Historically, the North London derby, particularly in the era where Arsene Wenger has decorated the Arsenal technical area, has been largely dominated by the Gunners, who typically ensured the critical value of the fixture would always be observed by victory.

But Spurs over the past few seasons have quietly and consistently developed their squad into something far more formidable and nothing signifies this more than their recent top 3 finishes and near title challenging form. Arsenal vs Spurs is no longer just a derby sometimes reliant on ripping up the formbook – but instead it’s become a true contest of which club is legitimately the top dog in North London.

Preview of Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur

Below we preview the upcoming English Premier League clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Arsenal: A case of history repeating

The malaise amongst Arsenal fans at the ongoing perceived sub-par output from their chosen club has become infamous enough to bear witness to memes and internet threads mocking the phenomenon of Arsenal TV, but these concerns are legitimate. Arsenal seem to have marooned while other clubs have sped past, and worst of all, it appears largely self inflicted, given the boardroom’s apparent priority on financial health. It isn’t to say that success and profit are mutually exclusive, but Arsenal appear to be short of key signings and trusting outdated ideas once again in 2017/18.

That isn’t to say their form has been poor; some wins have been flush of goals, like Bournemouth (3-0), Leicester (4-3) and Everton (5-2),while others have been solid (2-0 wins over West Brom and Brighton). But it’s their capitulation against top 4 rivals Liverpool (0-4) and frailties exposed in defeats to Stoke (0-1) and Watford (1-2) that once again make you wonder, even with meaningful increases in spending in recent seasons, if Arsenal realise that they’re still sitting on a huge cash balance which would likely assist them to move further past current rivals. Concerns with squad quality, leadership, consistency and ambition once again discolour the Gunners’ football, but these problems have existed for years. 

Spurs: Punching above their weight (and finances)

The contrast couldn’t be more different with Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs. Despite the greater financial resources available to the Manchester giants and Chelsea, only Man City has been able to pull away from Spurs to the point where one would think it’s a case of Spurs just lacking the money to compete. Once again, their great track record in recruitment, squad balance, tactical identity and prioritisation has yielded good results. They’re “only” 4 points ahead of Arsenal in the table, but this “overperformance” needs to be understood in the right context.

Spurs have not only kept pace with Man United and Chelsea, they’ve done so with substantially less financial muscle in wages, turnover and transfer spend, while topping their group (featuring Real Madrid and Dortmund) in the Champions League, and with less contributions from some of last season’s key players (Wanyama, Dembele). If Spurs was a better team against its direct top 3 rivals (defeats to Chelsea and Man United have already soured their record this season) and got some luck with injuries and contributions of bit-part players, Spurs may yet secure their 3rd consecutive top 3 finish, despite the considerable financial gaps. This is a club that only recently, in 2016, reached over£200m, whereas Arsenal’s £351m in the same year was richer than Chelsea (£329m) and Liverpool (£302m) and far closer to Man City (£392m) than you might think.

By the Numbers

In Head to Head respects, recent results are indicative of the shift in power. Arsenal have won the most North London derbies historically, but Spurs haven’t lost any of the last 6. Spurs have won 2 of the last 5 derbies, with Arsenal’s last win over Spurs at the Emirates a 2-0 win in a FA Cup tie in 2014. Arsenal’s last home win over Spurs in league competition was in September 2013.

April 2017 White Hart Lane Spurs 2-0 Arsenal
November 2016 Emirates Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
March 2016 White Hart Lane Spurs 2-2 Arsenal
November 2015 Emirates Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
February 2015 White Hart Lane Spurs 2-1 Arsenal

Source: premierleague.com

The intriguing contrast is form at the Emirates however. Arsenal still retain a healthy home record, having won their last 10 home league matches, scoring at least 2 goals in the last 8 of those fixtures. Against Spurs, Arsenal remain unbeaten in league competition since November 2010, when Tottenham last enjoyed an away victory in a thrilling 3-2 encounter.

November 2016 Emirates Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
November 2015 Emirates Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
September 2014 Emirates Arsenal 1-1 Spurs
September 2013 Emirates Arsenal 1-0 Spurs
November 2012 Emirates Arsenal 5-2 Spurs

Source: whoscored.com

The current season also reveals some of the tactical layers that may guide the match. Spurs once again have shaped their tactical identity around a strong defence, which typically means they’re always at least within a goal of their opponents, putting far less pressure on their attack. Both sides have the same goal tally (20), but that Arsenal have conceded over double the goals (16 vs only 7 for Spurs), despite conceding marginally more shots than their rivals, speaking volumes about the quality of the chances they’re allowing for their opponents.

Premier League Only Goals conceded per game Defensive errors leading to goal Shots conceded per game
Arsenal 1.45 7 9.5
Spurs 0.63 2 9

Source: whoscored.com, squawka.com

Tactics Board

Pochettino’s squad management has been largely impressive, given that Spurs have sustained a mix of injuries to their squad already. The rotation of the squad has been fairly optimal given their recent back to back results against Real Madrid and Liverpool. The signings of Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and the emergence of Harry Winks have all been inspired gambits that have played to the favour of Spurs, who’ve been able to keep their strong defensive identity intact. Some key players for Spurs could well be the ones who may not even feature; injuries kept Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli out of their recent win over Crystal Palace.

That said, it’s fairly obvious that Arsenal need to focus the majority of their efforts on ensuring that Harry Kane – joint top scorer in the league – doesn’t enjoy the space and freedom to add to his tally. If Spurs have a weakness, it’s that their attack looks far too reliant on his goals at present, and while others like Alli, Eriksen and Son are nonetheless capable, they’re not as dangerous as the versatile English forward.

Wenger faces a far more complicated prospect. Save for summer signing Alexandre Lacazette, the talent in his frontline is underperforming, with most notably Alexis Sanchez playing beneath the lofty standards he set last season. But given the nature of the fixture being at the Emirates, and the fact that Spurs tend not to concede goals easily, the key focus area for the home side will be the likely trio of Koscielny, Mustafi and Monreal, who have to ensure they don’t compromise the result against a team for whom 1 goal is often enough to get 3 points.

Prediction: Expected result

History suggests Spurs don’t win this fixture often, or easily. While Arsenal are still not as competitive as they’d like to be, at home, they’re far more likely to enjoy more possession. Dated as some of Wenger’s methods may appear, his team still are considerably good at creating chances, and set pieces are a relative strength in both attacking and defensive terms.

The challenge of course, is Pochettino’s ingenuity. When faced with the prospect of adapting his tactics for Bournemouth, Real Madrid and Liverpool back to back, the Spaniard produced 3 different tactical formations and systems, which generated 2 wins and a draw over those fixtures. This is just a small sample of what Spurs have shown to be capable of in mixing up their relative approaches to matches. Which means Arsenal’s frailties against counter-attacking, attacks focused through the middle (particularly well placed through balls), coupled with their tendency for defensive errors could well not only be exploited by Spurs, but much like the latter’s 4-1 win over Liverpool, may form part of a deliberate strategic design over the 90 minutes.

At the very least, a goal scoring draw, typically 1-1, seems likely simply because of the history of the fixture. But unless Spurs don’t have their full first choice lineup available, this could well be the best chance in years for Tottenham to take 3 points from their bitter rivals on their own ground.

Betting Odds

  • Arsenal 14/10
  • Spurs 19/10
  • Draw 26/10

Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest EPL Betting Odds

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