Premier League | White Hart Lane | Sun 16 Mar | 4pm
Another step closer to the annual north London fifth-and-fourth-place party. We've been promised cake.
It’s really going to happen again, isn’t it? Arsenal, for all their early promise, will probably end up fourth at this rate thanks to Chelsea’s point pinching, Manchester City’s games in hand and the Liverpool rejuvenation.
- Tottenham 1-3 Benfica (EL)
- Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-1 Dnipro (EL)
- Norwich 1-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC)
- Stoke 1-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 S'land (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-2 Bayern (CL)
Tottenham, meanwhile, couldn’t possibly finish above their north London rivals – it’s in the Premier League decree or something. For the fourth season running, the Lilywhites look set to miss out on Champions League football behind their arch rivals (even when they did finish fourth in 2011/12 it wasn't enough).
For now Tim Sherwood’s men (53 points) have the upper hand over Manchester United (51) and Everton (48), but with David Moyes’ men bragging a game in hand and the Toffees holding two, they still face a fight securing European football of any kind next season.
But looking that far ahead is difficult for Spurs fans right now. Their gun-slinging boss (“I shoot from the hip,” so he says) was bullish over his future in midweek, declaring his job is “a manager, not a babysitter” and insisting his place at the White Hart Lane helm is safe beyond the summer. "I've got an 18-month contract and I thoroughly expect to be here a lot longer than that," he insisted.
Trouble is, it seems he’s the only one who genuinely believes it. Last weekend’s capitulation at Chelsea wasn’t entirely his fault – individual errors and refereeing blunders can be apportioned the majority of blame – but the outbursts are surely not impressing silent chairman Daniel Levy. Whatever the case, his “gutless” players must pick up the pace if they’re to come out of their next three games – which include Southampton and Liverpool – with pride.
It’s not been the best of weeks at Arsenal, however. The Gunners were expected to get dumped out of the Champions League at Bayern Munich on Tuesday, but the manner of their 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena left much to be desired.
The tabloid headlines didn’t help; most centred on their favourite £42.5 million flop (if you needed reminding of his price tag) Mesut Özil, whose difficult night was lapped up and splashed across lazy-looking back pages. That the German was brought off at half-time with a hamstring tweak didn’t seem to matter too much.
So Wenger’s men could also do with a win. A rousing FA Cup victory over Everton last weekend has left them on the cusp of landing their first silverware since 2005, but before that they were pushed around in a 1-0 defeat at Stoke. The title feels long gone now, but there’s plenty else at stake yet.
Younes Kaboul's red card at Chelsea has been rescinded, but Michael Dawson (hamstring) will miss out. Christian Eriksen (back), Mousa Dembele (hamstring) and Danny Rose (knee) are in contention, but Vlad Chiriches, Erik Lamela (both back) and Etienne Capoue (ankle) won’t make this clash of the walking wounded.
Arsenal’s injury problems have worsened. Özil (hamstring) will be missing for “at least a few weeks”, joining Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Yaya Sanogo (all ankle), Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner (both knee) and poor Abou Diaby (everything) in a busy treatment room, while Aaron Ramsey has suffered a setback in his recovery from a thigh problem and won't make his eagerly awaited return.
Player to watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
It’s a big two-and-a-half months ahead for the former Southampton youngster. It’s difficult to see him not getting into Roy Hodgson’s final squad on June 2 now, but in which position? The evidence to play him in central midfield is stacking up, should Roy fancy a bold call in midfield. At very least he’s a solid option on the wing, and his versatility will stand him in good stead.
But perhaps the 20-year-old’s fearless performance at the Allianz gives Hodgson even more food for thought. Oxlade-Chamberlain was Arsenal’s sole positive on an otherwise lacklustre night in Munich, combining positive running with a terrific work-rate that earned him deserved plaudits. He completed all 10 attempted take-ons – 5 more than any other player – in a display which proved he isn’t fazed by the big occasions.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-0 Spurs (FAC, Jan 14)
- Arsenal 1-0 Spurs (Prem, Sep 13)
- Spurs 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Mar 13)
- Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (Prem, Nov 12)
- Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (Prem, Feb 12)
Wenger got stick from all angles after Tuesday’s defeat at the Allianz. Opposite number Pep Guardiola claimed the Gunners weren’t interested in pushing his champions despite their two-goal deficit (fair comment), while Bayern winger Arjen Robben also hit out at the Frenchman after being labelled a “very good diver” by the Arsenal boss (also fair stick, Wenger was clearly wrong – he’s a rubbish diver).
Rent-a-quote Sherwood, meanwhile, pulled out his best Al Pacino Any Given Sunday tribute in his midweek press briefing.
“Will it [the criticism] have a galvanising effect on the players? I hope so,” he declared (or roared - apparently that's what some managers do). “They know how I am and how I felt about what happened [at Chelsea]. We are moving on, you can't dwell on it. They are all men, they all appreciate that I am singing from the heart, not from the script - I'm not an actor, I work on impulse.” If you’re not pumped after reading that, well…
Facts and figures
- Spurs are unbeaten in this fixture in the last 5 seasons.
- 9 of the last 11 league meetings between these teams have had at least 3 goals.
- Arsenal have conceded in 6 of their last 7 away matches and Spurs have lost just 2 of 27 home matches since the start of last season when they’ve scored.
- Arsenal have won just 2 of 20 trips to top-six finishers in the previous 4 seasons and this term have lost all 3 visits to teams currently in the top six.
- 9 of Spurs’ last 11 home matches against top-six teams have seen both teams score.
Best Bet: Spurs @ 2.95
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
No Gareth Bale for Spurs this time – but they’ve still got enough to frustrate their unwelcome visitors. Emmanuel Adebayor liked scoring against Spurs as an Arsenal man, but he’s got two in his last three against the Gunners and will be up for this one again. 2-2.