Sunday afternoon will see the return of one of the UK’s most intense rivalries as Arsenal play host to Tottenham Hotspur in a match that could have a significant effect on both side’s efforts to finish in the top four this season.
Arsenal have adjusted to life under Unai Emery with ease, the club have reeled off an 18 game unbeaten run in all competitions and appear to have a mental strength that was lacking in the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Their neighbours have had an equally impressive start to the season, and while Spurs may have come under fire for their lack of summer recruitment, they’re sitting pretty in third.
Arsenal have been handed a major boost ahead of the clash with Spurs, with the news that star centre back Laurent Koscielny could feature for the Gunners for the first time since sustaining an injury in May. The Frenchman appeared for Arsenal’s Under-23 side earlier this week and appears to be close to a return. Alexandre Lacazette should also be back to full fitness after missing out against Bournemouth last week.
Spurs have had their own positive injury news this week too, with the return of Danny Rose to the match day squad in midweek and Jan Vertonghen making his first appearance since injury, the side’s depth appears to have improved. Kieran Trippier is also pushing to make an appearance, but the Arsenal game could come too soon for him.
Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has played down his side’s Premier League title chances.
Pochettino’s side impressed last weekend, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Chelsea with a 3-1 win at Wembley, which took them above Maurizio Sarri’s team in the league table, five points off leaders Manchester City.
Spurs were last English champions in 1961 but have not finished lower than third in the Premier League in the last three seasons.
Pochettino said, however, that Spurs were not at the same level as their top-four rivals especially as the north London side made no signings in the close season compared to the heavy investment made by others. “I can’t say we’re a title contender. I think Manchester City is in a different level. Clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, (Manchester) United and Arsenal make a bigger investment to us, a different level,” the Argentine told a news conference on Friday.
“They are the contenders, more than us. But we’re there. If we’re capable in the last few months of the season to be in a good position in the table we’re going to try.”
Sunday’s game at the Emirates will see Pochettino once again lock horns with Arsenal’s coach Unai Emery. The two faced each other seven times from 2009 to 2012 when the Argentine was coaching Espanyol and Emery was in charge of Valencia.
Since succeeding Arsene Wenger, Emery has led Arsenal to fifth in the table with eight wins out of 13 league matches. “I have a very good relationship with Unai, he is a great manager, he’s doing a fantastic job there,” said Pochettino. “Of course Arsenal have always been a good team with very good players and unbelievable management from one of the greatest managers ever.
“Now it is a completely different culture with a manager who is Spanish. It will be tough because they are doing a good job from the beginning of the season and signed very good players too.”
Spurs also announced on Friday a familiarisation event at their new stadium on Dec. 16 for around 6,000 season ticket holders as the completion of their long awaited venue appears to be getting closer.
Supporters will enter a ballot to be given access to the single tier south stand and surrounding areas.
“It makes me feel very, very happy. It makes me feel we are close to compete there. It’s an important thing for the fans to show our new home,” Pochettino said.
The new 62,000 stadium on the site of the old White Hart Lane was due to be opened in August but has been delayed until next year.