EPL

Arsenal need Jesus to find Kane's derby form against Tottenham

By Sports Desk September 30, 2022

Saturday's North London derby carries greater significance than usual, with unprecedented bragging rights available for Tottenham against Arsenal.

The Gunners' standing at the top of the Premier League marks the first occasion since December 2007 that the two sides have faced off against each other with one of them top of the league.

And a Spurs victory would mark the first time in top-flight history that a win in the derby results in one side replacing the other at the summit.

Both teams are in stellar form so far in the 2022-23 campaign, with Arsenal's only blip coming in a defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, while Spurs stand alongside Manchester City as the only teams yet to taste defeat this term.

Mikel Arteta and Antonio Conte have more than steadied their respective ships since taking charge, but all managers have a stern challenge this campaign due to the World Cup, with the end of the international break beginning a seven-week countdown until the first fixture in Qatar.

Building momentum before the season pauses will therefore be vital, and both sides will look to their leading forwards to drive them, though the players differ as one has an established record while the other is at the start of their derby journey.

Kane's killer edge

Tottenham striker Harry Kane is well renowned for his goalscoring prowess and few have experienced it first hand as much as Arsenal, with the England skipper scoring 13 times in the Premier League against the Gunners – more than any other player in the competition's history.

That tally includes a brace against Arteta's side in a 3-0 victory in May, a result which altered the course of the top-four battle and ultimately resulted in Spurs' place in the Champions League and Arsenal's continued absence from the top-tier of European football.

Defending against Spurs, and Kane, has been a clear problem in recent years, with six of the forward's 13 goals in North London derbies coming from the penalty spot, and he will fancy his chances against an Arsenal side who continue to have issues at the back.

While the season has yielded six wins in seven matches for Arsenal, clean sheets have been an issue with the Gunners yet to secure one at the Emirates Stadium in 2022-23 amid an eight-game sequence at home failing to keep the opposition at bay.

If Arsenal do manage to keep Kane quiet, Son Heung-min provides another huge threat.

Son will be encouraged after ending his early season drought with a stunning hat-trick as a substitute against Leicester City prior to the international break.

He has been involved in six goals in his last five against the Gunners (four goals, two assists), though only one of those has been on Arsenal soil.

Jesus takes the wheel

With Spurs possessing two players with an established record of causing Arsenal problems, Arteta will hope to rely on Gabriel Jesus to begin his own streak in his first north London derby appearance.

The Brazil forward has swiftly become an integral part of Arteta's squad, contributing four goals and three assists in his first seven Premier League appearances, though the Gunners are waiting on him to prove himself as a big-game player in his early days at the club.

While at City, Jesus failed to score in nine derby appearances against Manchester United and found the net just once against Tottenham – but he was never the leading man for Pep Guardiola, in contrast to his role at Arsenal.

Jesus' predecessors at Arsenal had decent form against Spurs, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having four goals in seven derby appearances and Alexandre Lacazette scoring four in nine, highlighting a void that the Gunners need filling.

Arsenal may have shared scoring responsibility this season, Jesus with four while Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard have three, but it is their big-money recruit who needs to deliver on Saturday to deny Spurs and Kane a memorable result.

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  • Cameroon v Brazil: Much-changed Selecao pursuing group-stage perfection Cameroon v Brazil: Much-changed Selecao pursuing group-stage perfection

    Tite will rotate his Brazil squad for their final Group G match, but opponents Cameroon still face an uphill battle to make the last 16 of the World Cup.

    Brazil are already through to the knockout stage and will top the pool unless they lose and Switzerland win with a significant goal swing.

    Opponents Cameroon have plenty still to play for, on the other hand, as they must win to have any hope of reaching the second round for the first time since 1990.

    They have never won their final group game at a finals, however, while Brazil are unbeaten at this stage in a record 17 matches.

    And the Selecao have their own goals in mind, looking to take nine points from a possible nine for the first time since 2006.

    "Being first is always the goal, regardless of who the opponent is in the next match," said Fabinho, one of the men set to come into the XI.

    "Our focus is always to win the games, try to earn nine points and give our best. 

    "Whoever will play will have the opportunity to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team in a World Cup, so the thought of a winning team has to always be this, to enter, give the best, win and be the first."

    Tite's first-choice stars have set a high standard, winning both games without conceding or even facing a single shot on target. They are the first team not to face a shot on target in their first two games at a World Cup since France in 1998.

    "Personally, I don't think [maintaining the standard] brings pressure to us," added Fabinho. "I think playing in a World Cup is every player's dream. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

    "We have to face this with great joy, knowing the responsibility, come in and give our best. We know the way the team plays, the team is solid defensively.

    "Sure, you have the worries of keeping that, the ideas, but I don't think it adds pressure. We don't feel that."

    Cameroon have lost only two World Cup matches to South American teams, but both have been in their two meetings with Brazil, who have won all seven of their finals clashes with African opposition, scoring 20 goals and conceding just two.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Cameroon – Vincent Aboubakar

    Aboubakar has twice appeared from the bench, yet he could hardly have done more to earn a starting berth. Against Serbia, he became the first substitute to both score and assist a goal in a World Cup match for an African nation, bringing Cameroon back from 3-1 down to 3-3 within 11 minutes of his introduction.

    Brazil – Vinicius Junior

    The Selecao may not need to risk playing Vinicius, with Neymar already injured, but it must be tough not to pick a man in this form. Only Kylian Mbappe (23) was involved in more open play sequences that ended with a shot than the winger (15) through two matchdays. Only Mbappe and Ismaila Sarr (four) created more chances following a carry (three).

    PREDICTION

    Even with the potential for changes in the Brazil XI, the supercomputer has no doubts about this one. Tite's men are massive 72.7 per cent favourites.

    Cameroon must win but are given only a 10.6 per cent chance, with a draw that would confirm Brazil as group winners rated at 16.7 per cent.

  • Serbia v Switzerland: Milinkovic-Savic happy with must-win situation Serbia v Switzerland: Milinkovic-Savic happy with must-win situation

    Serbia midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic would have accepted knowing a win in their final Group G game against Switzerland would likely be enough to secure progression to the World Cup knockout stages.

    Dragan Stojkovic's side have taken just one point from their two games so far, coming in a 3-3 draw against Cameroon last time out, but are still in with a chance of going through, although they need Cameroon to lose to Brazil.

    Assuming that happens, a Serbia win would be enough with Switzerland requiring just a draw.

    They find themselves in a perilous position but Milinkovic-Savic insists it is not a surprise. Asked if he would have taken this situation beforehand, he said: "Of course. When we saw the draw and the schedule, we knew that everything would depend on the last game.

    "We need to take this opportunity with both hands."

    Serbia's draw with Cameroon was arguably an opportunity lost given they were leading 3-1 in the second half.

    Captain Dusan Tadic said: "It's certainly hard because we led 3-1 and you're not happy when you end up with a draw.

    "We created a lot of chances, but of course the goals we conceded should not happen. It starts with the midfield and the defence. We know now we need a win in the last round."

    Avoiding defeat is likely to be enough for the Swiss, but boss Murat Yakin will send his players out with clear instructions to try to win the game.

    He said: "We’ll have to find the right balance. I think we can be the dominant team, we’ve proven that in the past. It will be exciting, we'll need a good start. 

    "As a head coach, you can’t send out a team and tell them a draw is enough.

    "Of course we want to try to win this game, we know we have the skills and quality to do so. Hopefully we’ll be well prepared, and then I’m convinced we’ll be the dominant team, we will take more risks.

    "It will be an exciting game, we want to focus on football, everything else I don’t really care about."


    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Serbia - Aleksandar Mitrovic

    The Fulham striker produced a mixed performance in the draw with Cameroon. While he was a nuisance all afternoon and scored a goal, he failed to capitalise on many of the chances that came his way. Twice in the first half he should have done better while he also missed another clear opportunity in the closing stages.

    He will need to improve markedly if Serbia are to get the win they require.

    Switzerland - Yann Sommer

    A clean sheet would likely guarantee Switzerland's progression, and Yakin will be reassured by the fact he can count on one of the tournament's in-form goalkeepers.

    Only two men have made more saves than Sommer's nine, the Netherlands' Andries Noppert (albeit from three matches rather than Sommer's two) and his opposite number on Friday, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (12).


    PREDICTION

    Stats Perform's AI model believes all three outcomes are a distinct possibility with little to separate them.

    Serbia are ranked a 39 per cent chance to claim the three points they require, with Switzerland a 34.6 per cent chance. A draw comes in at 26.4 per cent. As is often the case, it will come down to fine margins - a mistake or a moment of genius.

  • Bullish Regragui predicting great things for Morocco Bullish Regragui predicting great things for Morocco

    Morocco coach Walid Regragui believes his team are capable of "great things" after becoming the first African team in 24 years to top a World Cup group.

    The Atlas Lions finished first in Group F after beating Canada 2-1 at Al Thumama Stadium while the other pool game, between Croatia and Belgium, ended goalless.

    First-half goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri proved enough with Nayef Aguerd's own goal - the first of the tournament - nothing more than a consolation for a Canada side who return home without a point.

    Regragui said: "We set ourselves an objective of giving everything we’ve got and trying to get past the group stage. We’ve done that, so why not aim for the sky?

    "We’re not going to stop here, we are a very difficult team to beat, so why not dream of lifting the trophy?

    "Let's not get carried away but, if we are fighting fit, we know we are capable of great things."

    After a dominant first-half performance, Morocco went into their shells in the second but determination and a little luck – Canada substitute Atiba Hutchinson planting a header off the underside of the bar – saw them through.

    Regragui added: "It wasn’t easy and when you have this kind of opportunity to make history you think about it.

    "I thought the first half display was the best we have had in a long time. It was a shame that we allowed that own goal as it shook us. In the second half, there was pressure on us but I loved it."

    Regragui was only appointed at the end of August and Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi had nothing but praise for the 47-year-old.

    He said: "The coach has done an amazing job. He hasn’t had much time but he’s formed an amazing group. We trust in him."

    For Canada, Thursday represented the end of a remarkable journey that saw them top the final round of CONCACAF qualifying ahead of Mexico and the United States to reach their first World Cup in 36 years.

    English coach John Herdman said: "It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve got here and we’d like to have been here longer.

    "We’ve enjoyed the ride, our players have turned up to compete, we’ve been fearless and we’ve had something to celebrate in every game. We’re a young team and we’re developing.

    "As a football country we can be proud of the performance and the external world will be talking positively about Canada. We were front-footed and fearless.

    "We raised the bar by finishing top of the CONCACAF group and we were two inches away tonight from getting our first point. We had the penalty against Belgium and battled all the way through against Croatia.

    "The stats will tell you we weren’t far away. We’ll ask the hard questions as we head towards 2026 but this is not Canada walking away with our heads down, we can keep our heads up."

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