Harry Kane is targeting another landmark day in the north London derby. The Tottenham striker is one goal away from matching Jimmy Greaves’s all-time Spurs record of 266 goals and is also just two shy of 200 Premier League goals.
With 14 goals in 18 games against Arsenal, Kane is the record scorer in north London derbies, and it would be extra special to pass those two milestones this weekend. But standing in his way will be the best Arsenal centre-back pairing he has faced since his first game against the Gunners, in 2015.
Gabriel and William Saliba have developed into a brilliant partnership, helping create a solid foundation for their title challenge. The pair have started every Premier League game this season at the heart of a defence that has conceded just 14 goals in 17 matches.
When Saliba returned to Arsenal last summer, after spending last season on loan at Marseille, he was not guaranteed to be a starter. Ben White and Gabriel had performed well last season and, given Arteta views centre-back as the hardest position to play in the Premier League, he was wary about throwing the 21-year-old into the team.
But Gabriel, 25, and Saliba “clicked” from day one of pre-season, and that sparked the idea that White could excel at right-back. Arteta views the centre-back position as a partnership, which is why he acted quickly when Gabriel and Saliba gelled. He has spoken about their “chemistry” and “understanding”, and that applies on and off the pitch.
Their styles complement each other: Gabriel is an aggressive, front-foot defender; Saliba relies on composure and pace, dropping off and sweeping up when required. The partnership has had a knock-on impact further up the pitch, with Saliba’s recovery speed allowing Arsenal to be bold with their press.
That could be a risky tactic against a Spurs side renowned for their counter, but Arsenal will point to the fact they have the second-best defensive record in the League, behind Newcastle. Off the pitch, Gabriel and Saliba get on well. They are different characters, with Gabriel seen as more goofy and loud, compared to the quiet, cool Saliba. They communicate in French and Portuguese and, somehow, it works.
Arsenal recently tied down Gabriel to a new long-term contract and they want to do the same with Saliba. Arteta and the club believe they are the future. Kane was on the scoresheet when Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 in the reverse fixture last October, when he scored a penalty after Gabriel had fouled Richarlison.
But Gabriel and Saliba’s partnership has developed since then. Keep Kane quiet on Sunday and they will go a long way to helping Arsenal record their first victory at Tottenham since Tomas Rosicky scored the winner at White Hart Lane in 2014.