It’s north London derby weekend in the Premier League! Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium plays host to the 177th north London derby between the Gunners and Tottenham Hotspur in a Sunday afternoon kickoff. Both Arsenal and Spurs are on form, but on the surface at least, it seems the Gunners are mired in more difficulties than their rivals.
Arsenal’s morale took a fair beating on Wednesday as Bayern Munich took them apart in a 5–1 demolition job in a Champions League group stage game. Their injury count has reached double figures with the recent setbacks to Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny, two pivotal figures in their defensive set-up.
Meanwhile, five miles down the road, Spurs are enjoying a fine start to their 2015/16 campaign. The Lilywhites are on the longest unbeaten run in the league this season, having not lost since their opening day submission to Manchester United. Unlike Arsenal, they come into the game on the back of a European win.
However, things are not all bad for the Gunners. Arsene Wenger’s men are the in-form team in the league at the moment, having won five of their last five games. Spurs have won three of their last five games, drawing two. But the major concern for the Gunners, it seems, is their injury problems.
As if losing Theo Walcott and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain in the same match wasn’t enough; both Bellerin and Koscielny are likely to miss out on Sunday’s action, Bellerin will surely miss while Koscielny — who only returned from a back injury last month — is doubtful. That takes the tally in the treatment room to ten, making Arsenal the second most-crocked team in the division, behind Newcastle United.
But Spurs themselves aren’t free of injuries. Seven players are out nursing various knocks and injuries, although of them, only Nabil Bentaleb and Nacer Chadli are first-team regulars. They played a day later than Arsenal in Europe, although unlike the Gunners, their European exertions were in the comforts of north London.
From the outside, it looks a tough task is awaiting the wounded Gunners. Spurs are on a high, their premier goalscorer Harry Kane is back among the goals, they have lesser injury problems to contend with than Arsenal and they head into the match on the back of no long trip into the European mainland. But Arsenal seem to always win against Spurs at home.
Spurs have an awful record at Arsenal. Only once have they managed a win over their rivals in the past 22 meetings in the league, and that win came five years ago, when the likes of Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart inspired Spurs to a comeback 3–2 win. Since 2010, Spurs have won only once and drawn once in six meetings with Arsenal at the Emirates.
Earlier this season, the Gunners had the better of Spurs in the League Cup, another pointer to their early dominance over their rivals in the current season. An interesting statistic to back up claims Arsenal see Spurs as their favourite opponents is that in Wenger’s time at the club, Arsenal have netted more goals (88) against Spurs than against any other team.
History and statistics are rendered irrelevant at kickoff in a game as prestigious as the north London derby. But so are form books. The much-used form-books-out-of-the-window phrase will once again be subject to overuse, given both teams’ forms have been major talking points ahead of the game.
The Gunners are plagued with injuries, but Wenger always seems to pull a rabbit out of the hat whenever his team play Spurs. Whether or not the result in Munich has any bearing on the Arsenal players remains to be seen, but judging by Arsenal teams of the past and also on evidence of this season’s proceedings, the Gunners always tend to be at their best when they are cornered.
Tottenham have been difficult to breach and difficult to beat this term. But getting the better of Arsenal away from home has been their Achilles heel throughout the years. With no Bale-esque influence in their current squad, which is made up of relative unknowns and youngsters, Spurs have a task in their hands to avoid another derby defeat.
See detailed stats and information about Premier League game week 12 here.