We’ll have live blog coverage, of course, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News. Catch you later for all that.

Come on you reds!

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