It’s North London Derby day, y’all. Arsenal vs. Tottenham. Red vs. White. Mikel Arteta vs. Jose Mourinho. Good vs. Evil. Every NLD has a “must win” feel because of the rivalry, but there is particular importance on today’s match because a loss to Spurs pretty much dooms the Gunners to finishing behind their rivals this season. It’s been too long without a St. Totteringham’s Day. I’m ready for another.
Reminder for U.S. fans: we sprang forward last night, so make sure you’ve changed your clocks and you don’t miss the start of the match by an hour.
When the two clubs met back in early December, Arsenal were in the midst of their prolonged run of terrible form and a scoring drought. Tottenham, in contrast, were one point off the top and winning matches. We all knew they were playing typical Jose Mourinho football — bunker in, look for chances to counter, capitalize on those chances. We knew it was Harry Kane to Son Heung-Min on the counter. And Arsenal still got done by that twice.
Both teams look quite different from the sides that met a few months ago. Arsenal are playing extremely well; they’ve had their season-best xG difference over the past 10 matches. Tottenham, who had suffered the regression most people expected (they were essentially skating by on low chance creation, unsustainably high chance conversion), look rejuvenated with Gareth Bale as a regular starter and Dele Alli out of the doghouse. Turns out that when you play your better, more attacking-minded players, you create more chances and score more goals.
I actually fancy Arsenal’s chances more against the freer-flowing, attacking Tottenham setup than I do the usual, park-the-bus and counter Mourinho dreck. I expect there to be plenty of chances today for both sides, and we could see something like a 3-2 scoreline. Hopefully Arsenal don’t do their usual “gift the opposition a goal” thing. It’s become more than tiresome.
Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho have almost a full roster of players available for selection. Emile Smith Rowe, who had been dealing with a hip issue, got a run out in the Europa League and could return to the starting lineup today. Spurs’ Giovani Lo Celso is the only player who’ll miss out due to injury. Harry Kane, who was icing his knee after coming off in the midweek, is expected to play. As if he was ever going to miss out.
I’ll spare you the Harry Kane NLD-scoring stats. They’re gruesome. He loves a goal against Arsenal. Gareth Bale has six goals and three assists in his last seven appearances.
The Gunners are winless in five straight against Spurs, and Tottenham have a chance to make it three straight wins against Arsenal for the first time since 1974. Spurs have won their last five matches. Arsenal are unbeaten in four and unbeaten (7-3-0) in their last 10 matches at the Emirates.
Should be a good one.
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