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North London Derby: Three key features

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Tottenham Hotspur have struggled of late against Arsenal, losing their last three games against their bitter rivals in quick succession.

Spurs' recent struggles against the Gunners compiled with their current poor form should have the home side expecting a win when the pair clash this weekend.

However, Tottenham have plenty to play for as well. The North London Derby is enough to get any player's blood pumping, but the new signings will be extra keen to make their mark on the Gunner faithful. Here are the game's keys for Saturday night's spectacle at White Hart Lane. 

Discipline and Controlled Aggression

Remember when Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the tenth minute to put Tottenham up 1-0 at the Emirates? If not, you aren't alone. What you might remember is his proceeding red card and the resulting wallop that Spurs fans had to deal with for 5 months, until the result was reversed.

Adebayor has a penchant for getting under Arsenal's skin, which has resulted in the occasional hail-storm of coins and in the tunnel. If Adebayor can use this ability constructively, as in working hard and playing with a chip, but while keeping his head on straight, he could be the game's best player.

But if he has similar mishaps as he has had in the recent past, Tottenham will have to look to Harry Kane or Roberto Soldado to be the frontman.

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Red cards and horribly unsportsmanlike acts that must be avoided by both teams. However, it is important to show the opposite number who controls the game.

For Arsenal, that means picking up a smart yellow or two when taking down Lamela or Eriksen, Tottenham's primary playmakers. Such was the nature of the very effective strategy Liverpool used in their 3-0 win against Spurs.

For Tottenham, they must use their size and strength defensively as a means shutting down the opposite end of the field. The best way to prevent goals is by keeping opponents out of the box, something Tottenham will need to do against their rivals.

It is imperative that the Lily Whites close down Arsenal's troop of creative talent quickly, before they can get into a flow. This means take downs when Arsenal is on the counter. Pochettino's team must not sit back defensively as well, but press high and hard, something that is accordance with his philosophy. 

Finishing

A player that can score is invaluable. This is no exaggeration as such was proved by the departure of Gareth Bale last summer to Real Madrid. Tottenham, have yet to find a constant goal threat in his absence, with Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela (who both were, when purchased, record signings) producing a combined total of six Premier League goals, all courtesy of Soldado.

Eriksen added seven last year and has one so far in this season, while Paulinho, who has yet to make a Premier League start this year, had six in the previous campaign. Capoue and Chiriches headed in one apiece last year, and Chadli has three of his four successful strikes in the current season.

You add all of these together and you get a grand total of twenty-six, five more than Gareth Bale had in a single season where he was constantly double and even triple-covered. Case and point: Tottenham need a consistent goal scorer. Too many games have they lost where they dominated possession and could not score despite the bevy of shots. Tottenham will create chances. Lamela and Eriksen will no matter what the defensive alignment or strategy. If Adebayor, Soldado, and Chadli can convert, they will win. But that's a big "if".

Meanwhile, Arsenal have yet to find their Robin van Persie replacement. However, a balanced attack with equal contributions from all positions has allowed the offense to keep churning. The high concentration of effective midfielders creates chances that anyone could finish, and many have.

Although they lack a consistently-scoring striker with Giroud's injury (Welbeck is a striker, but hardly a consistently-scoring one), Arsenal's attack picks up plenty of goals from the wings and midfields. Also, expect Welbeck to look to get behind the defense and close down at every opportunity, as a goal in this game could seal him a spot in the lineup for a long time.

Spurs will struggle to contain newcomer Alexis Sanchez, a player who terrorizes defenses with his work ethic, pace, and technical ability. Sanchez, if effective on the ball, will generate space for Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, and possibly Cazorla to do what they do best: create goals.

Momentum

In the last four matches between these teams, the team that scored first went on to win. Tottenham are notorious for slow starts to games. Maybe the Jesus Navas 13 second goal rings a bell? But the North London Derby is different. Tottenham were able to hold out a full 72 seconds before Tomas Rosicky hit the only goal in March.

The point of such sarcasm is those goals are tough to recover from for anybody. An early goal would allow either team to set the tone. If Tottenham get off on the wrong foot, their poor finishing will not leave much room for error. 

However, when Spurs are in full flow, there is no better football to watch and be a part of. Three goals after the 70th minute in Wednesday's League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest proved that Spurs are as good as anybody when they get on a roll. Spurs need to press high from the start and get the ball to the feet of Eriksen and Lamela.

From there, Spurs must hope those two produce nothing less than the magic they are capable of. With a good game from both, a win is well within reach; but a bad game from either could mean a surefire loss.

Arsenal, meanwhile, depend on possession and preventing fast-paced breaks from opponents. They will need to make sure Tottenham doesn't get into space.

However, the Londoners in red will have a decent chance to control the flow of the game if they get the ball up the field. Chadli, Eriksen, and Lamela aren't really the ideal midfielders to have behind the ball.

It will be Etienne Capoue's job to clean up any Arsenal attacks through the middle, while Rose and Dier will need to provide great one on one defense on the flanks. For Tottenham, they must press high so Arsenal can't get numbers in close or else it could all be over.

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Topics:
Football
Tottenham Hotspur
Emmanuel Adebayor
Mauricio Pochettino
Premier League

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