The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Tottenham
A cracking North London derby, with free-spending (albeit Bale-less) Spurs visiting miserly old Wengerville as the pair go head-to-head for fourth place. Again.
Arsenal silenced their critics yet again, rolling to comfortable victories over Fulham and Fenerbahce. There’s no doubt that reports of their demise were always greatly exaggerated, but there’s nothing like two wins in four days – sparked by an improving Aaron Ramsey – to stop the mutterings, even if their squad does look rather familiar.
Tottenham are much changed from last year. However, they're still more chrysalis than butterfly at the moment. The arrivals of Paulinho and Etienne Capoue have yielded enviable solidity in midfield, but at the expense of threats going forward. Paulinho showed a willingness to get forward against Swansea while Mousa Dembele and Capoue each pinged off a couple of shots, but all three offer more in terms of physicality than firepower.
Further forward, Nacer Chadli has yet to strongly imply he can carry over his impressive goal tally for Twente, while Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon’s strengths lie in other areas. Roberto Soldado can’t be expected to score all of Tottenham’s goals, and certainly not from the spot.
The imminently incoming Erik Lamela could change that – he averaged a goal every other game for Roma last term – and Spurs would be delighted with a third consecutive 1-0 win here. But another clean sheet looks like an uphill task: Olivier Giroud, like Ramsey, has grown in confidence, while Theo Walcott is likely to cause Danny Rose problems and Santi Cazorla is one of the Premier League’s most talented creators.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Mar 13)
- Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (Prem, Nov 12)
- Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (Prem, Feb 12)
- Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (Prem, Oct 11)
- Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal (Prem, Apr 11)
Gunners fans who vocally demanded Arsene Wenger “spend some f***ing money” will have had their wrath cooled by Champions League progression, but their ire could rise again upon seeing Arsenal’s substitutes bench for this derby. The Gunners had five under-21s in waiting against Fulham, including 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem, and they’ve picked up another injury since.
The hamstrung Lukas Podolski climbs aboard a crowded treatment table already occupied by Mikel Arteta (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Thomas Vermaelen (back) and Abou Diaby (general Diaby-ness). There are concerns over a groin strain and an ankle knack to Ramsey and Jack Wilshere respectively, but Wenger expects both to feature.
Tottenham have no such worries: Lennon is the only doubt, with a foot injury.
Key battle: Santi Cazorla v Etienne Capoue
Cazorla is Arsenal’s creative hub, so often central to attacks, but he faces a wall on Sunday. Capoue made six out of an attempted seven tackles against Swansea and recorded a match-high six interceptions against Crystal Palace despite playing little over half an hour.
With the Tottenham man athletic enough to track the quick-footed Cazorla’s runs (and despite creating six chances, the Spaniard completed only two of five attempted take-ons against Fulham), Arsenal’s playmaker may need to pass around him instead. It’s vital to Spurs that Capoue intercepts those through-balls: neutralising Cazorla would be the first battle won.
Two world-wearier managers you are unlikely to find. Andre Villas-Boas has been bombarded with Bale questions, while Wenger is so tired of transfer talk that he sighed, “I don’t know what to say any more.”
Maybe, despite their clubs’ market situations being worlds apart – Spurs have spent £90m so far this summer, Arsenal nothing to date – Wenger and Villas-Boas can sympathise with each other that things would be much easier if the window was closed already.
Facts and figures
Arsenal have failed to score in just one of their last 29 Premier League meetings with Tottenham.
Spurs have not kept four clean sheets in a row in the Premier League since January 2010.
There has been a Tottenham player sent off on each of their last two Premier League visits to the Emirates.
Tottenham have failed to hold on to a lead on each of their last two trips across north London, losing 5-2 on both occasions.
13 of the last 14 league matches between Tottenham and Arsenal have gone over 2.5 goals.
There have been 124 goals scored in Premier League meetings between Tottenham and Arsenal; more than any other fixture.
Olivier Giroud has scored in both of Arsenal's league games so far this season and has bagged three goals in his last four Premier League appearances at the Emirates.
All 13 of Giroud's Premier League goals have come in London, 11 at the Emirates, one at West Ham and one at Fulham.
The Welshman scored in both meetings between the teams last season.
Jermain Defoe has scored twice in 18 Premier League appearances against Arsenal. Only against Liverpool (two in 19) does Defoe have a worse record (10+ appearances).
Lukas Podolski has played a hand in eight goals (scoring five and assisting three) in his last seven Premier League starts for Arsenal.
Only Eden Hazard (10) has created more chances in the Premier League this season than Nacer Chadli (9).
This fixture usually sees goals aplenty, but as both teams settle into the season, a low-scoring draw looks more probable. 1-1.