Match Preview: Arsenal Go Looking for Some Much Needed Derby Delight
The biannual meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham kicks off this weekend, renewing the best derby in the English game. It pits the beauty and class of Arsenal against the dire dank features of our less classy neighbours.
Before anyone says anything, Tottenham was set up as a parish in Middlesex in 1875. They were reconstituted as an urban borough (also Middlesex) in 1934. And finally, in 1963 it became part of the larger London borough of Haringey. The point? Arsenal were a north London club before Tottenham.
Why does that matter you ask? Because this Sunday, as it is with every match up, local pride is on the line. Bragging rights are at stake. In the day and age of global football the local derby is the only remnant of classic English football – and this is the best of the lot.
Beyond that it pits Arsenal vs Tottenham. Jose vs Arsenal (and Arteta). It is the north London derby.
Scouting José’s Tottenham
José Mourinho is the antithesis of the total-football manager. His brand of football is only focused on one thing – points and for José it doesn’t matter how he gets there. It is at its purest, win by margins.
It would be a misnomer to say he only does it by parking the bus. Yes, his overall style lacks creativity and fluidity the purists of the game love. But his teams do tend to get goals, at least recently.
The book on Spurs is pretty well known, they don’t have the creativity in the midfield, so their primary source of chances and goals come from crosses from the wide areas, utilising both early and late crosses. We all know the danger man is Harry Kane and he has a penchant for goals against Arsenal.
Collectively, you would call their overall play unattractive but they have individual talent with the likes of Moura and Lamela who are both comfortable on the ball and willing to drive into space. Additionally, they are featuring a coming into form Gareth Bale and well, then there is the Korean kid, Son who has been known to put some goals past an Arsenal goalkeeper.
In our last match up, the game was won in transitions. And this is where Tottenham under Jose Mourinho are their most dangerous. Especially as they transition into a counter attack, where their first instinct is to drive into the central spaces and combine with the forwards, either Kane or Son.
Arsenal are a team who ideally want to control the midfield. It was one of the reasons Smith Rowe and Ødegaard were brought into the squad. But against Spurs they might find a formidable duo that should cause them to rethink how they will attack.
In the Tottenham midfield, José has two players in Ndombele and Højbjerg who are more than capable of forcing turnovers. With Arsenal’s weekly consistency of technical errors, trying to play through them might prove to be a bit dangerous.
Arteta might consider forgoing the midfield and looking to play primarily through the wide channels. Tottenham like to play with both full-backs high and, well, Eric Dier isn’t the fastest person on the pitch. Ideally, Arteta should be looking to create situations where he can get a player in 1v1 duels with Dier.
Perhaps though the best way to beat Spurs is by forcing them to react to Arsenal. Spurs enjoy being in front and dictating a match. They want to play on their own terms. If Arsenal can manage to maintain the rigidity and focus in their defensive set up and disrupt any central passes (Partey) its likely Arsenal can force them to react to Arsenal rather than letting us win the ball.
Essentially, force Tottenham to solve puzzles. Without a real playmaker they’d be hard pressed to just break us down. They want to run at us and if we deny them that opportunity, they become more reactionary than proactive in terms of determining the style of play.
Figuring out how the match will play out is irrelevant here. Even the scouting information may seem a bit too much because it is after all a derby and all the stats and all the prognostication goes out the window when these matches are played.
There hasn’t been much joy in the north London derby in recent years as Arsenal transition and reform themselves. But a mentally strong performance against the noisy neighbours would go a long way to making a difficult season feel so much better.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“I played in some magnificent [north London derbies] because we won some beautiful games against them,” our manager said.
“The most important one was probably at the Emirates when we made a huge comeback after going down.
“I remember the atmosphere that day was rocking, and just feeling that the fans were so happy was emotional.”
“The last game, we started really well, we were dominant and the first time they went over the halfway line they scored,” he said. “That’s the quality, they are a well-organised team, a big threat in every counter-attack situation, great individuals skills and great organisation.
“You can see the team fights and believes absolutely in what the manager’s ideas are, so it will be a really tough game.”
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)
57P 20W 14L 23D
Average Goals For
Arsenal 1.23 (home)
Tottenham 1.62 (away)
Average Goals Conceded
Arsenal 1.08 (home)
Tottenham 1.08 (away)
Average xG (all competitions)
Arsenal 1.49 (opponents avg 1.26)
Tottenham 1.82 (opponents avg 1.19)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Bart, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Kevin Friend
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Lee Betts
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won just two of their past seven league fixtures, and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their previous six.
- The Gunners have lost five Premier League home games this season, their highest total since suffering six defeats in 1994-95.
- Mikel Arteta could become the first Arsenal manager to lose his first three north London derbies.
- Arteta is winless in all eight of his Premier League matches as a player or manager against José Mourinho.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored six goals in four Premier League starts – he netted just three times in his first 16 league starts this season.
- Arsenal have only been beaten in two of their past 35 home league games against Tottenham (W19, D14), losing 3-2 at the Emirates in November 2010 and 3-1 at Highbury in May 1993.
- Spurs are vying to complete a top-flight double over the Gunners for the first time since the 1992-93 season. They can claim three consecutive league wins in this fixture for the first time since 1974.
- Arsenal are winless in their previous five league and cup games against Tottenham (D2, L3) – they have never gone six matches without a victory against their north London rivals.
Editor note: Special thanks to Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst) for his excellent overview on Tottenham’ s tactics and batting back and forth how Arsenal could attack them with me. If you’re not following him or reading his analysis, you don’t know what you’re missing. – DAG.