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Granit Xhaka v Dele Alli: The key battle in Arsenal v Tottenham
Last Updated: 18/11/17 12:40pm
Ahead of Saturday's north London derby, live on Sky Sports, we examine the key battle between Granit Xhaka and Dele Alli.
The first north London derby of the season takes place at Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime with both sides eager to maintain their positions in the top six and close the gap on leaders Manchester City.
Arsenal have not won in their last six Premier League meetings against their fierce rivals and they will have to be at their best to get anything against a youthful and exciting Tottenham side this time around.
One of the game's biggest duels will take place in the middle of the park, where Granit Xhaka and Dele Alli will go head to head. Arsenal's Swiss midfielder has started all 11 Premier League games for the Gunners this season and returns to domestic action having helped Switzerland overcome Northern Ireland to reach the World Cup finals.
After a stop-start beginning to his Arsenal career, Xhaka has now established himself in the Arsenal side. His run of consecutive Premier League starts stretches to 24 including last season, and this year he has provided the joint-most assists and made the most touches and passes of any Arsenal player.
Granit Xhaka's 2017/18 Premier League record
|Distance per game||11.4km||1st|
Even though he has improved his performances over the last few months, however, Xhaka has yet to score for Arsenal this season. Despite not being afraid to shoot, especially from outside the penalty area, he has not scored for the club since the beginning of May. That strike against Manchester United is his only Arsenal goal since November 2016.
This seems odd, as shooting from distance has been a key part of Xhaka's game since his arrival in the Premier League and this season nobody has had more shots from outside the area than the Swiss international.
Most shots from outside the penalty area - Premier League 2017/18
|Player||Shots outside box||Goals outside box|
|Kevin de Bruyne||19||1|
Tottenham's Alli, by contrast, does know how to find the back of the net on a regular basis. The 21-year-old missed England's recent friendlies with a hamstring injury but will be hopeful of returning to the Spurs side for this game.
Alli had been having a rather low-key start to the season before scoring twice against Real Madrid in the Champions League at the start of November, and he has now scored four goals in his last four appearances in all competitions. In fact, the stats show he has contributed slightly more than in his first 10 Premier League games last season.
Deli Alli's start to the season compared to last season
|Last season||Stat||This season|
Encouragingly for Tottenham fans, Alli has had more touches in his Premier League games this season than at the same stage last season, showing perhaps that he is demanding more of the ball that previously.
It was also at this stage last season that Alli started to show the form that led to him winning the PFA Young Player of the Year for the second year in a row and ended with a career-best total of 22 goals. Tottenham fans will be hoping that lightning strikes twice and something similar happens this time around.
Only time will tell whether Alli reaches the heights of last season in the next few months, but Saturday's game against Xhaka will be a big test of his improving form.
Watch Arsenal v Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 11.30am on Saturday