Death, taxes and Spurs not winning at the Emirates: these are things that, quite simply, can be counted on. Sure, Spurs have managed to win once at the Emirates in the league, but even the tax system lets a few people away without paying their fair share.
All things considered, there’s only going to be one winner in this weekend’s North London derby, and that’s Unai Emery’s men.
It’s not often your team loses a game and you end up feeling even more confident for the next one, but that’s where the large bulk of Arsenal fans find themselves as we head towards the first NLD of the season. Some might be concerned about getting too ahead of ourselves; that pride, does indeed, come before a fall and that wins over Newcastle and Burnley are nothing to brag about. But at least Arsenal beat Newcastle, which is more than we can say about Spurs – who are supposedly challenging for the title.
Recently, there has tended to be concern among Gooners ahead of this fixture but, for the first time in what feels an age (imagine being Spurs fans and feeling like that for two decades) Tottenham look like the club in shambles while Arsenal are getting – and holding – their shit together. Is that it, then: have Spurs reached their peak, crushed by defeat in a Champions League final they’d no right to be in in the first place? I certainly hope so.
There are, of course, eerie parallels with Arsenal and their Champions League final that came just before a stadium move, unlike Spurs’, which came just after. But Arsenal didn’t have a manager itching to go somewhere else, cocksure of his own ability to win things despite never having won things. Mauricio Pochettino looks and sounds like he realises he’s taken Spurs to the peak of their powers and not even he can get any more out of them.
There were rumours that Poch was off after this game. I didn’t believe them for a minute, even before he dismissed them following a ‘secret’ meeting with Daniel Levy that was the main splash in all the big papers, but the fact is – the rumour existed. Happy is as happy does, and all is not smiley in N17, no matter what Spurs are briefing the media.
Christian Eriksen might play or he might be sold, not that it matters much anyway. In 14 games against Arsenal, the player Spurs fans hail as better than Mesut Ozil has assisted just one goal and scored as many as Bernd Leno has for Arsenal. That’s ‘none’ in case you didn’t follow. Ozil, at least, has one goal and picks up an assist almost every other game (3). Plus, he’s played five games fewer than his counterpart.
Much is said about Arsenal’s defence but it is Spurs’ backline that has the real problems heading into this match.
Jan Vertonghen could return for his first rusty start of the season alongside Serge Aurier. They’ve shipped as many as Arsenal and that was before the Frenchman was drafted in. If Pochettino decides he can’t trust the AC Milan-linked defender, we could well see Moussa Sissoko back there. Against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Unlike Arsenal’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe, who has completed more take-ons than anyone else in the Premier league this season despite only starting one game, Spurs record signing is injured and won’t take any part. As if that wasn’t enough, Spurs also have to contend with VAR, eliminating at least 33% of their xG, a stat previously padded by their dark arts.
15 points from their last 15 games is the record Spurs bring to the Emirates where Arsenal have lost around two games per season for the last five years, usually to clubs from Manchester and/or Liverpool.
In short, it’s safe to say I’m feeling this one.