The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Tottenham
A north London derby between the players on the pitch. A competition in self-loathing between the fans off of it. Will they ever decide if they hate their own club more than they hate their neighbours?
- Arsenal 1-2 So’ton (LC)
- Villa 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Dortmund 2-0 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 2-2 Man City (Prem)
- Leicester 1-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Spurs 3-1 N Forest (LC)
- Spurs 0-1 WBA (Prem)
- Partizan 0-0 Spurs (EL)
- S’land 2-2 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
Arsene Wenger threw his money around like confetti during the summer, recruiting the likes of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. Surely, with these new stars in their ranks, Arsenal would finally make that final step up to genuine title contenders?
Down the road at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino and his refreshing style of play arrived in N17. Was he going to be the manager to finally make the difference? Five games into the Premier League season and no one really knows if either move has worked. Of course it’s too early to cast a verdict and the early-season form offers little insight.
Arsenal’s new signings haven’t quite clicked yet and under-achieving Spurs are still stuck in first gear.
Coming from behind at home to beat Nottingham Forest in the League Cup won’t be a season-defining result for Spurs, but it could be the fillip for an impassioned performance at the Emirates.
The Gunners' League Cup campaign was ended prematurely by Southampton, owing much to Wenger’s decision to field an inexperienced side.
The first-team stars who inspired the Gunners to a 3-0 win at Villa Park last Saturday won’t have experienced a direct knock to their confidence, but a defeat – no matter what form it comes in – can have a debilitating effect.
Tottenham’s regular starters put in a miserable performance at home to West Brom last Sunday. Neither side goes into this game full of confidence, but form has little bearing when two feuding neighbours slug it out.
Arsenal will be without Mathieu Debuchy, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry. Nacho Monreal’s back injury looks set to keep him out again while Yaya Sanogo won’t return until the end of next month (don’t cheer). Mathieu Flamini could be back in the squad after recovering from a dead leg.
Other than Kyle Walker, recovering from adominal surgery, Pochettino has a fully fit squad to pick from.
Key battle: Mikel Arteta vs Christian Eriksen
There’s no secret document on how to beat Arsenal doing the rounds in the Premier League. It’s out there for all to see. Press, get the ball in behind their defence and punish them on the counter-attack. Of course this is easier said than done, especially when Arsenal spend most of the game in possession, but if you target their weaknesses they have a tendency to crumble.
At 32, playing in a position that doesn’t suit his skillset, Arteta can be a liability in front of the back four. Borussia Dortmund steamrolled the Spaniard during their 2-0 win in the Champions League. Blown away by a blur of yellow and black shirts, Arteta provided little protection – making just 2 tackles and 2 interceptions. He couldn’t cope as the lone sentry in a 4-1-4-1.
Wenger switched back to a 4-2-3-1 for the game against Villa, but Arteta’s partner will be one from Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere – attack-minded midfielders. The lack of defensive discipline guarding the Gunners’ defence is a weakness Eriksen has the ability to exploit.
During Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Sunderland, the Dane was at the heart of everything. He scored one and was the game’s top passer, finding a team-mate 78 times. You can’t accuse him of making lots of meaningless passes – he completed 33 in the attacking third, 3 of which led to goalscoring opportunities for team-mates.
More tellingly, the former Ajax man made 10 ball recoveries – more than any other player. Half of these came in Sunderland’s half and he won 2 tackles on the edge of Sunderland’s box.
If Arteta can suppress Eriksen’s influence Arsenal’s defence will have a quiet afternoon. Fail to do that and they could find themselves chasing through-balls to Emmanuel Adebayor.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 0-1 Arsenal (PL, Mar 14)
- Arsenal 2-0 Spurs (FAC, Jan 14)
- Arsenal 1-0 Spurs (PL, Sep 13)
- Spurs 2-1 Arsenal (PL, Mar 13)
- Arsenal 5-2 Spurs (PL, Nov 12)
Both haven’t quite worked out their best team. Defensively Wenger has few options so that part of the team picks itself. The Frenchman can’t decide who works best alongside Arteta in defensive midfield. Keep Ramsey back there and you lose his goalscoring threat. Keep Wilshere back there and you lose his playmaking threat. Finding a balance in the advanced midfield three, behind Danny Welbeck, is Wenger’s major headache. Firstly, who do you pick from Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Sanchez? And then where do you play them?
This firepower – no matter how it’s deployed – will worry Pochettino. Spurs still look a little disorganised at the back, maybe lacking confidence playing at home – although this isn't a factor for Saturday.
The Argentine has basically split his squad into two fairly average teams - one for the Premier League and one for the cups. He needs to work out his best team from that lot.
Facts and figures
- Tottenham have won just 1 of their last 21 Premier League games away at Arsenal.
- Arsenal last failed to score at home to Spurs in the Premier League in November 1998. Since then the Gunners have scored 38 times in 15 games.
- If there are 4 goals in this game then it will become the outright highest scoring fixture in Premier League history (currently 126 goals).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Both sides are vulnerable at the back, but Arsenal’s match-winners outweigh Tottenham’s. 3-1.
Back 3-1 at 14/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication