The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Arsenal
Christian Kane vs Alexis-less Arsenal.
- WBA 0-3 Spurs (Prem)
- Sheff Utd 2-2 Spurs (LC)
- Spurs 1-2 Leicester (FAC)
- Spurs 1-0 Sheff Utd (LC)
- Spurs 2-1 S’land (Prem)
- Arsenal 5-0 Villa (Prem)
- Brighton 2-3 Arsenal (FAC)
- Man City 0-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (FAC)
It’s the north London derby... with added oomph. With only five points separating third-placed Manchester United from seventh-placed Liverpool, and Arsenal and Tottenham sandwiched somewhere in between, the 175th edition of this fixture promises to be a juicy one.
Arsenal occupy their customary position one place and a point ahead of their arch rivals, but both sides will go into this one feeling confident of laying claim to those coveted local bragging rights after respective good runs.
In recent history this fixture has been something of a homer’s paradise – before last season’s 1-0 win, Arsenal hadn’t tasted league victory at the Lane since September 2007, while Spurs haven’t won at their rivals’ home in five matches. Has the pendulum stopped swinging for good, then, or will Mauricio Pochettino’s men add neatly to their six-game unbeaten home streak?
Spurs have won six of their last eight Premier League games, including a 3-0 rout at West Brom last time out, while a resurgent Arsenal smashed hapless Aston Villa 5-0 at the Emirates last Sunday for their third league win – and clean sheet – on the spin.
New boy Gabriel Paulista is unlikely to be thrown in at the deep end with Alsatian defensive drone Mertescielny available to hold the fort, but the Brazilian at least adds depth to a backline that’s been desperate for it.
Spurs could probably argue the same to an extent, but at least they, like the Gunners, have profited from some individual brilliance at the other end this season. That the Lilywhites haven’t won a game without either Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen scoring since late August speaks volumes for the brilliance of their fearsome twosome, who’ve plundered their way to 19 goals in the last 20 league games.
Arsenal didn’t need Alexis Sanchez’s defence-splitting demolition act against Aston Villa, but they could do with Chilean’s imperious form (18 goals in 31 games) this weekend. However, Arsene Wenger’s assertion that his star man is “not ready” has put paid to a striking shootout north London was looking forward to.
It’s a clean bill of health for Pochettino, who also has Nabil Bentaleb back around, if unlikely to start, after Algeria’s exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Arsenal’s top goalscorer Sanchez is still missing with a hamstring issue but Danny Welbeck, who hasn’t been seen so far this year, is expected to return after a thigh injury. The game comes too soon for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, with Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy all still sidelined.
Key battle: Christian Eriksen vs Santi Cazorla
Playmakers collide in their bid to pierce the other lot’s protective seal. Both craftsmen operate largely from the left and drift inside to inflict their damage, which they each managed with equal effectiveness last weekend.
Eriksen opened the scoring against West Brom with a terrific free-kick, finished as Spurs’ top passer in the attacking third and was willing to take on players (green stars) in key areas to help fashion openings.
Cazorla was also Arsenal’s best outlet in the final third, grabbing 2 assists (though one was down to Hector Bellerin’s fine finish) and linking up well with all of his close midfield colleagues (his combinations with Rosicky, Özil, Ramsey and Coquelin comprised 5 of the game’s top 8). Whose influence will tell?
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 1-1 Spurs (PL, Sep 14)
- 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)
Both managers have seemingly found the winning formula with their 4-2-3-1s, and for Wenger in particular, the returns of both Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil to full fitness could barely have come at a better time. Pochettino is still managing his squad well ahead of a League Cup final and potentially gruelling Europa League run, starting with two legs against Fiorentina. Wenger and Pochettino face off in the dugout for only the fourth time, with the Frenchman unbeaten against his Argentine counterpart after a win and a draw against Southampton last season, followed by September’s 1-1 stalemate at the Emirates.
Facts and figures
- Spurs have conceded the most penalties in the Premier League (6), Arsenal have won the most (6).
- Walcott has scored 4 and assisted 3 goals in his last 6 Premier League appearances against Spurs.
- Spurs and Arsenal have drawn 18 times in the Premier League, making it the most drawn fixture in the history of the competition.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Spurs' unbeaten home run couples Arsenal's failure to manage back-to-back Premier League away wins. Both sides look excellent going forward right now, but Arsenal’s extra quality should see them avoid defeat. 2-2.