After humiliation in Munich in midweek, Arsenal’s injury-ravaged squad will have little time to pick up the pieces ahead of the visit of local rival Tottenham to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Arsenal had been on a fine run of form ahead of their trip to Germany, to take them top of the Premier League and revive their Champions League hopes. But a 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich has left their prospects of progressing to the last 16 hanging by a thread. It also showed up the cost of being without so many players due to injury.
Arsenal had eight first-team players missing on Wednesday, as the latest seemingly annual recurring injury crisis took hold.
“I’m very concerned, honestly, because we are only in November and to have so many players out knowing that we now Christmas period soon,” Arsene Wenger said at his press conference on Friday. “I’m concerned, at the moment we have too many players out.”
It will be some comfort that Laurent Koscielny has been rated by Wenger as having an 80 percent chance of returning on Saturday. Still, fellow-defender Hector Bellerin, along with Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky and most likely Mikel Arteta remain out. It leaves no room for Wenger to rotate his side even if there are signs of fatigue creeping in after a hectic run of fixtures. Yet in terms of the mentality of his squad, Wenger is confident his players will not be unduly impacted.
“Of course it was a disappointing result on Wednesday night, but before that we did extremely well in the Premier League,” he said. “They want to continue from one competition to the other. I believe at the moment in the Premier League we have strong confidence and focus and that’s what we want to reproduce on Sunday against Tottenham. As always it’s a derby, it’s always a game where the commitment and the nervous force will be important.”
Arsenal have been hugely impressive in the Premier League of late, winning their last five fixtures, four of them by three-goal margins. That form has lifted them to the top of the Premier League, alongside Manchester City, and sparked talk of a first title in 12 years.
Even when failing to deliver the ultimate prize, Arsenal have continued to have the better of Tottenham, finishing above their north London foes in the league table for each of the last 20 years. They have also only lost once at home to Spurs since 1993, and even that was five years ago.
Yet Tottenham will surely rarely have traveled to their rivals in better spirits. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have not lost in the Premier League since the opening day of the season, and have won three straight matches in all competitions. They now sit fifth in the Premier League, five points behind Arsenal. And on Thursday, a 2-1 victory over Anderlecht put them in the driving seat to claim a place in the knockout stage of the Europa League.
A big part of their recent surge has been the form of striker Harry Kane. After scoring just once in his first 13 games for his club this season, the 22-year-old has struck five in his last three appearances. Kane has spearheaded a Spurs squad that is the youngest in the Premier League. And Pochettino is confident that youthful energy can help his side overcome the difficulties of taking on Arsenal after less than 72 hours break.
“I don't want to put any ideas out there that they have an advantage, but it is very difficult to play Thursday and Sunday,” he told reporters after the win over Anderlecht, according to Reuters. “We have a young squad that runs a lot. I'm not complaining. It is not an excuse. We will be ready to compete and try to win the game. Now we need to focus, there is no time to think too much because in two days we need to play the north London derby and we know this is a very important game for us.”
Tottenham do also have a much healthier squad than Arsenal, with only Nacer Chadli and Nabil Bentaleb likely to be unavailable.
D: Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Cazorla, Coquelin
Campbell, Özil, Sánchez
D: Walker, Alderwireld, Vertonghen, Rose
M: Dier, Alli
Lamela, Dembele, Eriksen
Prediction: Tottenham have been very impressive of late, with an excellent balance in their side, helped by the impressive young combination in midfield of Eric Dier and Dele Alli. And they have also shown under Pochettino that they have shaken off the habit of wilting when going up against the Premier League’s big hitters. A rare victory at the Emirates Stadium may be beyond this time, but a continuation of their unbeaten run certainly isn’t. Arsenal struggled both defensively and going forward against Bayern, and the injuries will continue to leave Wenger’s side short of their best.
Predicted score: Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra