The Arsenal player who holds the key to stopping Tottenham and Harry Kane


This week, Arsenal take on the old enemy Tottenham in a north London derby that has both local pride and valuable points on the line.

The visitors are seven points clear of Mikel Arteta’s men, therefore securing a victory feels key, especially if Arsenal want to make a late charge towards a spot in the European places this season.

Jose Mourinho’s men are also trying to close the gap on those sides above them, therefore they’ll equally see this as a must-win encounter.

This makes for an exciting North London derby on paper, but from an Arsenal perspective, Spurs’ biggest threat comes from their attack, with Harry Kane again in scintillating form for the visitors. He’s netted five goals across his past four appearances and also boasts 11 career strikes against the Gunners.

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It’s not just Kane who poses a threat to the Arsenal goal though, with the likes of Son Heung-min and Gareth Bale also illustrating how lethal they can be at various stages of the season so far.

In order to combat the threat posed by Spurs’ attack, Arsenal’s defence will need to perform at its absolute best. A key profile within that defensive line is David Luiz who has developed into an important senior member of Mikel Arteta’s squad, even despite somewhat of a rollercoaster 18 months with the club.

Luiz has been criticised for performances in the past, and he’s still capable of the occasional lapse in concentration, as we saw in Thursday night’s victory against Olympiacos when he gave away the ball inside his own penalty box, nearly leading to a goal for the hosts. Yet, on the whole, he has been a big character and key player for Arteta.

This season he has a Premier League defensive duel success rate of 69.8%, and an aerial duel success rate of 67.5%. Both of these ranks him within the top 20% of all centre-backs who have played over 1000 minutes.

David Luiz of Arsenal shoots during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 First Leg match between Olympiacos and Arsenal (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

His standout defensive capabilities, added with his wealth of experience means he’s an example to those around him, especially the younger defenders. This will be another reason why Arteta will be keen to keep him around given that the Spaniard’s squad is relatively young in comparison to many others in the division.

Whilst his defensive skill and capacity to guide those around him will be crucial to securing a positive result in Sunday’s big match, another way he’ll influence the side is when they’re in possession.

Tottenham under Mourhino tend to be fairly passive in their approach to matches, opting to sit deeper, press less and instead utilise their pace in counter-attacks to create scoring opportunities. As a result, they can often prove difficult to break down, particularly with a possession focused system like Arteta’s.

Luiz however has always been accomplished with the ball at his feet, able to drive through the lines or hit long accurate balls straight into the feet of attackers inside the final third.

He again ranks in the league’s top 20% from that same sample of central defenders in terms of long passes attempted per 90. Therefore, should Spurs opt to allow him time on the ball, then he has it within his locker to hurt them.

As a result of this, there’s a chance that the 33-year-old can play a decisive role not only from a defensive standpoint on Sunday, but maybe even from an offensive one too?





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