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PREMIER LEAGUE

Alex Iwobi and a surprise player could halt Mikel Arteta's UCL dream

A first-half red card for Rob Holding compounded what already looked like a difficult night for Arsenal. After going down to 10 men, the Gunners conceded two more goals and lost the chance of doing the double over their North London rivals this season.

Arsenal have it all to do in their remaining matches if they are to secure Champions League football next season

Speaking before the match, Mikel Arteta stated that if his side won the derby clash, they would almost certainly qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League, but with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Ming decided to rain on their parade, Arsenal now has it all to do.

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In the last couple of weeks, a few breathtaking performances by Arsenal had put them in the driving seat for a fourth-place finish. Despite a horrible patch of form where they dropped points against mighty sides such as Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton, Arsenal recorded shock wins over Manchester United and Chelsea.

With another win over West Ham, hope was restored that the Gunners could yet qualify for their first Champions League since the 2016/2017 season.

However, heading into Thursday's derby, Tottenham were in good form, taking a draw against Liverpool and a resounding win over Leicester. With this win, they now sit one point behind their rivals and have only Norwich and Burnley left to play.

A man who is as Arsenal as they come, Alex Iwobi joined the London club at the tender age of eight (8) and remained on their books until he was 23. The Super Eagles playmaker swapped North London red for Merseyside blue, joining Everton in 2019.

Despite early struggles at his new club Iwobi is currently playing his best football in ages. Playing in many ad-hoc roles such as central midfield and even at right wing-back, Iwobi's versatility, work rate and flair have been key for Frank Lampard as he looks to guide Everton to safety in their remaining two matches.

In his last five appearances, Iwobi has completed an impressive 12 tackles while still maintaining a passing average above 80%. The midfielder's work rate and tenacity have greatly improved under the former Chelsea manager and if Arsenal is to get anything in their match they need to be wary about their former youth prospect.

With all the proposed riches and impressive signings such as Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran trippier, Eddie Howe's greatest coup this season has been without a doubt, his application of Brazilian forward Joelinton.

Signed in a rare big-money move pre-Saudi money, Joelinton remains Newcastle's record transfer, joining from Hoffenheim for around £40m. Just as the earlier mentioned Iwobi, the Brazilian never really looked at home at Newcastle until his current manager took charge.

Signed as a striker, Joelinton has contributed just 10 goals and five (5) assists in his three seasons at Newcastle, which understandably led to many fans criticising the decision to sign him in the first place.

However, just like Iwobi, the 25-year-old has found better fortunes playing in a different position. Eddie Howe has used his physicality and tenacity to good use, playing Joelinton in the middle of the park as a box-to-box midfielder. Winning the ball back more than twice a match while still arriving late in the box, he has been a real asset for Howe's men.

While Thursday's loss might be a slight hiccup, Mikel Arteta would do well to remember that he has a thin squad to work with. The side looks to face an identity crisis whenever players like Kieran Tierney or Thomas Partey are missing and lack real depth in the middle of the park.

Facing teams fighting for their safety will always be a tricky fixture and Arteta will do well to rally his troops to overcome these potential potholes and bring glory back to the Emirates Stadium.

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