In recent years this fixture has been seen as a must-not-lose for Arsene Wenger and his side, but when the two teams emerge from the tunnel at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon, the shoe will firmly be on the foot of under-pressure Spurs boss Tim Sherwood. Last Saturday evening’s embarrassing capitulation against Chelsea once again highlighted the frailties in a side that had over £100m invested in it during last summer’s transfer window. Unforgivable individual errors from Tottenham’s back four clearly rattled Sherwood, leading him to publicly question the character of some of the players in his dressing room.
Now, he’ll expect a response. The dream of Champions League football seemed to be slipping away with every second-half goal Jose Mourinho’s side notched last weekend – but there is hope yet for the Lilywhites. A win against their rivals on Sunday will pull them to within three points of Arsenal – and possibly Liverpool, depending on their result at Old Trafford – although both will have a game in hand.
However, at this stage of the season points on the board are more important than having games in hand, despite Mourinho’s persistent refusal to admit the obvious. A win will without doubt reinvigorate a Spurs side that has recently looked devoid of all soul, but defeat will certainly add another nail to Sherwood’s supposedly ready-built casket at the Lane.
Arsenal on the other hand will be looking for three points that could well reignite their pursuit of the league title. They’ve slipped seven off the pace set by the Blues and could be 10 behind if Chelsea beat Aston Villa at Villa Park in Saturday’s late kick-off. However, things are not as bad as they seem at Emirates Stadium despite exiting the European stage last Tuesday to Bayern Munich, with FA Cup success a very realistic possibility after their quarter-final win over Everton. Only Wigan and Sheffield United or Hull lie between them and a first major trophy for nine years.
Recently the Gunners have produced the goods at the culmination of the league season to twice overtake their north-London rivals and secure fourth spot. Spurs now must do the same if their transfer activities last summer aren’t to be viewed as a complete waste.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 4pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Arsenal (Cazorla, Rosicky) 2-0 Tottenham, FA Cup
Arsenal (Giroud) 1-0 Tottenham, Premier League
Tottenham (Bale, Lennon) 2-1 (Mertesacker)
Spurs have kept four clean sheets in their last five Premier League games at White Hart Lane
One goal in this game will see it become the joint-highest scoring fixture in Premier League history, level with Liverpool v Newcastle (126)
Emmanuel Adebayor is the highest scorer in the history of North-London derbies
Victory for Spurs will be their 50th league win over the Gunners
Arsenal haven’t won in the Premier League at White Hart Lane in their last five visits (W0 D2 L3)
Tottenham to win: 2.87
Arsenal to win: 3.4
Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal
Undisputedly the Premier League’s most entertaining encounter, whenever these two face each other, there are goals, goals, and more goals. This fixture has seen 5-2’s, 4-4’s and possibly any other ridiculous score line you can dream up, but none were better value for money than when the two teams met in November 2003. Spurs took an early lead but Arsenal hit back emphatically through Thierry Henry, Lauren and Patrick Vieira. Jermain Defoe responded for the home side, Freddie Ljungberg added a fourth for the visitors before Ledley King nodded in Spurs’ third to ensure a nervy finale. French winger Robert Pires once again restored the visitors two-goal advantage to make it 5-3, and although Tottenham’s former frontman Freddie Kanoute added a fourth two minutes from time, Wenger’s men hung on for the most famous of victories.
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1, Sunday 4pm. Highlights on BBC One, Sunday 10.25pm