Arsenal Vs Spurs: Season on the line… Already

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks on during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur at John Smith's Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks on during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur at John Smith's Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) /
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The first North London Derby of the year is here with four points separating the two title challengers. For Arsenal, though, a loss would see that gap extend to a worrying level. Their season is on the line… already.

As Arsenal entered the season, there were wide and varied expectations. Their lack of spending in the summer led many to suggest that a title challenge was wildly optimistic; others, on the other hand, were more hopeful because of the development of the young players in the squad, the further bedding in of players like Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, and the keeping of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

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Ultimately, there was a wide range of possible outcomes for the Gunners’ year. And, in the typically turbulent and shocking modern football world, no one really had a clue.

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Arsene Wenger, though, sided with the more optimistic — given that he is the manager, he is the man that calls the shots, on which all the decisions rely on, and he is the one attempting to provide morale and motivation to his players, he doesn’t really have a choice on the matter of the positivity of his opinion. He regularly stated he believed that this squad was capable of challenging for the title. But, just 11 games into the campaign, that challenge seems somewhat distant.

After last weekend’s loss to Manchester City, Arsenal find themselves 12 points off the blistering pace of Pep Guardiola’s side. Moreover, they are four points behind Manchester United, who have solidly worked their way through the season thus far, and Saturday’s opponents, Tottenham Hotspur, making the weekend’s match a particularly intriguing one.

North London derbies have always been fiery and intense fixtures. That is natural for any local derby between two rivals. But the atmosphere and fever has only intensified in recent years with the steady, and worrying, improvement of Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino.

For the first time under Wenger, Spurs actually finished above Arsenal last season. They have accumulated more points over the past two full seasons than any other team in the country, despite not winning the title either year, they are beginning to establish themselves on the European stage with wins against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, and could well be considered City’s closest rivals this season.

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Spurs are no longer the little old neighbours. They are genuine title challengers; they are genuine rivals. And for Arsenal, just three months into the year, their season is already on the line. A 15-point gap to City seems insurmountable; a seven-point gap to Spurs seems insurmountable. This is a huge, huge game.