Tottenham and Arsenal face each other in the Premier League for the 52nd time this weekend, and there are once again high stakes on the line.
Alongside the inevitable glory that comes with winning a local derby, the north London rivals both need a win – or at the very least must avoid defeat – to keep their hopes of finishing inside the Premier League’s top four in tact.
It looks set to be a thrilling encounter between two teams that like to play open and expansive football.
But can history and recent form point us into the direction of the likeliest outcome, how will the referee influence the match and who faces the bigger injury problems? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s 12.30pm kickoff…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Arsenal who boast dominance in this fixture throughout the Premier League era, claiming eight more victories than the Lilywhites, keeping six more clean sheets and scoring 21 more goals. But there has been a much greater balance to North London Derby in recent years; compared to Arsenal’s 20-game undefeated run against Spurs from 2000 to 2011, the Gunners’ victory over Tottenham earlier this season was their first in seven games.
In fact, the last ten meetings have produced three wins apiece, alongside four draws. But the good news for the neutrals is that the North London Derby rarely breeds scoreless draws; the last one was in 2009, and that’s still the only one since the turn of the millennium.
In terms of recent Premier League form, Tottenham will inevitably feel more confident heading into Saturday’s game. While Arsenal enter the clash off the back of a 5-1 win over Everton, they’ve also suffered defeats in their last two away games against incredibly modest opposition in the form of Bournemouth and Swansea.
Spurs, in contrast, have just beaten Manchester United and drawn away with Liverpool, while their only defeat in any competition since the start of December was a 4-1 loss to runaway pace setters Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Likewise, Arsenal haven’t kept a single clean sheet in their last six games, wheras Spurs have averaged one in every two matches, and their top scorer Harry Kane has maintained his relentless form in front of goal.
Anthony Taylor is certainly amongst the Premier League’s stricter referees and both teams must be aware of how that could affect Saturday’s clash, especially in terms of giving away set pieces. Only one referee has awarded more fouls per match than the 39-year-old this season but Arsenal and Spurs are both decisively clinical from dead ball situations, ranking first and fifth respectively in the Premier League this term for goals from set pieces.
Indeed, the 12.30pm kickoff could well be decided by which side better maintains their discipline and gives away less free kicks in dangerous areas. But Taylor’s draw bias this term lingers over like a dark cloud, especially in light of the fact neither Tottenham or Arsenal can really afford to lose this game with their top four hopes hanging delicately in the balance.
After fielding something of a weakened side against Newport County in midweek, we’re expecting Mauricio Pochettino to ring the changes this weekend. In fact, there’s only three players we’re tipping to keep their place: midfielder Victor Wanyama and forward Heung-min Son, who were both tellingly subbed off in the FA Cup replay, and centre-back Toby Alderweireld.
The Belgium international has been absent through injury but played the full ninety minutes against Newport and could be ready to go again considering the gravity of Saturday’s clash, although Pochettino may be reluctant to place such a physical demand on his returning defender.
There’s also the potential for Deadline Day signing Lucas Moura to be handed his debut and first start for Spurs, but that’s far from guaranteed considering how familiar and effective Son, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are as an attacking trio behind Harry Kane.
Arsenal face a few injury concerns heading into the weekend, the most significant being goalkeeper Petr Cech. David Ospina is a capable shot-stopper but lacks the Arsenal No.1’s experience and composed all-round game, although Gunners supporters haven’t been fully convinced by Cech over the last 18 months or so.
Aside from the goalkeeper, we’re expecting Arsene Wenger to field the same starting XI that beat Everton last time out with one exception – an attacking midfielder in Alex Iwobi being traded for a central midfielder in Jack Wilshere to get the in-form England international and hat-trick hero Aaron Ramsey into the same engine room.
That sees Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 change slightly to a 4-3-2-1, but that extra body in central midfield could make a real difference away from home.
Historically, the North London derby isn’t an easy game to predict. But if you are willing to take a position on the big rivalry game this Saturday, we have an Premier League outright win treble that will pay out handsomely! In this week’s Accy Show, we’ve also put together a fantastic EFL fourfold, with odds that could see you earn ten times your stake. Check it out and let us know where you’re putting your coins this weekend!