For two decades, Arsenal ruled North London. While Tottenham fed on the scraps of the League Cup, the Gunners won titles, FA Cups and reached European finals.
In the big matches, more often than not, Tottenham were found wanting. Arsenal beat them in semi-finals and served the ultimate ignominy upon their rivals: the Invincibles, the Gunners formidable 2003-04 side, won the title at White Hart Lane.
Not this season though. 2016-17 may not end in the club’s first title since the world watched television in black-and-white, but Spurs fans won’t easily forget finishing above Arsenal for the first time in 20 years.
It’s not a shift in power but it is a release of tension. It could be better if Spurs win this and Chelsea lose at Goodison Park beforehand. That would cut the gap to just two points but there’s an inescapable feeling that it is too late for the Lilywhites to overhaul their south-west London rivals.
Arsenal supporters would love nothing more than their side to hammer the nail in the Tottenham title race coffin. The FA Cup is silverware but a win here lessens the misery of their season.
The Premier League’s form team bounced back from the disappointment of losing the FA Cup semi-final with a deserved win at Selhurst Park. Christian Eriksen’s strike gave them victory over Crystal Palace, a team who beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in recent weeks.More importantly, it kept them in the hunt for the title and Spurs know winning today is vital if that dream is not to die.
Mauricio Pochettino is without Erik Lamela, Harry Winks, Michel Vorm, and, Cameron Carter-Vickers. Mousa Dembélé and Danny Rose are both doubtful.
Not too many changes are expected from the team which lost at Wembley but Son Heung-min is expected to make way, leaving Ben Davies and Kyle Walker as wing-backs. Both sides are strong on the right, with Walker for Spurs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal. Davies will be mindful of the Arsenal winger, particularly after his Man of the Match display against Manchester City.
Walker though, faces the irrepressible Nacho Monreal, who is proving a vital player for the Gunners. The England right back will be looking to push forward to force Monreal backwards and continue his form as an attacking potent threat.
The attacking duo of Dele Alli and Harry Kane thrived against Chelsea’s back three and with Arsenal’s still finding their way, they may enjoy this derby. A lot depends on Eriksen finding space in which to weave his magic. With 12 assists this season, he is pivotal in their quest for three points.
While the win at Palace was the perfect response to losing against Chelsea, Arsenal are a different kettle of fish. Will Spurs suffer a bout of nerves or self-doubt? After a good start at the Emirates, they faded either side of half-time and were punished by an out-of-sorts Arsenal.
Then it was Arsenal who were the form team, now the roles are reversed. Spurs have won their last 12 home Premier League games; the Gunners have won 3 in a row, after an indifferent spell. Can the home side take advantage of that?
What a difference a week makes. Three consecutive wins, two on their travels, have seen Arsenal reach the FA Cup final and haul themselves onto the fringes of the Champions League race. A top four finish is still out of their hands, relying on others to drop points, but all they can do is win their own games.
This is by far the toughest of their remaining fixtures. Arsenal haven’t won at White Hart Lane in three years and only five times since 1992, although there have been 11 draws.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to move to a 3-4-2-1 formation caused some surprise, not least in using Rob Holding. The youngster proved assured against Middlesbrough and Manchester City, while Gabriel the previously out of favour Brazilian, has also been a revelation.
The fly in the ointment this weekend is the possible absence of Laurent Koscielny. Wenger observed he has only a 60% chance of playing and with Shkodran Mustafi also out, it may mean Nacho Monreal moving inside as the third defender. Kieran Gibbs take the Spaniard’s place at wing-back.
Despite the three wins, the Gunners are still misfiring. City let them off the hook while Middlesbrough had opportunities as well. At the moment, it seems unlikely that Arsenal will score as freely as before, with Olivier Giroud looking like a fish out of water. His frustration was evident at Wembley and it won’t be any surprise if Danny Welbeck starts in his place.
Wenger knows Arsenal must win every game and then offer up a prayer; the situation is out of his hands. If they are to win just one more Premier League game this season, this is it. Losing is not an option.
FORM (Last six games)
Tottenham Hotspur - WWWWLW
Arsenal - DWLWWW
- Tottenham have been winning HT / FT in their last 5 Premier League home games.
- Arsenal’s last 10 away games all featured +2.5 goals.
- Tottenham’s last 6 Premier League home games all featured +2.5 goals.
- Arsenal have drawn their last three matches against Tottenham.
- Tottenham have kept clean sheets in 6 of their last 8 Premier League home games.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Date Competition Result
27.09.2014 EPL Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
07.02.2015 EPL Spurs 2-1 Arsenal
23.09.2015 FLC Spurs 1-2 Arsenal
08.11.2015 EPL Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
05.03.2016 EPL Spurs 2-2 Arsenal
06.11.2016 EPL Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
Arsene Wenger dismissed claims that there was a power shift in north London. There’s no doubt however, that Spurs are the better side this season and Mauricio Pochettino deserves immense credit for the mental strength he has instilled in his squad after last season’s collapse.
With Chelsea facing Everton, Spurs must hope that the Toffees do them a favour and then capitalise on that good fortune. The overwhelming history in this match leans toward a draw. With Kane and Alli, Spurs will fancy their chances of scoring plenty of goals. However, their defence was creaking against Chelsea and Arsenal, with bags of pace on the flanks, will look to exploit those same gaps.
If Arsenal can get Mesut Ozil on the ball in the same way he did at Wembley in the second half and extra-time, then they have the outlet to link defence and attack. With Alexis, Arsenal have a striker enjoying his best season in scoring terms.