Arteta rallies Arsenal troops ahead of North London derby

Pierre Emeric Aubameyang

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta will be hoping for a smile or two from Lady Luck when his Gunners side go to the home of their deadly north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday for the derby clash.

There will, of course, be no simmering cauldron at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, formerly White Hart Lane, as the restrictions on fans entering sporting arenas after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown are still very much in place.

But supporters the world over will tune in for their football fix on TV and the North London derby game rarely disappoints. The two teams drew at the Emirates Stadium earlier in this extended season — and there is everything to play for this time of asking.

Arteta takes his charges in to battle against the old enemy looking to enjoy a bit more fortune than he saw last time out when the Gunners drew 1-1 with Leicester City in Wednesday’s home game. The Arsenal boss saw his side completely dominate the first half of the game against the Foxes and should have gone in at the break with a bigger margin than their 1-0 advantage. The first-half goal came courtesy of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the club’s leading marksman, after young attacker Buyako Saka, who has just signed a new deal at the club, squared invitingly. It was a tap-in, but significant none the less.

To be fair, Brendan Rodgers’ outfit were always in the game and they upped their commitment following the interval and had a couple of chances. But it was when forward Eddie Nketiah was shown a red card for a VAR-reviewed tackle that the visitors started to get on top of the home side, down to ten men. Nketiah was initially booked for the challenge on defender James Justin but after a review it was a dismissal and Arsenal were then always fighting to stop the many advances of the City vanguard, with Jamie Vardy showing the most threat.

And with the game entering the final late stages it was deadly Vardy who struck to give the visitors a point. Arteta was clearly disappointed after the game but he will continue to ask his squad to maintain their belief in the process and there is very reason to believe that the Gunners will get there. The game against Tottenham sees both teams desperate for a win to maintain a push for qualification for European football but it is the second-tier competition, the Europa League, that is the goal with Champions League football seemingly out of reach.

Arsenal go into the game on Sunday knowing a win is crucial given that they have a tough test awaiting them on the following Wednesday when they host Premier League champions Liverpool.

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