Arsenal vs Tottenham: Is the gap between the north London sides closing?

Watch Arsenal vs Tottenham from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 4.30pm; Jose Mourinho and Sol Campbell part of Super Sunday team

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Image: Arsenal host Spurs live on Super Sunday in the north London derby

Arsenal host Tottenham on Super Sunday with the chance to open an early five-point gap between themselves and their north London rivals.

It has been three seasons since the Gunners finished above Spurs in the Premier League table, but is the gap between the north London rivals closing once again?

Before the 2016/17 season, you had to rewind to the 1994/95 campaign for the last time Spurs avoided what Arsenal fans called 'St Totteringham's Day' and finished above their neighbours.

Mauricio Pochettino's side eventually ended 22 years of Arsenal dominance and the Argentinian has guided his side above their neighbours for the last three years.

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But, after a less then convincing start to the season, Spurs face a huge test at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal hoping to lay down an early marker as Unai Emery looks to lead his side above Spurs and into the top four for the first time since the 2015/16 season.

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Watch the north London Derby live on Sky Sports Premier League, coverage starts at 4pm

A change in expectations

Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson thinks both Arsenal and Tottenham's expectations have changed so much heading into the north London derby that Spurs would be happy to leave the Emirates Stadium with a draw on Sunday.

"Arsenal should expect to win this game, which is unreal really," he told The Debate.

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"Over the last two or three years Tottenham seemed to be getting further away from Arsenal. If you weigh up this game this weekend and you look at it and think Spurs will be well pleased with a draw, which is a game-changer.

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In the build up to the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, fans and former players sat down together to debate which team has the better manager

"Arsenal look like a top-four team," Merson added. "They win quite comfortably for me.

"I think Arsenal will rip Tottenham to shreds. Spurs are struggling at the moment and if the Gunners get going I can see it being comfortable for them.

"The Man City draw covered over a lot of cracks for Spurs. City had 30 shots and if you give Arsenal 30 shots on Sunday, they'll score goals."

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Unsettled Spurs

Following Tottenham's shock defeat at home to Newcastle, Pochettino admitted his side are "unsettled" with the European transfer window still open.

With the futures of Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, who both started on the bench last Sunday, still uncertain, Pochettino said he will be a happier man once the window closes on September 2.

"Poch has got a problem," former Spurs midfielder Jamie O'Hara said on The Debate. "He's got an unsettled squad and that's a big problem to have, especially with big players being unsettled.

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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says to win the north London derby against Arsenal on Sunday is more than three points and he is lucky to lead his team into the game

"Eriksen's unhappy, Vertonghen's not happy and I don't feel like he addressed the fact they needed another striker and he needed to replace Kieran Trippier. He sold Trippier and he needed to replace him. I don't think Kyle Walker-Peters is the answer yet.

"They bought in (Ryan) Sessegnon and he's injured. Danny Rose was at the Watford training ground and he was going to sign there, but now he's played every game at left-back.

"There's a problem with the squad. It's not a good make up to have because you want to be settled now. You want to be playing well and know your best XI. He's not playing his best XI."

Spurs' poor form

Tottenham have picked up just 15 points from their last 15 ​Premier League games - only ​Watford and ​Brighton have managed less.

'Eriksen, Vertonghen must start'

O'Hara thinks Pochettino has to forget all the off-field problems and play his best starting XI, which includes Eriksen and Vertonghen.

"I know Poch is digging his heels in," he said. "Whatever's going on behind the scenes, and we don't know the full extent of it, he has to play his best XI.

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Highlights from Newcastle's 1-0 win at Tottenham in the Premier League

"It's a huge game. Arsenal will look at the videos of the last few weeks and see Spurs are vulnerable at the back. Going into this game Arsenal are favourites and I've not felt like that for a while.

"In the last few years I've always thought Tottenham would go and win this game. He's got to play his best team. Vertonghen has to play and so does Eriksen."

Will Emery unleash PAL?

Unai Emery has teased the possibility that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe can all be in the same starting line-up.

The trio have only spent 35 minutes on the pitch together in the opening three games of the season as Lacazette has battled an ankle problem and Pepe has adjusted to life in England.

Nicolas Pepe in action for Arsenal vs Burnley 0:33
Unai Emery says he expects the same from all of his players and insists there is no extra pressure on new signing Nicolas Pepe to perform in Sunday's north London derby

But Emery believes all three could start and hinted he might do so against Tottenham at the Emirates.

"I think they can start together and they can play also during the match as all three, it depends how we decide our game-plan," Emery said.

Honours even on derby day

Of course, overall form is not necessarily a guide when local rivals go head to head - and over the last four seasons, there is nothing to separate Spurs and Arsenal.

They have two wins apiece in the eight league meetings over that time, with the other four games drawn, including three in succession from November 2015 to November 2016.

Arsenal lead 11 goals to 10 across those eight games but they have met twice in the League Cup in the same time period with - predictably - one win apiece, and with Spurs scoring three goals to the Gunners' two.

"But I am very optimistic for that situation, but not also those three players, also (Reiss) Nelson, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Joe) Willock, (Mesut) Ozil.

"We need to be able to make the best decisions, but, above all, to have different possibilities with the players."

The battle of the strikers

Talisman Harry Kane has scored seven of Tottenham's derby goals in that stretch, including a remarkable four penalties.

Of Arsenal's current squad, only Aubameyang has multiple derby goals - he scored two, with a spot-kick of his own, in last December's 4-2 win at the Emirates.

Kane has scored nine goals in nine Premier League games against Arsenal - only Wayne Rooney (12) and Robbie Fowler (10) have scored more Premier League goals against the Gunners.

Davinson Sanchez 0:37
Davinson Sanchez says Tottenham must be wary of Arsenal strikers Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in the north London derby

The two look set to battle it out once more on Sunday, but Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez believes it is not just Aubameyang who will provide a goal threat.

Lacazette has started just once so far as he has battled with the injury he sustained in pre-season, but Sanchez says he and his team-mates will have to be at their best to keep Arsenal at bay.

VOTE: Best ever north London derby goal

VOTE: Best ever north London derby goal

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"They're good strikers and in the last season they produced some very good football. Of course, we have to be worried about them but we need to focus on us," he said.

"If we are calm with the ball there won't be too many problems. Of course, they're two good strikers, but we've got a very good squad as well."

Team news

Ozil is available for Arsenal having yet to feature this season due to safety concerns and then illness, but he has trained all week.

Arsenal provisional squad

Leno, Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Luiz, Sokratis, Chambers, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Elneny, Willock, Ceballos, Mkhitaryan, Pepe, Nelson, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Martinelli.

Rob Holding (knee) is back in training but will not feature, while Hector Bellerin (knee) and Kieran Tierney (groin) will return to training after the international break.

Tottenham are without record signing Tanguy Ndombele due to a thigh issue.

Tottenham provisional squad

Lloris, Gazzaniga, Aurier, Dier, Alderwerield, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Rose, Winks, Sissoko, Wanyama, Lo Celso, Eriksen, Skipp, Son, Alli, Lamela, Moura, Parrott.

Right-backs Juan Foyth (ankle) and Walker-Peters (hamstring) are out and possible stand-in Eric Dier (hip) is a doubt.

Ryan Sessegnon is nearing a return from a hamstring injury but is still waiting for his first Spurs appearance.

Predictions

Charlie Nicholas: "I cannot say I expected any more from the Liverpool game last week. Arsenal played alright - David Luiz cost us with stupid mistakes, which is what he does at times. Arsenal did not deserve anything but they could have threatened.

"Unai Emery didn't play Alexandre Lacazette and Dani Ceballos should have played further forward. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe had chances and I did not come away feeling overly disappointed. I do not feel like we got embarrassed.

Arsenal coach Freddie Ljungberg has a chat with Joe Willock on the training pitch. 2:01
Charlie Nicholas says it's great for Arsenal's future that there's a clear pathway for young players to progress to the first team

"Emery does not trust his players enough. He always tends to leave Lacazette out and go with pace. Joe Willock did okay, but didn't get on the ball much. You need to go into these games with the best attackers.

"I would always play Lacazette through the middle, Pepe on the right and Aubameyang on the left. Tottenham are nervous at the moment and mistakes always come from these matches. Ceballos needs to be closer to the front three too."

CHARLIE PREDICTS: 4-2 (50/1 with Sky Bet)

Paul Merson: "Arsenal win quite comfortably - 4-1. I think Arsenal will rip Spurs to shreds. Tottenham are struggling at the moment and if the Gunners get going I can see it being comfortable for them. The Man City draw covered over a lot of cracks for Spurs. City had 30 shots and if you give Arsenal 30 shots on Sunday, they'll score goals.

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Highlights from Liverpool's 3-1 win over Arsenal in the Premier League

"I'm not sure Jan Vertonghen will play. I think there's more to it than meets the eye. He's played Sanchez in every game and he'll got the nod again because of his pace anyway. He'll have to against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang because Vertonghen won't be able to live with that pace."

PAUL PREDICTS: 4-1

Jamie O'Hara: "I've got to go Tottenham. It's going to be tough and I'm not looking at it with Spurs going in as favourites, but I'm going to back them. If Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen play Spurs win 2-1."

JAMIE PREDICTS: 1-2

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How to watch on Sky Sports

As well as following our dedicated live blog here, Arsenal vs Tottenham is live on Super Sunday from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 4.30pm - with guests Jose Mourinho and Sol Campbell.

Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.

Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.

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