The outcome of this weekend’s north London derby on Sunday 4.30pm could lead to a long international break for whoever comes out on the wrong side of it.
After starting the season with wins in games you’d expect them to win, Arsenal were well beaten at Anfield as you’d expect them to be. It might have been easier than facing Burnley for Sokratis, but it certainly wasn’t for Sideshow Bob. Another defeat here will leave Gooners fearing another largely joyless campaign, much like most of the last 15 or so have been.
Things aren’t much better at Spurs. VAR may have bailed them out at Manchester City, but losing to a team owned by Mike Ashley and managed by Steve Bruce isn’t the strongest look. They’re also in the bottom three of the Premier League table for the last 15 matches, which we can all agree is definitely a legitimate thing.
So if local bragging rights until the return fixture in April weren’t enough, the whole outlook of both teams’ 2019/20 seasons could be shaped by the result here.
The good news for the Gunners is Tottenham have a pretty wretched record on their patch. They may have won a League Cup clash at the Emirates last December, but Spurs have won only once in their last 26 league visits to Arsenal, and that was back in 2010.
Poch’s team have only taken one point from their last seven league games on the road too.
But five of the last 10 meetings have been drawn, and Arsenal have the worst record in the big six mini-league over the last three years, only winning six of their 31 matches. With that in mind, I’m going for a stalemate.
Selection: Draw at 5/2.
If you need another omen, Sunday’s referee is Martin Atkinson, and three of the four north London derbies he’s taken charge of have ended all square. After a 1-1, a 3-3 and a 4-4 in the past, can we expect him to oversee a 2-2 here?
Paddy thinks it’s as likely as a 1-0 home win, but I’m expecting a low-scoring match. This fixture may have been a 4-2 home win last season, but that was the exception rather than the norm. Arsenal’s four other home league games against top six opponents under Emery all featured no more than two goals. The same applies to five of the last six clashes between the Gunners and Spurs.
I don’t anticipate a goal frenzy here.
One way in which the ref might hold sway is awarding a penalty. Atkinson has given 13 against Arsenal over the years, which is at least four more than he has given against any other team. As Premier League fixtures go, this one has seen the joint-most spot kicks – alongside games between Everton and Newcastle – and five of the last 14 league goals in north London derbies have come that way.
Whether it’s from the spot or not, Tottenham’s most likely goal grabber is Harry Kane. He has scored nine goals in nine league appearances against Arsenal, only failing to score once. It’s a mightily impressive record, but at what cost? As Spurs have scored 12 goals in those nine matches, you can see it has largely been Kane or nothing in this fixture in the last few years.
No Tottenham man has scored more league goals against the other top sides since the start of last season either, so it’s hard to make a convincing case for anyone else.
Selection: Kane to score at 11/10.
Will this finally be the match where Emery unleashes the trio of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe from the start? The former pair both scored in Arsenal’s last home match, while the new boy had their best chance at Anfield last weekend. Pepe also scored home and away against PSG last season, which is as close as you get to a big game in France.
I’m going for Aubameyang though. He scored twice in this fixture last season, and missed an injury time penalty when they met at Wembley. He’ll be looking to make amends here, and with any luck, Martin Atkinson will help him on his way.
Selection: Aubameyang to score first at 7/2.
*Prices correct at time of publication