Harry Winks

Three things we learned from Arsenal v. Tottenham

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LONDON — Arsenal blew Tottenham Hotspur away in the 194th North London derby on Saturday with the Gunners riding a furious first half display to grab a deserved 2-0 victory.

Goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez did the business for Arsenal who have now won 11-straight games at the Emirates, their best-ever run at the stadium, and have now started the campaign with six wins from six at home for the first time in a decade.

Here’s what we learned from a one-sided NLD.


ARSENAL REWARDED FOR BRAVE SELECTIONS

Arsenal fans had been calling for all three of their top attacking talents to start and Wenger listened. Maybe he should listen to them more often…

From the start Arsenal looked the more adventurous, dangerous and incisive and both Alexandre Lacazette‘s runs in-behind opened up space for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to have space in front of Tottenham’s back three. After causing Manchester City problems before the break when Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil were on the pitch, Wenger got the message loud and clear.

Arsenal went for it and they were rewarded.

The Gunners’ rampant start was in danger of being in vein but Skhodran Mustafi’s wonderful header, from an Ozil free kick, gave Arsenal the lead their positive start deserved and Sanchez’s clever finish from Lacazette’s pull back gave the scoreline the look it deserved at half time.

In the second half Tottenham had more of the ball and Wenger responded by pulling off Lacazette with 20 minutes to go and bringing on Francis Coquelin. That decision was booed but Wenger couldn’t help but try and edge his side over the line.

This was Arsenal’s first derby victory in seven PL outings against Spurs and amid talk of power shifting in North London to Tottenham following their finish above Arsenal in the PL table last season, the first time in 20 years, a positive display from the start put Tottenham back in their place.

Wenger was able to put out his first choice starting lineup for one of the first times this season and it showed that 1-11, this Arsenal team is at least capable of reclaiming a place in the top four. Maybe that will then convince Ozil and Sanchez to sign new deal and end their contract sagas.

Regardless of that, the search for consistency, especially away from home, is now the key. Going all-out attack is Arsenal’s best chance of any success this season.


MIDFIELD BATTLE NO CONTEST

Granit Xhaka is much-maligned but in the first half especially he and Aaron Ramsey disrupted Tottenham’s flow and knocked Spurs out of their stride.

Time and again they dispossessed Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko in central midfield for Spurs, with Tottenham’s back three on the back foot and unable to deal with the runs of Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil with Hector Bellerin and Ramsey pouring forward whenever they could.

In the second half Spurs had more of the ball and pushed Arsenal back but the damage was done. Harry Winks came on for the disappointing Dembele to try and wrestle the tempo of the game back but it was all too little, too late.

Xhaka and Ramsey worked as a perfect pivot in the first half to give Arsenal the platform for victory.


RUSTY SPURS STUNNED

Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Dele Alli had recovered from injury in time for the North London derby. It showed.

All three looked sluggish with Lloris already in the back of the net by the time Sanchez could smash home Arsenal’s second, Dele spending must of his time on the floor looking for free kicks and Kane (who had his right thigh heavily bandaged) well off the pace as he dragged efforts wide, was booked for a late challenge on Granit Xhaka and had an off day at the worst possible time.

Both Dele and Kane were hauled off 15 minutes from time looking jaded and frustrated. The gamble to rush them back to full fitness didn’t pay off.

Mauricio Pochettino had a face like thunder for much of the game with the Spurs boss patrolling the edge of his technical area with venomous steps.

Spurs have now lost against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal so far this season. They only lost four games the whole of the 2017-18 campaign.

It’s still too early to say Tottenham’s title hopes were all but ended with this defeat at their bitter rivals, but they could well be 11 points behind leaders Manchester City by the time Saturday is over. That is a huge deficit to recover and their displays against the top teams so far this season have been full of trepidation and mistakes.

You can certainly understand the move to rush Kane and Dele back but it may not have been Pochettino’s best decision.

Premier League preview: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • 194th edition of the north London derby
  • Spurs unbeaten in 6 vs. Arsenal: D-W-D-D-D-W
  • Spurs 3rd in the PL; Arsenal 6th

Has the balance of power shifted in north London? The 2016-17 season was the first in 22 years to see Tottenham Hotspur finish above Arsenal. While it’s clearly just one out of 23 seasons to finish with Tottenham on top, their respective trajectories have been moving in opposite directions considerably longer.

The latest installment of one of the Premier League’s fiercest, and suddenly most consequential, rivalries kicks off a full weekend of action on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), following the final international break of 2017.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Given Manchester City’s blistering start, the current season already seems a serious long shot that either side will mount a serious title challenge — Spurs currently sit third (eight points back of Man City) ahead of their trip to the Emirates Stadium, home of the sixth-place Gunners (12 back). The Emirates has been a tough place for Spurs to pull off the upset, having failed to win their last six times away to Arsenal, though draws in three straight will certainly have Mauricio Pochettino‘s side believing they’re now equals — if not superiors — and the time is now.

The international break couldn’t have come at a better time for either side: Arsenal, having been thoroughly beaten by City their last time out; Spurs, having suffered a handful of short- and medium-term injuries to a number of key figures — Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks all skipped England duty to achieve full fitness ahead of Saturday, while Toby Aldeweireld is out an additional month and Hugo Lloris could miss another week.

As for the managers, Pochettino has been extremely complimentary of Wenger — as he’s always done since arriving at Spurs in the summer of 2014 — while his counterpart isn’t at all ready to concede Arsenal’s place at the north London summit.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger, on the rivalry: “Today, people always take one situation and it is permanent. The judgement is definite, permanent and forever. … It is down to us to change the opinions of people with our performances, I cannot say much more. If they have a perception like that they have a perception like that but how can you respond? Not by me talking here, we need to show on Saturday that it’s not true.”

Mauricio Pochettino, on Wenger: “In football history he is one of the great managers, the same level as Sir Alex Ferguson. He will always be a special manager. … To keep motivation more than three years is difficult. Five years, you must be very good, very good if you are 10 years. When you talk about 20 years it is amazing. Everyone who talks about him needs to show respect. … Arsene Wenger is my enemy because he is Arsenal manager but he is my colleague too. What he is doing at Arsenal and as a manager – I would like to be like him one day, 20 years at Tottenham.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (thigh), Rob Holding (thigh), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) | Tottenham — OUT: Toby Aldeweireld (hamstring), Victor Wanyama (knee), Erik Lamela (hip); QUESTIONABLE: Hugo Lloris (groin); RETURNING: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Winks (ankle)

Prediction

A draw featuring (multiple) goals for both sides seems completely inevitable and unavoidable. Spurs have closed the gap to the point they’ll actually expect to win at the Emirates, but the quality of Arsenal’s squad, coupled with their desperation to challenge for a top-four place, is more than enough to put the two sides back on level footing and result in a thrilling, end-to-end deadlock which leaves neither side particularly pleased in the end.

How will Arsenal, Tottenham lineup?

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Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur. The North London derby. Arsene Wenger vs. Mauricio Pochettino.

[ MORE: Spurs injury update ]

This is it. Arsenal host Spurs this Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams having plenty of selection headaches.

How will Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino line up their respective teams?

[ MORE: Wenger – We are not underdogs ]

Here’s a look at our projected starting lineups for both Arsenal and Spurs, with a brief explanation for both.


JPW’s projected Arsenal starting XI

—– Cech —–

—- Holding —- Koscielny —- Monreal —-

— Bellerin — Xhaka — Ramsey — Kolasinac —

—- Ozil —- Sanchez —-

—– Lacazette —–

The Gunners are without the injured Olivier Giroud, but this is a pretty settled team. The main decision for Wenger is will he go all-out attack from the start? Lacazette came off the bench at Man City last time out and scored as well as providing a threat. Surely he has to start in front of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. In midfield it will be intriguing to see if Aaron Ramsey starts ahead of one of the more defense-minded trio of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. It’s highly-likely he will. Shkodran Mustafi may be fit to make his long-awaited return in central defense.


JPW’s projected Tottenham starting XI

—– Lloris —–

—- Sanchez —- Dier —- Vertonghen —-

— Aurier — Dembele — Winks — Rose —-

—- Eriksen —- Dele —-

—– Kane —–

So many injury concerns for Pochettino but Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Hugo Lloris all returned to full training on Thursday ahead of this game. That’s a big boost. Losing Toby Alderweireld for longer than expected is not and that will likely see Eric Dier slot into central defense and the duo of Mousa Dembele and Winks deployed in central midfield. The other big call Pochettino has to make is out wide in the wing back positions. He could choose either of Kieran Trippier or Serge Aurier on the right and Ben Davies or Danny Rose on the left. I think he will go for more athleticism in this game given the high intensity of a derby day. That said, can a fiery character like Aurier be trusted in the hostile atmosphere?

Spurs injury update on key players ahead of Arsenal clash

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Heading into Saturday’s North London derby against Arsenal, there are some massive injury concerns for Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: We aren’t underdogs – Wenger ]

Mauricio Pochettino spoke to the media on Thursday and confirmed that Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Dele Alli were back in full training on Thursday for the first time since pulling out of the England squad over the international break.

Hugo Lloris is also back in training much earlier than expected after he missed Spurs’ 1-0 win against Crystal Palace before the international break with the French goalkeeper previously thought to be a long shot to make the NLD, while Michel Vorm is also back in training.

Pochettino stopped short of saying all the players who have returned to training are available for selection on Saturday, but he’s hopeful.

“We are happy because today they make the team for the first time all the players arrive from the international break. We need to assess all of them tomorrow. We have one training session more. We are optimistic but we need to wait to analyse every single case… I hope that tomorrow we can count with them for the game, but still we need to decide between the medical staff, the sports science and us. I am happy because if they cannot play Saturday they are close to play Tuesday or next weekend.”

Pochettino was asked for a percentage figure on Kane being fit to face Arsenal but refused to do that and simply added: “we need to assess him tomorrow to get the best decision, first of all for him and then for the team.”

So, positive news for Pochettino with Kane, Dele, Winks and Lloris close to winning their race to be ready for Saturday’s huge clash at the Emirates Stadium.

However, Pochettino revealed a huge blow for Tottenham as Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld will be out much longer than previously expected after suffering a hamstring injury against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

“Toby is out. We need to assess him but we expect much longer than we first expected. Maybe after Christmas [he will return], that is the expectation,” Pochettino said. “It will be longer. The injury is in his hamstring. Toby feels disappointed and is a little bit sad but in the same way he is focused now on trying to recover and is working hard. He is in the first stage of his rehab and as always with his type of injury we must be cautious.”

Alderweireld aside, Spurs are looking in much better shape than many expected heading into this Saturday’s game. With Kane, Dele and Lloris having a two week break they could well be fresh to kick on again and you’d have to say they are now the slight favorites, especially given Christian Eriksen‘s sublime form over the international break when he scored a hat trick against the Republic of Ireland to lead Denmark to the 2018 World Cup.

Spurs duo Kane, Winks out for England’s upcoming friendlies

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The Three Lions are already down one Tottenham star heading into their upcoming friendlies against Germany and Brazil, but Gareth Southgate will have to adapt without two more Spurs players.

[ MORE: Swansea’s Makelele takes job managing Belgian side Eupen ]

Harry Kane and Harry Winks have both been ruled out for the matches after picking up slight injuries during Sunday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Tottenham won’t run the risk of Kane re-injuring himself, after previously having a hamstring problem, while Winks suffered an ankle injury against Palace.

The Spurs players join Dele Alli as contributors that won’t be at Southgate’s disposal, which has prompted the England manager to call up West Bromwich Albion midfielder Jake Livermore.

Additionally, Southgate is waiting on the status of Gary Cahill and Jordan Henderson — both of whom are looking to gain fitness ahead of England’s important fixtures.