Arsenal

Mikel Arteta faces triple Arsenal selection dilemma ahead of North London Derby vs Tottenham

Arsenal return to Premier League action on Thursday night with a huge North London Derby against Tottenham – a fixture that will have top-four implications for both sides

The countdown is on to the biggest North London Derby in recent memory. Arsenal head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday night knowing the reward of a win over Spurs will be Champions League qualification.

Four straight victories – having lost the previous three in a row – have put the Gunners on the brink of returning to Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in five years. And the scenario is extremely straightforward as a repeat of the scoreline from the reverse meeting earlier in the season will be enough.

However, Arsenal don’t have a good recent record away at Spurs. In fact, they last tasted victory in this fixture in the Premier League towards the end of the 2013/14 season where Mikel Arteta was captaining a side with hopes of winning the title.

It’s very much a different situation now, but it’s still a massive game nonetheless and as with any fixture, Arteta will have a few dilemmas to contend with before it’s time to name the Arsenal team he hopes will complete a league double over Spurs for the first time in seven seasons.

For a game of huge importance, in an ideal world, the Spaniard would have every first-team player available for selection. Of course, that will not be the case as Kieran Tierney’s season is already over after undergoing knee surgery and Thomas Partey is unlikely to take part in the run-in despite stepping up his rehabilitation.

But Arteta is optimistic about welcoming back Benjamin White into the fold after the England international missed wins over West Ham United and Leeds United with a minor hamstring issue.

“I think so,” Arteta revealed on Sunday when asked if last summer’s £50m summer signing would be available for the North London Derby. “He’s been starting to do a little bit of work now on the pitch and we want everybody available because we know that game is so important.”

If White is passed fit, a decision will have to be made whether to recall him to the starting XI at the expense of Rob Holding or switch to a three-man central defensive system in order to match how Spurs are expected to line up under Antonio Conte.

The other selection dilemma is likely to be who gets the nod at left-wing. Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe have been competing with each other for that spot since the former forced his way into Arteta’s plans over the festive period and the general plan of action is the player in form has the spot to lose.

Martinelli was excellent against Leeds without putting away at least one of his two chances in the second half, but on the other hand, Smith Rowe is one of Arsenal’s leading scorers this season and netted against Spurs in the reverse fixture so it’s definitely going to be a difficult call for Arteta to make.

In terms of suspension risks, Granit Xhaka must be careful as he will receive an additional two-match suspension if he is sent off for a third time this season, whilst Gabriel Magalhaes and Martinelli will receive an additional one match to their punishment if sent off for a second time.

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