Preview by Numbers: Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal

White Hart Lane, London
Sunday, October 2
11:00 a.m. EDT, 4:00 p.m. BST
Join us at The Blind Pig! Doors: 10 a.m.
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Stuart Burt and Scott Ledger
    • 4th Official: Anthony Taylor
  • This Match, Last Year: Tottenham 3 - 3 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 69 Arsenal wins, 52 Tottenham wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-L-L-W-L-W
  • Tottenham's League Form: W // L-L-W-W-W
It's nice to win three straight. But that will mean nothing
without a win on Sunday. Photo: Daily Mail.
It's been an okay two weeks since the calamity at Ewood Park for Arsenal. Nothing particularly brilliant, but nothing as equally disastrous. Three wins are three wins, of course. But nobody is calling this team a juggernaut just yet. Far from it. The defense doubts are still there. The nervousness on every set piece is still there. The "here we go again" mentality sparks up too often. The corner has not been turned. But, a win against rival Tottenham would certainly help matters along this weekend and send this team a little more confidently into the next international break.

There are a lot of young players on this team and a lot of new players on this team. This will be the first North London derby for guys like Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Emmanuel Frimpong, Andre Santos if he plays, Gervinho if he's fit, etc. These players have almost all played in big rivalry games with other clubs before. Arteta especially knows the Merseyside derby well. There's no time like the present for these players to make a name for themselves at Arsenal.

It's been a rough start to the season, for sure. It's time to put that all behind and move, as the polarizing new detail on the crest says, forward. And, I'll say what Kieran Gibbs said about this team over a week ago, because this is the perfect occasion for it:

Stand up and be counted, Arsenal.
    Arsenal Squad News

    Out: Koscielny (ankle), Djourou (hamstring), Vermaelen (ankle), Wilshere (paternity leave), Diaby (ankle), Squillaci (calf)
    Doubts: Walcott (knee), Gervinho (thigh), Benayoun (side)

    Well, of the nine players that were listed as "out" injured for Wednesday's Champions League match with Olympiacos, none of them are officially returning for the North London derby. At best, three of those nine players have been moved into the "doubtful" column, in that they could pass late fitness tests and feature.

    Apparently, Theo Walcott (who picked up a knee tweak in added time on Saturday) stands a better chance of passing fit than Gervinho does. Yossi Benayoun could feature for the first time since picking up a side strain in the Carling Cup. Laurent Koscielny, however, failed his fitness test. He had picked up an ankle injury after tangling with Nigel Reo-Coker against Bolton and he will not make the squad this week. Neither will Johan Djourou. Or Sebastien Squillaci, who has returned to training but is nowhere near match fit. Meanwhile, we've had a set back with Tom Vermaelen, too, who will now be out for "two weeks" more than previously expected. So, what does that mean, a few months, in Arsenal talk?

    Archibald John Wilshere.
    Okay, perhaps not.
    Image source.
    Jack Wilshere is the proud father of a baby boy named Archie Jack Wilshere, which is funny, because that's basically two nicknames. I suppose I'll call him Archibald John Wilshere and imagine the baby wearing a monocle or smoking a pipe at all times, or something. Jack Wilshere, is of course, out until about February on paternity leave after surgery on his injured ankle.

    So, what does all of this mean? Alex Song likely continues at center back (Ignasi Miquel has an ankle injury,) part of a back four that still looks increasingly baffled at what to do on corner kicks. Left back remains a toss up between Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos (really, I haven't the slightest idea who Wenger will pick there, every time.) With Song deputizing on the back line, we'll have a question of Emmanuel Frimpong or Francis Coquelin in the holding role. And will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a start if one or both wingers fall their fitness tests? I mean, I waited as long as I could to publish this preview and there's still a lot of unanswerable questions about the potential starting XI, which, after throwing some darts at a board, I predict will be as follows:

    Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Gibbs, Frimpong, Ramsey, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, van Persie.

    Tottenham Squad News

    I imagine there'll be chants about this guy.
    Photo: Sky Sports.
    Out: Gallas (calf), Dawson (Achilles), Huddlestone (ankle)
    Doubts: Lennon (groin)

    If this derby wasn't enticing enough, it's the first North London derby that will see Emmanuel Adebayor wearing white and navy blue. Adebayor was always notorious for scoring against Tottenham, but of the seven prior players who have played for both sides in the derby, only Jimmy Robertson has actually scored for both teams, which he accomplished by scoring for Arsenal in 1968.

    As for Tottenham's injury news, there will not be two former Gunners in their line-up tomorrow, as William Gallas has re-tweaked a calf strain. Their injury list also includes long term injuries to Michael Dawson (who is out of his protective boot) and Tom Huddlestone, who needs ankle surgery. He had also just underwent ankle surgery when these sides met in November.

    Unlike Arsenal, Tottenham has a number of players on the brink of returning (that must be a nice feeling, I wonder what that's like.) Steven Pienaar looks to feature for the first time this season, returning from a groin problem, Danny Rose (who will always be famous in Spurs circles for the wondergoal he scored against Arsenal two years ago) is back from a knee problem, while Nico Kranjcar is returning from a hamstring injury as well.

    Aaron Lennon faces a late fitness test after suffering a relapse of a groin injury in the Europa League against Shamrock Rovers on Thursday. Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp was named Manager of the Month for September.

    Current Form

    A year after losing at the Lane 9-1, Wigan's 1-0 victory
    at White Hart Lane last year was Tottenham's only
    home loss in the league. Photo: Guardian.
    Arsenal have won three straight for the first time since a six match streak in January, a run of form that was snapped by blowing a four goal lead at Newcastle. But, these three victories in the past two weeks have all been at home. The Gunners' away form since that fateful day on Tyneside has been dreadful. Arsenal has won twice away from home in 16 matches dating back to and including that 4-4 draw (the Carling Cup Final loss is also included, despite being at a neutral venue, because it was not at home.) One of those wins was at Udinese in the Champions League. The only league win in the bunch was at relegated Blackpool. So, Arsenal's last 16 matches not at the Emirates: two wins, seven draws, seven losses. This fixture last year occurred during and is included in this run of poor form, meaning Arsenal still travels poorly, even when they don't have to travel very far. I don't mean to be pessimistic here, but the cold, hard numbers hurt.

    Tottenham started the year in 20th after opening with a postponed match against Everton, a 3-0 loss at Manchester United, and a 5-1 loss at home to Manchester City. Since then, they've won three from three, including an impressive 4-0 drubbing of Liverpool. They've also beaten Wolves and Wigan away. Their home matches have, therefore, been a mix this year. They drew Hearts in the Europa League qualifier (but were already playing with a 5-0 aggregate lead after the away leg) and were in a surprise bit of trouble for an hour against Shamrock Rovers Thursday before waking up and winning 3-1. Spurs have been knocked out the Carling Cup as well, though that came away from home, as the fell to Stoke on penalties.

    City's 5-1 win at White Hart Lane was Spurs' first loss at home in the league since losing to Wigan on the same weekend of the season last year. Arsenal's last league win at White Hart Lane was on September 15, 2007.

    Match Facts

    Henri Lansbury leaps into the air after scoring at the Lane
    in the Carling Cup last year. Photo: Daily Mirror.
    There were three North London derbies last season, thanks to the Carling Cup drawing, but while Arsenal won that match at the Lane, the Gunners only took one point from a possible six in league competition and have now gone three league meetings without a win against Spurs.

    In the third round of last year's Carling Cup, Arsenal held a 1-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a goal from Henri Lansbury, but Robbie Keane brought things level in the 49th minute. The match entered extra time tied at 1, but Spurs conceded two penalties in a matter of six minutes, Samir Nasri converted both, and by the 96th minute, it was 3-1 Arsenal. Andrei Arshavin added a fourth in the 105th.

    Arsenal took a 2-0 lead at halftime at the Emirates in November before imploding in the second half. Gareth Bale pinged a goal back, Spurs were level on a penalty conceded on an absolutely stupid handball from Fabregas, and Younes Kaboul had the winner in the 85th.

    Arsenal managed to blow a two goal lead again against Spurs in April, and again, Spurs got their equalizer from the penalty spot. Theo Walcott opened the scoring in the 5th minute, but Spurs were level two minutes later. Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie had Arsenal up 3-1, but Tom Huddlestone got a goal back before halftime and Rafael van der Vaart finished his brace from the penalty spot in the 70th; the match ended 3-3.

    For as dominant as Arsenal had been in this rivalry over the last decade, they have won just once in their last six league meetings. That was 3-0 on Halloween in 2009, when Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas scored 11 seconds of game play apart. Eight of the last 11 derbies at White Hart Lane have ended on level terms.

    The Referee

    Mike Dean tells Arsene Wenger to go stand on that
    platform with his hands out at Old Trafford.
    Recall that his offense was kicking a water bottle.
    Photo: Daily Mail.
    The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean, and please excuse me while I go scream profanities in the corner...


    That's better. I must say, I have not had the highest opinion of Dean since his yellow card extravaganza at Old Trafford in 2009, during which he sent off Arsene Wenger, and made him stand on that ridiculous platform. I might personally dislike him more than Howard Webb and Phil Dowd combined, but that's just me, and here's why:

    Arsenal's track record with Mike Dean is terrible. He took charge of four Arsenal matches last season, in which the Gunners won once, the FA Cup replay at Leeds. The losses? 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, 1-0 at home against Newcastle, and the Carling Cup Final. That's a number of matches I would prefer to forget. Before Nasri's goal against Leeds in that cup replay, Arsenal had gone 443 minutes of playing time (excluding injury time) without scoring a goal in matches with Dean in charge.

    I know a lot of that is probably coincidental, but that's Arsenal's only win with Dean in the middle over the past two seasons. It's one win in 10 for Arsenal with him in charge. That string includes the 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane where Emmanuel Eboue picked up two yellow cards in like five seconds (though, let's be honest, that was Eboue's fault.)

    For Spurs last year, Dean was in charge for a 2-1 win at Fulham, a 1-1 home draw with Chelsea, a 0-0 home draw with Manchester United, a 0-0 home draw with West Ham, and a 1-0 loss at Manchester City. That sounds like a good string of results, up until that draw with the relegated Hammers. The loss at Eastlands ended Spurs hopes for 4th.

    Around the League

    The Merseyside derby has been called "the friendly derby"
    in the past, which I suppose is why these kids aren't
    punching each other in the face. Photo: Guardian.
    The North London derby is the final match in a weekend slate book-ended by local derbies. The weekend kicks off with the Merseyside derby in the early Saturday time slot, as 11th place Everton welcomes 5th place Liverpool to Goodison Park. Everton sits ahead of Arsenal on goal difference, but they, like Tottenham, have a game in hand on the pack thanks to their opening round fixture being postponed by the London riots. Everton sits three points back of Liverpool.

    There's no late Saturday match this weekend, which means there are five games going ahead in the standard 10:00 a.m. time slot. This includes a Manchester City trip to Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City's first match against Manchester United since beating them 2-0 at Carrow Road in 2005. Elsewhere, Aston Villa hosts Wigan, West Brom travels to the Northeast to face Sunderland, and Wolves welcome Newcastle to the West Midlands.

    Three matches take place Sunday before Arsenal and Spurs: Bolton hosts Chelsea at the Reebok in the early game (wow, Bolton really have had a horrible fixture list to start the season), then a West London derby as Fulham hosts Queen Park Rangers, and Stoke City travels to Wales to face Swansea City.