Two teams in shaky form meet when Tottenham Hotspur host Arsenal on Sunday in the 178th North London derby (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Spurs come into the match on the back of four defeats in their last six matches in all competitions. They are fifth in the Premier League table, six points behind Arsenal, with 53 points from 16 wins, five draws and eight defeats.
Tim Sherwood publicly questioned the commitment of his players in the wake of last weekend’s heavy defeat to Chelsea, leading to an animated team meeting in which all grievances were voiced. If those talks were meant to produce a positive reaction there was little evidence of it in Tottenham’s lacklustre performance in defeat to Benfica on Thursday.
It was not the first time since Sherwood replaced Andre Villas-Boas in December that Spurs have been comprehensively outplayed by top quality opposition, with defeats against Arsenal in the FA Cup (0-2) and Manchester City (1-5) and Chelsea (0-4) in the league previously underlining the flaws in his looser, more attacking approach.
Spurs struggled to make any impression on a well-organised Benfica defence and their own defending, from open play and set-pieces, left a lot to be desired. Sherwood rode a wave of good feeling and good luck in his early weeks as head coach, but with both now deserting him needs to come up with immediate solutions to stabilise his team’s results.
Sherwood will definitely be without Erik Lamela (thigh, back), Michael Dawson (hamstring), Etienne Capoue (ankle) and Vlad Chiriches (back) for Sunday’s match, while he will await news on Aaron Lennon, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jan Vertonghen, all of whom picked up knocks against Benfica. Mousa Dembele (hamstring) is expected to return.
Arsenal come into the derby on the back of elimination from the Champions League in midweek and a run of two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six league matches. They are, however, still in the title race, seven points shy of Chelsea but with a game in hand, with 59 points from 18 wins, five draws and five defeats.
The Gunners performed decently in drawing 1-1 away to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, but never looked likely to get the goals required to overturn their 2-0 first leg deficit. Bayern controlled the tempo, Arsenal threatened only sporadically and proved incapable of exerting sustained pressure as the minutes ticked down.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (pictured above) was the one plus point for the Gunners, impressing with his forceful runs forward from midfield. The England international has been slowly building up fitness since his return from injury and could have a key role to play in the remainder of the season, particularly with Mesut Ozil, substituted at half time, facing a spell on the sidelines.
Arsenal face fellow title challengers Chelsea and Manchester City in two of their next three fixtures following Sunday’s derby, with the next few weeks likely to be vital in determining the success, or otherwise, of their season. Arsene Wenger is likely to lean on his strong defensive unit, with injuries having robbed him of some of his best attacking talent.
Wenger will definitely be without Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Abou Diaby (knee), Jack Wilshere (foot), Ozil (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (knee) for this match, while Kim Kallstrom (back) and Yaya Sanogo (knock) are doubtful. He expects one or both of Kieran Gibbs (ankle) and Nacho Monreal (foot) to be fit.
Spurs v Arsenal Betting Tips
Arsenal were victorious in both of the previous meetings between these sides this season, winning 1-0 in the league and 2-0 in the FA Cup. Spurs won last season’s equivalent fixture 2-1 and are undefeated in their last five home matches against their local rivals.
Tottenham could close to within three points of their neighbours with victory on Sunday, albeit having played a game more, and previous evidence suggests that Sherwood will go all out to obtain the three points, an approach that could leave his side open on the counter attack.
Arsenal need a win to keep pace in the title race with matches against two of their main challengers coming up over the next few weeks. We would not be at all surprised to see them edge the possession count, but with some of their most potent attackers absent through injury it is doubtful they carry enough of a threat to outscore their hosts.
We believe a draw, a result unlikely to suit either team, is the most probable outcome.
- Back the draw @ 12/5 with Bet365, Betfred or Stan James.
- This is the highest scoring fixture in Premier League history, averaging 2.91 goals, but we do not believe Sunday’s match will follow suit. Arsenal are strong in defence and will make life difficult for Spurs, but are without some of their own attackers of note. Back under 2.5 goals @ 10/11 with Coral or William Hill.