The purist streak in us all would like to think a local derby between two sides who both employ attacking football would never be settled by something as pragmatic, attritional and agricultural as who performs better at set pieces.
But the fact is that dead ball situations are an integral part of the beautiful game and they could well decide who comes out on top in this weekend’s North London Derby.
“A key area will be set pieces. David Ospina is rumoured to start the game and he’s known for a calamitous approach towards set-pieces due to his height and his opposite number Hugo Lloris isn’t much better in my opinion.
“Both sides have a reasonable amount of height, meaning corners and free-kicks could settle this one.”
That’s the opinion of Arsenal expert Connor Humm, who pointed out when talking exclusively to Football FanCast that neither Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris nor the Gunners’ David Ospina, who could deputise for Petr Cech on Saturday, are particularly convincing when the ball is in the air. On top of that, there’s plenty of height in both teams, not to mention deadly deliverers in the form of Mesut Ozil and Christian Eriksen.
And the statistics would appear to back up that claim. No team have scored from more set pieces in the Premier League this season than Arsenal, with twelve from 26 games, while Tottenham aren’t too far behind – ranking fifth throughout the division with ten.
But the argument of Saturday’s 12.30pm kickoff being settled by set pieces only rings truer following news that Anthony Taylor has been appointed to referee the Premier League clash. Only one referee has awarded more fouls per match in the Premier League this season than the 39-year-old, who averages more than 23 each game.
Should those come in dangerous areas, both teams have the quality and the aerial threat to take advantage, although the statistics suggest Arsenal are more likely to concede fouls than Spurs. While the Gunners average the eighth-most fouls of any Premier League side in away games, Tottenham average the fourth-fewest at home, and that difference in discipline could cost the Gunners dearly.
That being said, the fortunes are somewhat reversed in terms of defending set pieces this season – Spurs conceding three times more from dead ball situations than the Gunners, whose goals conceded record at set pieces, four, is only beaten by Manchester City.
If there’s one concern regarding Taylor though, it’s the number of matches he’s officiated this season that have ended in draws. That’s partly a consequence of him refereeing so many high profile games, but it’s also the fourth-biggest draw bias in the top flight this term. Ironically, Arsenal and Tottenham both need the win on Saturday to really give themselves a chance of making it into the top four.
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!