EPL PREVIEW: North London derby sees the two clubs in contrasting forms

Chia Han Keong
·5-min read
Tottenham Hotspur's Serge Aurier (right) in action with Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette.
Tottenham Hotspur's Serge Aurier (right) in action with Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette. (PHOTO: Tim Goode/Pool via Reuters)

SINGAPORE — What are the key matches and storylines to look out for in the next round of English Premier League (EPL) action? Yahoo News Singapore lists the top three:

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal (Monday, 12.30am Singapore time)

While not as ferocious as the Merseyside derby, the North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal has traditionally been packed with entertaining football. Occasionally there will be a surprising result, but the matches are generally frenetic and fiercely contested.

When these two sides meet again on Sunday, however, the contrast in form could not be more stark.

Tottenham are flying high in top spot, on a nine-match unbeaten run, and have the best goal difference in the league (+12). Arsenal, on the other hand, are mired in 14th place, winless in their last three league games and having massive problems scoring goals.

Yet, Spurs fans are wary that the form book would go out of the proverbial window if Arsenal are pumped up and desperate not to lose their bragging rights against their arch-rivals. Indeed, there would be no better occasion for the Gunners to jump-start their season with a morale-boosting derby win.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to envision Arsenal being able to put goals past a Spurs side that have dramatically improved under Jose Mourinho in terms of defending. Their recent 2-0 win over Manchester City and last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea were clear evidences of the Portuguese manager’s unrivalled ability to organise his team to nullify opponents.

With Arsenal’s strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette mired in dreadful scoring slumps in the league, manager Mikel Arteta may need to ditch his ultra-unadventurous tactics, and unleash his attackers to improvise their way past the Spurs defence.

Judging by their sputtering form, however, it will be a tall order for the Gunners to get a positive result away from the Tottenham Stadium.

SCORE PREDICTION: Tottenham 2 Arsenal 0.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson (centre) competing with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss during their Premier League match.
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson (centre) competing with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss during their Premier League match. (PHOTO: Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Liverpool vs Wolverhampton Wanderers (Monday, 3.15am)

One team is battling a mounting injury crisis, the other is coming to terms with a devastating injury to a key player.

Liverpool will put their 64-match unbeaten home streak on the line – minus eight first-team regulars with all sorts of injuries – against a Wolverhampton side that will lose the services of striker Raul Jimenez for a significant period, after he suffered a fractured skull in a sickening collision with Arsenal defender David Luiz last weekend.

The Reds continue to be decimated by the congested fixture list this season, with stalwarts James Milner and Alisson Becker both limping off their recents games with hamstring strains. It is little wonder that manager Jurgen Klopp has been the most vocal critic at the packed schedule, as he memorably railed against a TV network journalist after last week’s 1-1 draw at Brighton.

His mood would have been lifted after they qualified for the knockout round of the Champions League after a 1-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam in midweek, but Liverpool’s fan bases are getting increasingly nervous on whether their injury misfortunes would derail their team’s title defence.

Seventh-placed Wolves will prove to be tricky opponents as usual, although they would have to quickly find an alternative attacking focal point, given that Jimenez has played that role effectively for the past two seasons. A key candidate would be fleet-footed Adama Traore, whose searing pace would give rival defences plenty to think about.

With fans being allowed back into Anfield, however, the atmosphere could prove daunting for Wolves to get a win. Yet, with Liverpool deprived of their top goalkeeper and key defenders, the visitors will be looking for goals instead of merely defending their goal. It could be a stern test for the Reds’ second-stringers.

SCORE PREDICTION: Liverpool 2 Wolves 1.

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (left) in action with West Ham United's Declan Rice.
Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (left) in action with West Ham United's Declan Rice. (PHOTO: Reuters)

West Ham vs Manchester United (Sunday, 1.30am)

One of David Moyes’ biggest gripes was that he was not given the time to build his team during his short-lived tenure at Manchester United. He has often argued that he would have shaped United into a title-challenging side had he not been given the boot about two-thirds into his lone season at Old Trafford.

His current project with West Ham may be vindication of those claims. Given time to sort out the sputtering London club during the COVID-19 lockdown, Moyes has shaped a much-improved side when last season resumed after the coronavirus break, and it has carried over to this season as the Hammers are perched at fifth spot after a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Monday.

Players like Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio have thrived under Moyes’ guidance, and West Ham could see themselves challenging for Europa League qualification if they maintain their fine form.

Man United, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold all season. On their day, they could produce match-winning performances – as what new signing Edinson Cavani did in their 3-2 comeback win over Southampton last weekend. Yet, the Red Devils are also capable of producing some dire football, and fall to embarrassing defeats like the 1-6 thrashing by Tottenham earlier in the season.

Who will be the next player to pull the rabbit out of the hat for United? Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be happy that he has great players to do so, but he must also worry that he still could not find the right mix of players to produce sparkling football week in, week out.

Unless he does so, it would be hard-pressed to think that this Man United side are capable to challenge for the league title. At least Solskjaer still has the support and time to shape the club, and hopefully consistency will be his priority.

SCORE PREDICTION: West Ham 2 Man United 2.

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