Arsenal hosts Spurs in the season’s first north London Derby on Sunday, looking to maintain their strong league form. The Gunners are unbeaten since their opening weekend defeat to Liverpool, and are level on points with Jurgen Klopp’s side and Manchester City.
Arsenal passed a major test in September when they dispatched Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates and this Sunday is another of these ‘head-to-head’ games that can decide your fate. Their former manager George Graham has been full of praise for Arsene Wenger’s side, claiming they have added ‘toughness’ to their ranks in the form of German defender Shkodran Mustafi.
Graham led Arsenal two league titles in 1989 and 1991, and won their last European trophy with the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1994. He said:
“It’s not a secret, is it, that they’ve needed more toughness, more mentally strong players?
“I’m sure Arsene has been after a centre half for a few years, but there aren’t many great ones about,” he said. “Early days, but I like what I see of Mustafi — typical German defender, physically tough, mentally strong. Hopefully he is the one. He was excellent against Costa.
“Hopefully, with the buys Arsene has made, they’ve got that toughness now and they can have a real go — not just in the Premier League but in Europe because what I would love, more than anything, is to see Arsenal win the Champions League.”
Graham has been used as a stick to beat Wenger with by some sections of Arsenal’s support in recent years; his steely pragmatism contrasted with the Frenchman’s romantic idealism. In truth, Wenger is far more pragmatic than many people give him credit for, but they are certainly two managers cut from a very different cloth. There have been spell’s over the past decade when some fans felt Arsenal could have used the defensive organisation for which Graham was fames. However, the Gunners are winning games and look well balanced at the moment.
Elsewhere, Nacho Monreal has dropped a hint that he is fit to face Spurs having been left at home in mid week. The Spanish full back posted an image of him in training on Instagram, saying he was feeling good and looking forward to the Derby. With Kieran Gibbs struggling with a shoulder injury, this is welcome news for Wenger, but should Gibbs make it the manager will have a big decision to make. Gibbs was beaten very easily for Ludogorets’ second goal on Tuesday, but has performed well overall in the last few games. Wenger picked Gibbs against Spurs in March on a ‘horses for courses’ basis, to cover the speed of Kyle Walker. However, he might go with the more solid option Monreal to keep a back five together that has played most of Arsenal’s game.
Finally, according to the Daily Mirror’s gossip column, Arsenal are keeping tabs on PSV Eindhoven Matthias Berreth. The 18-year-old has been used predominantly as a right winger this season, but can play as an attacking midfielder or striker. The Dutch youngster has emerged in the senior ranks for club and country this term, making six appearance for six appearances.
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