Hugo Lloris v Aaron Ramsdale
Before Tottenham’s chaotic deadline day in January, they gave goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris a new deal. Lloris has been a consistent performer since he joined the club a decade ago from Lyon and, while now 35, Spurs went against the grain and tied the France goalkeeper down to a two-and-a-half year contract. Their faith in Lloris is not misplaced. Only Brazilian pair Alisson and Ederson (20) have kept more clean sheets than Lloris in the Premier League this season (13) and his experience will be key in the run-in.
Lloris has played in 20 north London derbies, whereas Aaron Ramsdale has only played in one – and he did not have much to do in it. Ramsdale made just three saves when Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 in September as Nuno Espírito Santo’s short spell at the club nosedived.
When Ramsdale joined Arsenal from Sheffield United last summer, some fans questioned the wisdom of spending £30m on a goalkeeper who had been relegated for two straight seasons – with Bournemouth in 2020 and Sheffield United in 2021. But Ramsdale has been vital for the Gunners. His tally of 12 clean sheets in 31 outings is a respectable return and his save success rate of 71.6% is the sixth best in the Premier League this season.
Cristian Romero v Gabriel
Centre-backs Cristian Romero and Gabriel will add a touch of South American spice to the north London derby. When Spurs signed Romero last summer, their supporters were understandably excited at the prospect of a no-holds-barred Argentine lining up at the back. Romero won plenty of admirers while playing for Atalanta last season, winning the Serie A defender of the year award.
His tally of 62 tackles is the third best in the Spurs squad this season even though he missed a chunk of the campaign through injury, but it’s his belligerence that has really won over supporters. Romero gives his all of him in his pursuit of possession. Yes, that determination has landed him in hot water at times – he has been booked eight times, which is more than any other Spurs player this season – but fans can forgive that. The Tottenham defense had a tendency to fold under the slightest pressure and the 24-year-old has the mental toughness to help eradicate these silly mistakes.
Arsenal signed Gabriel from Lille almost two years ago and it is easy to quantify his impact on the team: Arsenal’s win ratio rises from 36.8% to 59.3% when he starts in the Premier League. His presence of him was sorely missed at the start of the season. He was injured for Arsenal’s first three games and they lost them all. When he returned, they went on an eight-game unbeaten run. He has been a consistent performer whether playing alongside Ben White or, more recently, Rob Holding.
Rodrigo Bentancur v Mohamed Elneny
Rodrigo Bentancur arrived at Tottenham on deadline day in January on loan from Juventus along with Dejan Kulusevski – more on him later. The Uruguayan has added a touch of class to the Spurs midfield, where he has forged a solid relationship with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The 24-year-old picks out teammates with ease. His pass success rate of 89.1% is the third best in the Spurs squad this season but it’s his range of passing from him that has really caught the eye. His long-ball pass success rate of 66.7% is second only to Harry Kane (68.8%) for the club. He has the accuracy required to turn defense into attack, particularly when Spurs sit deep and hit opponents on the counterattack.
Mohamed Elneny has also made an important contribution in the last few months of the season. Arsenal fans worried that Thomas Partey’s injury would derail their hopes of a top-four finish, but Elneny has filled in brilliantly alongside Granit Xhaka. He has started Arsenal’s last four games and they have won them all. His pass success rate of 92.5% is the best in the Arsenal squad this season. He exudes calm, can control the tempo in midfield and keeps a cool head amid any chaos, which will be vital in the derby on Thursday night.
Dejan Kulusevski v Martin Odegaard
Dejan Kulusevski has been one of the signings of the season. He arrived on loan from Juventus in January and has taken Tottenham’s attack to another level. His eight assists in 15 league outings is already enough to rank among the top 10 players in the division. He forged relationships with his teammates quickly, with five of those eight assists for Son Heung-Min.
He offers more in the final third than Lucas Moura, who he replaced in the three-man attack, and Spurs are expected to make his loan move permanent as soon as possible. Arsenal initially signed Martin Ødegaard on loan before making his move from Real Madrid permanent last summer. He knits together the Arsenal midfield and attack, and has really stepped up his game since the turn of the year. He has created 36 goalscoring chances for teammates in 2022 – the fourth best in the Premier League. Spurs need to be wary of his threat from him, especially as eight of the 10 league goals Ødegaard has directly contributed to this season have come on the road.
Harry Kane v Eddie Nketiah
Harry Kane is the record goalscorer in the north London derby, having hit the back of the net 11 times against Arsenal in his career. Kane has failed to score in just four of his 14 league derbies, and just one of seven at home. That said, the 28-year-old has been by sub-par this season.
Kane was top of both the goals (23) and assists (14) charts in the Premier League last season but, after a long and difficult summer, he has struggled to match those figures this season, chipping in with 13 goals and eight assists. He and Son did set the record for the best goalscoring combination in Premier League history at Leeds in February.
The Spurs almost attack picks itself, but Mikel Arteta has made a big call in recent weeks by dropping Alexandre Lacazette for Eddie Nketiah. Like Elneny, Nketiah has taken his chance. The forward, who is out of contract in the summer, has started Arsenal’s last five games and scored four goals – two against Chelsea last month and two more in the 2-1 win over Leeds on Sunday. His goals and assists from him have earned Arsenal an additional seven points this season, making him an unlikely star in the race for the top four.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism