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North London derby will test whether Arsenal or Spurs can truly challenge for title

The top of the Premier League table has an unfamiliar look to it. Not only are Arsenal sitting ahead of the other 19 teams, Tottenham Hotspur are just one point behind their North London rivals. Fans of both teams are talking tentatively of a title challenge and Saturday’s derby will provide more evidence to support or debunk the idea that either side can go all the way this season.

 

Arsenal have won six of the seven league matches they have played so far this season with their only defeat coming against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Not only this, Mikel Arteta’s team are playing with verve. They have deserved their victories and look stronger than at any other stage under Arteta.

 

Similar could be said about Tottenham who have remoulded themselves in the image of Antonio Conte. The Italian coach hasn’t even been in his job as Spurs manager for a full year, but the team on the pitch is now a reflection of his character. This has turned Tottenham into a winning side, as demonstrated by their start to the season.

 

Spurs enter this weekend’s North London derby on the back of an eye-catching 6-2 win over Leicester City. Until this match, Conte’s team had played within themselves, but with Son Heung-min back at his best Tottenham were unleashed as an attacking outfit. That side stands a good chance of a landmark victory at the Emirates Stadium.

 

Arteta’s side were also impressive in their final match before the international break, scoring three times in a comfortable away win over Brentford. Gabriel Jesus has made an instant impact for the Gunners with the Brazilian forward giving Arsenal a new apex in the attacking third. Others, like Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard, are thriving around Jesus.

 

Last season, Arsenal lacked the squad depth to make their place in the top four stick. This proved to be the difference between the Gunners achieving their objective of qualifying for the Champions League and not. This season, though, they appear to be in a better position thanks to some of the transfer deals completed over the summer.

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Oleksandr Zinchenko has started strongly since joining from Manchester City, but Kieran Tierney has filled in well for the Ukrainian in his absence. Fabio Vieira, signed from Porto in the summer, and scored his first Arsenal goal in the 3-0 victory over Brentford. Matt Turner also arrived as a solid back-up goalkeeper.

 

“You can ask me every day – today we are top of the league,” Arteta replied when asked if Arsenal are in a title race. “I am so happy, yesterday I was annoyed because we lost it and we used that today as we want to get back there and show that we want to be there and that’s what we’re going to do. Push to be the best that we can be and that’s the aim and then the table won’t lie after 38 games.”

 

Tottenham also added depth to their squad over the summer transfer window with Richarlison signed from Everton and Yves Bissouma captured from Brighton. Conte has moulded a team that plays with a back three and wing backs, just like the Cheese and Inter sides that won league titles under the 53-year-old’s stewardship.

 

A victory for either side in Saturday’s North London derby at the Emirates Stadium could provide the spark needed to light a title challenge for Arsenal or Tottenham. Both teams are on an upwards trajectory under their current managers. The question concerns just how high that curve will take them this season.

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