Tottenham vs Arsenal – Preview


Arsenal make the short journey to White Hart Lane tomorrow afternoon to take on local rivals Tottenham in the North London Derby. This is always a very important fixture in the season for both sets of fans, but this season it is arguably even more important and one of the most important for many years.

If Arsenal win, they can go to within a point of their neighbours and the result would give the Gunners belief that they can finish above Tottenham for yet another season. A draw would maintain the 4 point gap between the two right now and a Spurs win would leave the Gunners 7 points behind Tottenham with 10 games left. There could also be a 5 point gap open up between Arsenal and 4th placed Chelsea if they beat West Brom today and Spurs beat Arsenal tomorrow. So there is no doubting that this game is huge for Arsenal’s season.

Team News: Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe has recovered from an ankle injury and should be available for tomorrow’s game. The hosts will be missing American international Clint Dempsey to injury as well as Sandro, Tom Huddlestone and Younes Kaboul who are also out. Kaboul of course scored the winner for Tottenham in a North London Derby at the Emirates back in 2010.

Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna who has a knee injury, so Carl Jenkinson is expected to start for Arsenal. Jenkinson grew up as an Arsenal fan,  so starting in this fixture will mean a lot to him without a doubt. Kieran Gibbs is still out so Nacho Monreal will continue at left-back in his absence. This will be Monreal’s first ever North London Derby, having only signed for the club at the end of the January transfer window.

Abou Diaby is a 50:50 for this game according to Arsene Wenger. The injury prone Frenchman is reportedly suffering from a minor calf injury at the moment.

Well, well, well… derby day is upon us once again. I absolutely love this fixture. It is pretty well always one that gives you plenty of goals and never seems to disappoint. It is the highest scoring fixture in the history of the Premier League with 121 goals scored overall.

Once again Tottenham find themselves above Arsenal in the latter stages of the season, the question is, will they crumble yet again. The outcome of Sunday’s game may well give you a good indication on whether they will or not. You saw last February at the Emirates, Tottenham had a 2 goal lead and a win would have sent them 13 points clear of Arsenal. However, they fell apart and lost 5-2 that day, proceeding to throw away their 7 point lead they had after that game and finishing below the Gunners in the league table.

The last meeting between the two clubs was fairly similar back in November. Arsenal fell behind early on to Emmanuel Adebayor’s 10th minute goal. For a while, Spurs seemed to be in control. However, former Arsenal striker Adebayor did his old club a huge favour by getting himself sent off for a foul on Santi Cazorla in the 17th minute. The man advantage certainly helped Arsenal as Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud made it 3-1 Arsenal at half time. Santi Cazorla added to Arsenal’s lead on the hour mark before Gareth Bale pulled one back for the visitors 10 minutes later. Theo Walcott made sure of all three points in stoppage time as Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-2 for the second time in 2012.

The fixture above again showed a sign of Tottenham blowing it in the derby. I’m not sure whether it’s just nerves that they suffer on derby day or when they get close to beating us / finishing above us, but they seem to do it every year and under all kinds of managers. They threw that game away in November.

The one difference between this fixture and the two games at the Emirates in 2012 is that this game is at White Hart Lane. Say what you like about the Emirates crowd most weeks, but on derby day the home crowd is rocking. That has to intimidate Spurs a little. 57,000 fans making a lot of noise and booing your every touch may well make the Spurs players nervy. Their reputation over recent years of blowing leads and good league positions might well add to their nerves too.

The game at White Hart Lane will no doubt be similar for the Arsenal players. Tottenham fans will boo the Arsenal players and try to make the uncomfortable. Arsenal’s recent record at White Hart Lane has not been fantastic. Their last win at Spurs was in the League Cup back in September 2010, when the Gunners won 4-1 after extra-time. Their last league win at Tottenham came back in September 2007 when the Gunners won 3-1 there. On the Arsenal scoresheet twice that day was a player that will likely be lining up against Arsenal tomorrow and usually has a say on derby day, whether wearing red or white. I’m talking of course about Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor used to be known for his record of scoring goals against Tottenham on derby day, including those two that day. He has now scored twice for Tottenham in a North London Derby, one in the 5-2 game in February 2012 and the other back in November’s 5-2 game before he got sent off. So, should we let him score tomorrow to guarantee a 5-2 win?. I’m kidding of course.

It’s fair to say that Arsenal should be more worried about another Tottenham player on Sunday. Gareth Bale has been in fine form for Spurs this season and the Gunners will have to be very careful with him. He too has a good goalscoring record in recent years against Arsenal, so despite Arsene Wenger insisting there is no special plan to contain him on Sunday, I’m hoping it’s just his way of not making it public and that he wasn’t actually serious.

One player I am glad is no longer at Spurs is Rafael Van Der Vaart. He was at Tottenham for just 2 seasons, but he had a nasty habit of scoring for them against us so I must admit it was a relief when he was sold to Hamburg last summer.

AVB vs Arsenal:

Andre Villas-Boas has managed two clubs in England, Chelsea and Tottenham. His spell as Chelsea manager was a short one to say the least. I read a statistic the other day that AVB was in charge of Porto in 2009/10 when the met Arsenal in the Champions League knockout stages. However, after a bit of research it suggests that he actually started managing at Porto in the summer of 2010, so his first and only season there was 2010/11.

The reason that statistic was posted was because it suggested Villas-Boas had been in charge of 4 games against Arsenal and in 3 of them Arsenal scored 5 goals against his team. However, the truth is, he has only been in charge twice against the Gunners. Here were the outcomes.

29th October 2011 – Chelsea (Lampard, Terry, Mata) 3-5 Arsenal (Van Persie x3, Santos, Walcott)

17th November 2012 – Arsenal (Mertesacker, Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, Walcott) 5-2 Tottenham (Adebayor, Bale)

So… even though I must admit I was looking forward to putting in an extra 5 goal display against Porto, this statistic could suggest some things or it could be misleading. Some people will read the statistic and think AVB has a problem against Wenger’s teams and leaking goals and others may look into it further and think that his Chelsea team didn’t want to play for him for whatever reason, so that might explain Arsenal winning 5-3 at Stamford Bridge. Plus Robin Van Persie was in that Arsenal team too, someone we won’t be able to rely on tomorrow. As mentioned above, the game in November could have gone differently had Adebayor not been sent off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a 5-2 at the lane and a high scoring affair is certainly possible given the recent games between the two. I would still be surprised if Arsenal did manage another 5 against an AVB team this time around. To be honest it is anyone’s game. That’s the beauty of derby games. Anything can happen. As we saw in November, Arsenal woke up once they had a man advantage and took control. They’re too difficult to predict before the game, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen tomorrow afternoon.

I do believe that if Arsenal do win tomorrow, they will finish above Spurs this season. I think that it would be similar to that of the 5-2 last season. It’d give Arsenal a much needed boost (we haven’t been playing well of late, even against Aston Villa last weekend in honesty) and would deliver a big blow to Tottenham’s season. As well as they have been playing, an Arsenal win tomorrow would crank up the pressure on Spurs. Not just because Arsenal would be breathing down their necks in the league table, but it would also give them those doubts once again. The media and fans will begin to doubt them once more and Arsenal would sense their opportunity once again and gain momentum in their season.

Containing Bale is the key. If Arsenal can do that, I am confident they can contain Tottenham. Easier said than done though. Is this game a must win for Arsenal?. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is a must win, but a win would be huge. A draw and there is plenty of football still to play for both teams between now and the end of the season. I would go as far as saying that it’s a game the Gunners must not lose. 7 points and a confidence boost for Spurs with 10 games to go could potentially mean that Spurs may have the bragging rights in North London for the first time since 1995.

This picture shows the sheer joy that a win on derby day brings both the fans and the players / staff at the club.