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Arsenal vs Tottenham predictions: Expert view on Mourinho vs Arteta plus key questions for north London derby

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Spurs go into the game having ended their winter slump under Jose Mourinho with three wins last week.

Arsenal’s main focus is now on the Europa League but defeat would leave the Gunners 10 points behind their rivals and make it all the more likely that Mikel Arteta will become the Arsenal boss in 25 years to fail to qualify for Europe.

So how will both managers approach the game tactically? What sort of game can we expect? How damaging could a defeat be for Arsenal? And how will the Gunners set-up to stop Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Gareth Bale?

Our Arsenal and Tottenham correspondents, Simon Collings and Dan Kilpatrick, dissect some of the big talking points ahead of the game.

What’s the mood at your club going into the game?

SC: I think the mood at Arsenal generally this season, certainly among supporters, is one of disappointment and frustration.

Big things were expected from this campaign after winning the FA Cup last August and signing Thomas Partey in October – but so far it hasn’t delivered.

There will be some apprehension too ahead of Sunday’s game. The prospect of Tottenham beating Arsenal twice in a season is one no fan wants to think about.

DK: For supporters, there is always an element of trepidation ahead of the north London derby and, as a rule of thumb, the more confident fans should be, the less they generally are.

At the club itself, confidence has returned after the team ended their winter slump with three wins last week and the mood is one of cautious optimism going into Sunday’s game.

Gareth Bale’s return to form has given everyone a lift and there is a sense that Arsenal are there for the taking, even if Jose Mourinho will rigorously emphasise their strengths pre-match.

What will be the key areas tactically?

SC: If Arsenal are to beat Tottenham then they simply have to find a way to stop Harry Kane.

Kane is nearing top form

/ Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Everyone knows about the striker’s brilliant record in north London derbies and he seems to have a knack of turning up for them.

David Luiz has, perhaps surprisingly, been Arsenal’s best centre-back since the turn of the year but he will have his work cut out with Kane.

Similarly, Mikel Arteta’s side need to dominate the midfield better than the defeat earlier this season. Having a fully-fit Partey should help.

Partey is back

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images

DK: The big question for Mourinho is whether Spurs take the game to their rivals or let Arsenal have the ball and lie in wait for a mistake.

Spurs enjoyed just 30 percent of possession in the 2-0 win in December and there are few sides as prone as Arsenal to shooting themselves in both feet.

But Spurs’ return to form last week came via aggressive, front-foot displays against Burnley and Crystal Palace, and with Gareth Bale, Heung-min Son and Harry Kane up top, there is a feeling that they should play to their strengths in every game.

Who would defeat be more damaging for?

SC: From a morale point of view, I would have to say Arsenal.

They’ve had precious little to cling on to this season and a second defeat to Spurs would be a hammer blow when it comes to their confidence.

Arsenal have been error-strewn

/ Getty Images

A loss for Tottenham, however, would be more damaging to their Premier League prospects than Arsenal’s. The Gunners are already out of the top-four race, whereas Spurs are still in it, and they cannot afford to drop points if they want to keep up their late charge.

DK: Arsenal. Both clubs are showing patience with their managers, so the fixture is unlikely to provide a coup de grace.

But defeat for the Gunners would leave them 10 points behind their rivals and make a season outside of European competition all the more likely. It would be a grim milestone for Mikel Arteta if he was to be the first Arsenal boss in 25 years to fail to qualify for Europe.

That said, the League has long felt secondary for Arsenal, with focus now on Europe, so a defeat for Spurs would be more damaging in terms of their ambitions to finish high up the table.

Which player could be key for either side?

SC: Bukayo Saka. The 19-year-old has been Arsenal’s most consistent and best player this season, with perhaps only the likes of Bernd Leno or Kieran Tierney rivalling him.

Saka has starred for Arsenal

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Such is Saka’s importance that the whole attack seems to flow through him. If Arsenal create an opening, it is usually supplied by the teenager – who looks to have found his home out on the right flank recently.

DK: Bale has finally hit his stride with six goals and three assists in the previous six matches, and his next challenge is produce a standout performance in a really meaningful game.

Bale has stepped up recently

/ AP

The Welshman has begun to enjoy the same intrinsic understanding with Kane that Son enjoys with the England captain and it is hard to imagine Arsenal keeping a clean sheet if all three are on song.

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