CHRIS SUTTON: Three key battles ahead of the North London Derby

CHRIS SUTTON: Three key battles ahead of the north London derby – with Arsenal’s Ben White and Gabriel aiming to shut down Tottenham’s deadly attacking duo of Kane and Son

  • Tottenham host Arsenal in a potentially fiery North London derby on Thursday 
  • The massive match has fourth spot and a Champions League place on the line 
  • The battle between Gunners defenders and Spurs’ attackers could be crucial 

Tottenham and Arsenal face off on Thursday in what is likely to be a season-defining clash for both sides.

Three points, local bragging rights, and – most crucially – a massive boost in the race for fourth spot and the accompanying Champions League spot await the winners of the North London derby.

Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton runs through the teams and gives you a lowdown of the three key battles likely to decide the match, from Arsenal’s defenders taking on Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, to analysing if anyone can stop Bukayo Saka…

Arsenal and Tottenham are set to meet in a crucial North London Derby on Thursday evening

Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton runs through his key battles from the North London derby


Nobody in the Premier League makes those runs in behind back lines better than Son. He represents a hell of a challenge for any defender and especially for White on his likely return from injury for this north London derby. 

Son will always be looking to come in from the left-hand side and peel into the space in behind, ready for that ball from you-know-who. 

Tottenham’s Harry Kane (top) and Heung-min Son will be aiming to continue their fine form

That is where White, Arsenal’s right-sided centre back who is expected to start, needs to be super switched on. 

Lose sight of the two-footed Son for even one second and you are watching him score.  


While White will be worried about Son trying to get behind, Gabriel will be concerned about the man in front — and that is Kane. 

Ben White (right) and Gabriel (left) will have a tough time marking Spurs stars Son and Kane

I’m not revealing any state secrets by telling you that the England striker is good at dropping deep to act as Tottenham’s source of creativity. 

But this poses a big problem for centre backs. When Kane drops, how far do you go with him? You cannot man-mark him all the way to the halfway line, like Leeds tried to do. It leaves too many gaps and gets chaotic. 

There needs to be first-class communication between Gabriel and Granit Xhaka tonight so one of them always knows when Kane is his responsibility.  


Has anyone checked Saka’s boots for super glue? The way the ball sticks to him, it is a splendid display of control, and Davies has his work cut out for him. 

Ben Davies (second left) was superb against Liverpool and will need to be on top form again

As the man on the left of Tottenham’s back three, Saka is his problem. If there is one forward that Antonio Conte fears most, it is this 20-year-old, who scored in the reverse fixture in September. 

Who tops Arsenal’s list for goals? Saka. For shots? Saka. For dribbles attempted and completed? Saka. He is only one behind Alexandre Lacazette for assists, too. 

As in all games, the result will largely come down to the head-to-head duels and Saka is someone who can make defenders look foolish.  

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