Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal will be scrutinised using various aspects of his tenure. One that looks reasonably rosy so far is his management of the Gunners in North London derbies. The Spanish coach takes his charges into a crunch clash with Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 4.30pm) having so far been unbeaten against them.
During last season Arsenal beat their opponents this coming Sunday 4-2 at home and managed to earn a creditable point from a 1-1 draw at Wembley, which was acting as the temporary home of the Lilywhites before they moved into their new home at the site of their former ground at White Hart Lane.
In that game Wales midfield ace Aaron Ramsey scored for the Gunners and the Reds could well have taken all three points but for a late, late penalty miss from the normally reliable foot of top striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. This time of asking, Auba has a new wing man on who to rely for ammunition as he looks to fire the Gunners to victory. He comes in the shape of Nico Pepe, the £72million maestro, who arrived for a club record fee in the summer from French Ligue 1 outfit Lille. He was one of the few shining lights in a rather disappointing (from the Arsenal perspective at least) 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in last week’s Premier League outing.
Pundits agree Pepe, who has 13 international caps for his country, the Ivory Coast, showed speed, skill and flair during the game and had a couple of chances which it is felt he would have scored on another day. No doubt the fleet-footed wizard will grow stronger as he gets more games under his belt and adapt properly to the undoubted rigours of top-flight football in England. The loss means Arsenal have six points from a possible six and sit in sixth spot in the Premier League table going into the showdown. Last time out Tottenham lost 1-0 at home to Newcastle United. They are currently seventh in the league standings.
Boss Emery has called for his charges to fight for every ball during the game against the visitors on Sunday and has used the word “intensity’ a lot while trying to describe what he wants from his players in terms of attitude on the pitch. He added:
“We also remember that last year we finished behind them with only one-point difference in 38 matches. We are going to play against the Champions League finalists and there are a lot of positives for us, for our supporters, to enjoy that match on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, the Europa League draw has been made and Emery and his side will be hopeful of progressing through the group stages. Arsenal, who lost to London rivals Chelsea in last season’s final in Baku, have been drawn against Germans Eintracht Frankfurt, Belgian side Standard Liege and Portuguese outfit Vitoria.