Sanchez and Ozil must find form quickly with Tottenham looming
The North London derby always means a lot to Arsenal and Tottenham. In years past, when Arsenal were dominant, it was a way for the neighbours to try and put a spoke in their rivals' wheel, and it's a fixture which has generally seen an equalisation of talent for the duration of the 90 minutes.
When the Gunners had Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires, they were miles ahead of Spurs on paper. Yet there was rarely ever anything more than a single goal between the sides, the games often settled by the tightest of margins in Arsenal's favour.
In recent times the dynamic has shifted, and Tottenham look the better side right now. Aided by the non-stop scoring of Harry Kane -- a player who has scored in every league match he's played against Arsenal -- and the fact Mauricio Pochettino has fashioned a well-organised, hard to break down team, it's now over three years since an Arsene Wenger side has tasted league victory in the derby.
It makes this weekend's encounter all the more pivotal, and it's a game that could have a real impact on the rest of Arsenal's season. If they win, they cut the gap to Tottenham to just a single point, and take from it the confidence and belief that could help reignite what has been a stuttering campaign thus far.
Should they lose, Spurs would have taken three massive points at the Emirates, an already restless fan base would find itself further agitated and the gap would be a substantial and unhealthy seven.
The Gunners' form has been patchy, especially away from home, and it's hard not to draw some parallels between that and the fact their two star players, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, have yet to make the kind of contribution you'd expect from players of that talent.
There have been some mitigating circumstances, with the Chilean arriving back late from international duty during the summer, and the German hampered by injury, but here we are heading for mid-November and between them they have just two goals and four assists. By comparison, at this stage of last season they had nine goals and six assists, and Sanchez's shortfall this time around has really been significant.
There have been questions raised over their commitment, with neither looking likely to sign new terms with the club, and every time a player finds himself in a poor patch of form in circumstances like this, fingers get pointed. It's not something Arsene Wenger is hugely concerned about, choosing to believe that professional players will always do their job.
"When you sign a contract somewhere, you commit to give your best until the end of the last day of that contract," he said during the summer. "I would say: 'Why should they not give their best?'"
However, when contracts remain unsigned and the prospect of two players of that quality leaving on a free looms large on the horizon, it's understandable fans can take a dubious outlook. The only answer either of them can give is on the pitch, and as yet they haven't been convincing.
Wenger needs both of them to step up, and soon, because his team are more likely to win games if they're playing anywhere close to their potential. They score, they create, and when they're on song -- as they were in that 5-2 win against Everton a couple of weeks ago -- they make Arsenal a much more dangerous team.
Not to mention that disquiet over their futures will be dispelled if they start chipping in with goals and assists. People will still have concerns about what they might do next summer, or even what the club might decide to do in January, but if there's end product then it go a long way to silencing some of the dissenting voices.
Arsenal are heading into a hectic and difficult period of the season. With Spurs at the weekend and Manchester United in early December, they could find themselves back on track in a big way if they can get good results in those games, but to do it they need Ozil and Sanchez to start firing.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.