Tottenham vs Arsenal predictions: Expert view, analysis and key questions answered ahead of north London derby

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·4-min read
Tottenham vs Arsenal predictions: Expert view, analysis and key questions answered ahead of north London derby
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Tottenham and Arsenal meet tonight in the biggest north London derby for years.

Arsenal are four points ahead of Spurs in the race to finish fourth and will secure qualification to the Champions League for next season with a win this evening. Tottenham know victory would ramp up the pressure on the Gunners going into the final two games of the season.

So, how will both managers approach the game tactically? How might Arsenal look to stop Harry Kane and Heung-min Son? How significant is playing in the Champions League next season for both clubs’ prospects? And what is the worst case scenario for Spurs if they lose?

Our Tottenham and Arsenal correspondents, Dan Kilpatrick and Simon Collings, dissect some of the big talking points ahead of the game.

What will be the key areas on Thursday night?

DK: The key to stopping Tottenham is stopping Harry Kane, which will require squeezing the space in the middle of the park where the England captain likes to operate.

Similarly, Spurs - who played with practically no midfield in the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates in September - should aim to shut down Martin Odegaard, the orchestrator of many Arsenal attacks. In short, control of the centre ground feels vital.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

SC: For Arsenal, it is all about stopping Tottenham’s lethal front three. The absence of Kieran Tierney in defence is a blow and Ben White being out too would also be a pain for Mikel Arteta.

Kane has caused teams countless problems by dropping deep and playing in Son, so Arsenal need to devise a plan to stop that. A possible solution could be going with a back three, so one of the centre-backs can follow Kane when he drops off.

How will the managers approach the game tactically?

DK: Conte will be happy to allow Arsenal the lion's share of possession and instruct his side to attack the space with a series of quick breaks - the same approach which so frustrated Jurgen Klopp at the weekend.

Spurs will likely try to play out from the back, through Arsenal's press, and use Kane and Dejan Kulusevski as launchpads for their attacks.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

SC: Arteta usually likes his teams to dominate possession and control the game, but against Spurs he should really be looking to change things up.

Conte’s side struggle when teams sit deep and frustrate them, so Arsenal should really look to follow suit. If Arteta does try to get his team to dominate the game, then they must be wary about being caught out on the counter. Overcommitting in attack could be the Gunners’ downfall.

Is either manager likely to spring a surprise?

DK: No. Conte's XI has more or less picked itself since mid-February and, with wing-backs Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon ruled out for the season, there should be no selection dilemmas for the head coach. Only an unwelcome injury before the game would force his hand.

More surprising might be Conte's use of his subs, with Davinson Sanchez having been introduced first in two of the last three games. Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura are unfancied.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

SC: Arteta has gone with a 4-3-3 formation in most weeks, but he may look to revert to a 3-4-2-1 setup if personnel allows. Arsenal’s win against Chelsea showed the value of matching the opposition’s formation and Arteta would be wise to do so now.

If White is fit that makes it easy for Arteta to go with a back three that would include him, Gabriel and Rob Holding, but if he’s out Takehiro Tomiyasu could slot in.

What would failure to qualify for Champions League mean?

DK: The worst case scenario is that Conte walks at the end of the season, which would surely prompt Kane to seriously consider his future again. Certainly, missing out would set back Spurs' rebuild - while accelerating Arsenal's - by limiting their budget and the calibre of player they could target in the summer.

With Manchester United unlikely to be so poor next season, whoever misses out may rue a major chance squandered.

Whoever misses out on the Champions League may rue a major chance squandered

SC: It would not be the end of the world for Arsenal, but it would be a blow. At the start of the season no one would have predicted that the Gunners would finish top four. However, now they are so close to it, missing out would hurt.

Qualifying for the Champions League would boost Arsenal’s finances and allow them to accelerate their rebuild. They could spend more money on new signings and chase better players, with certain targets keen to join if Arsenal are in the Champions League.

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