Many a north London derby have been labelled as the most important in years. This one, though, might just be the most deserving of such a title. Power shifts between rivals are a topic of lengthy debate, but this match comes at a time when Spurs have finally crept above Arsenal in the table. A time when Spurs continue to improve, and even a top four finish seems a long way from Arsenal’s grasp.
Mauricio Pochettino has guided Spurs to a victory over Real Madrid, while Arsenal are left battling with their reserve squad in the Europa League. It signifies a switch in roles in the north of England’s capital, and it echoes louder when they face each other.
Arsenal’s dominance over Spurs has been as good as set in stone for the Premier League era, but Pochettino has led a revival for the Lilywhites. A revival that has coincided with a steady decline at the Emirates Stadium. Tottenham are currently priced at 9/5 for a dramatic victory over their fierce rivals this weekend...
The timing of Spurs’ has ascent has, in part, contributed to the weary downturn of Arsenal. Further competition at the Premier League summit has ratcheted up the difficulty for Arsene Wenger, and contributed to the, at times, toxic atmosphere in the fan base.
The first fixture between the two was played in December 1909. The next is the weekend-beginning, lunchtime Premier League kick-off. The distant history plays little part in the upcoming match, it is no more than an easy statistic for the television companies. Even in recent history, stadia have changed, squads are unrecognisable, and the standing of the two clubs has altered dramatically.
This weekend all eyes will be on the Emirates. A stadium that has housed some thrilling derbies, but a venue that has been synonymous with Arsenal’s demise from serial winners to stagnant giants.
Arsenal have not won a north London derby in the Premier League since March 2014. On that occasion, it was an early stunner from Tomas Rosicky that sealed the three points at White Hart Lane. The victory sealed a 2013/14 double over their bitter rivals. The Gunners are valued at 29/20 to end their barren run on Saturday afternoon...
Since then, Spurs have twice won at White Hart Lane, and there have been three 1-1 draws at the Emirates. Prior to that, there had been 31 goals since 2008 in the Emirates league matches. Only one Spurs win came of that, and the two 5-2 Arsenal victories in 2012 were interpreted at the time as another signal of how far Spurs were from contention.
The string of draws since 2014 aligns with the meeting of the two. Arsenal’s wane collided with Spurs’ gradual progress, and it brought a brief, almost perfect matchup. There is no doubt that the Lilywhites are now in a stronger position than their once bullying neighbours.
At home, Spurs have lost to Arsenal in the league just twice since 2004. This weekend – with Harries Kane and Winks fully rested – Pochettino could finally convert their points superiority into away day derby glory.
Spurs boast the league’s best defence in the last two seasons. The days of conceding three or more goals at the Emirates being a guarantee (as it was between 2006 and 2012) are long gone, now Spurs are arguably the second favourites for the Premier League title. Arsenal, meanwhile, are still outsiders to even return to the Champions League.
The face of football in north London has changed dramatically since Pochettino was appointed. Arsenal’s inactivity has contributed just as much, but it is now the Gunners who are tussling to convince their key players that they are genuine competitors at the top of European football.
The silverware drought can still be dangled in front of Spurs, but FA Cup success does little to diminish the shift in north London. It lingers over Pochettino for the time being, though their superiority in the capital can be cemented with victory this weekend. Spurs are 1/4 to finish above the Gunners whilst Arsenal are 5/2 for a shock resurgence above their north London rivals.
The Lilywhites have won only twice away at Arsenal in the Premier League to date. In Harry Kane, though, they have one of the world’s best strikers, and a player who has thrived in London derby matches. He is only two short of the scoring record in this fixture in the Premier League.
Arsenal can still make a claim of parity while Spurs’ cabinet remains bare post-2008. A defeat in front of 50-odd thousand tetchy Gunners will make that claim yet tougher to back. There is a definite upward trend for Spurs in these fixtures, and taking another step on that trajectory would be an additional indication of their superiority.
This match is far from definitive for the season. It could, however, have seismic consequences for the rivalry.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*