Sunday’s North London derby promises to be an attractive and even encounter between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur sides who have both made impressive starts to the domestic campaign (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Gunners are currently level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, while Spurs are fifth, just five points behind their neighbours, and are undefeated in 10 matches since their opening-day defeat to Manchester United.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw in last season’s fixture at the Emirates and it would not be at all surprising to see a repeat this time around. This is traditionally a high-scoring encounter but recent matches between the sides have all been tightly contested, with no more than a single goal separating them in six of the last seven meetings in all competitions. Indeed, all seven of those encounters ended with three or fewer goals.
Arsenal were 2-1 winners when the sides met in the Capital One Cup back in September, although it is difficult to view that match as representative of the likely result or pattern of play on Sunday given that both sides made changes to their usual starting XIs. Spurs’ defensive frailties in that match came as a result of them resting four of their normal back five.
Defensive solidity has, in fact, been one of the cornerstones of Tottenham’s positive start to the season. New arrival Toby Alderweireld has quickly formed a strong partnership with his fellow Belgian international and former Ajax team-mate Jan Vertonghen, while the positioning of Eric Dier as a shield in front of the defence has been an unqualified success.
Spurs have gone from having one of the league’s five leakiest defences last season to having one of its four strongest during the early part of the current campaign. In combination with a top-five attack, that has seen Mauricio Pochettino’s side improve their average goal difference per match seven-fold (from 0.13 to 0.91) in comparison to last season.
Arsenal have also posted some impressive numbers to date. They were slightly unfortunate in defeats to Chelsea and West Ham but have otherwise got the deserved reward from their regular superiority in terms of the volume of good-quality chances for and against during their matches. They currently look like Manchester City’s most likely challengers for the title and a glance at JustBookies’ Premier League betting odds comparison table confirms that the bookies agree.
Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile that side with the one that has lost three of its first four matches in the Champions League group stage. Wednesday’s 5-1 defeat away to Bayern Munich was perhaps not a huge surprise given the quality of the German champions but earlier defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos certainly provided cause for concern.
Spurs have also not been entirely convincing in continental competition but do come into the derby on the back of a 2-1 win at home to Anderlecht on Thursday that saw them ascend to the top of their Europa League group. Harry Kane continued his recent resurgence in front of goal by scoring for the third consecutive match.
The England striker scored both goals in Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane last season and this North London derby preview expects Kane to be his side’s primary goal threat on Sunday. Giroud and Alexis Sanchez are currently tied as Arsenal’s top scorer, with six goals apiece, while Mesut Ozil has already provided an impressive nine assists in league play.
Arsenal have a lengthy injury list coming into Sunday’s match, with Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott among those unavailable to manager Arsene Wenger (pictured). Nacer Chadli will be Tottenham’s most prominent absentee.
Over the full campaign, it is highly likely that Arsenal will finish ahead of their neighbours but Tottenham have a style of play that will certainly allow them to go toe-to-toe with the Gunners over the course of 90 minutes. This match preview believes that a repeat of last season’s draw is the most likely result in this North London derby match, as reflected in our betting tips.