Preview by Numbers: Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal

White Hart Lane, London
Sunday, March 3
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Darren Cann and Simon Beck
    • 4th Official: Andre Marriner
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 5 - 2 Tottenham
  • This Match, Last Year: Tottenham 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 71 Arsenal wins, 53 Tottenham wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-D-W-W-W
  • Tottenham's League Form: D-D-D-W-W-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 9 C / 49 F
It would not be difficult for me to explain, in words, how important this North London derby is for both teams involved. However, I am instead going to do it with numbers, and a chart, because it's more striking that way. I'm pretty sure it should enlarge when you click it.

The chart covers the percentage chance each team will qualify in the top four. On the far left, you see the current situation. Spurs are at 67%, Arsenal are at 53.2%. The second series of bars shows you what happens to the scenario if Arsenal wins; they basically switch. Arsenal's odds improve to nearly 72%, Spurs drops close to 50%. In the third series, if Tottenham wins, Arsenal's odds plummet below 38%, while Spurs will nearly be at 82%. If it's a draw (far right), very little changes.

The magnitude of this six-pointer is right there in the chart. It's a drastic swing in both directions. A match of this importance to the table would be huge anyway, but throw into the mix that it's a derby, and suddenly Sunday is much more than just a football game.

Sunday will define this season for both of these teams, in one way or the other. Or, they'll draw, and it'll define nothing...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sagna (knee), Gibbs (thigh)
Doubts: Diaby (calf)

Bacary Sagna will miss out on the derby on Sunday. Last year
at White Hart Lane, the advertising board broke his leg.

It sounds as if Diaby is on the more likely than 50/50 side to be available with a slight calf problem, but that's not really the big story, since I would not have expected him to start. Then again, Arsene Wenger has been deploying Santi Cazorla on the wing and playing with an extra midfielder, so I don't know what's going on anymore.

The bigger news is that Bacary Sagna is still out with a knee injury he suffered against Bayern Munich. After Sunday, Arsenal have 10 days off before the second leg in Germany, so one hopes Bac will be better by then. In the meantime, boyhood Arsenal fan Carl Jenkinson will get another chance, and you just know he'll want to impress against the hated Spurs.

Wait, doesn't Gareth Bale play on that side? Fuck.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertescaker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott, Giroud.

Tottenham Squad News

Out: Dempsey (calf), Huddlestone (knee), Defoe (ankle), Sandro (knee)
Doubts: Kaboul (knee)

Bale Bale Bale Bale Bale. Bale Bale. Bale Bale Bale. Bale.
Spurs are without American-international-who-is-now-dead-to-me Clint Dempsey for a fortnight with a calf injury. Sandro is out for the season with a knee injury he picked up against QPR in January. Tom Huddlestone has not played since late January with a knee injury. Jermain Defoe last appeared against West Brom earlier this month and left with an ankle injury after 39 minutes.

Younes Kaboul is close to a return; he's been out since August with a knee injury which required surgery.

As for the rest of Spurs' squad news: Bale Bale Bale Bale Bale Bale Bale.

Current Form

Santi Cazorla scored twice last week against
Highlighter Fashion Disaster F.C.
Arsenal's form has been all over the map in February, much like it was last season. Arsenal went through the month of February last year moderately unfazed in the league, but they crashed out of the FA Cup to Sunderland and lost 4-0 in Milan, which put a damper on things. This year, they've won four of five in the league, but crashed out of the FA Cup to Blackburn and lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich. It's basically the same exact situation. And at that stage last year, Arsenal beat Tottenham 5-2 to emphatically turn things around. The similarities are eerie.

As for Spurs, you may or may not have realized that they are unbeaten in 11 league games dating back to December. They also lost to Leeds United in that span, but I digress; we're talking about the league here. After losing to Everton on December 9, Spurs have won seven league games, drawn four, and lost none. The list of teams beaten, however, isn't particularly impressive: Swansea, Villa, Sunderland, Reading, West Brom, Newcastle, and West Ham. They've drawn Manchester United in this span, but they've also drawn QPR, Norwich, and Stoke. However, 11 games unbeaten is an impressive run, no doubt about it.

Match Facts

Let's aim for this again, shall we?
Since Arsenal's last trip to White Hart Lane, these two sides have met twice at the Emirates, with Arsenal winning both by a 5-2 scoreline. You'll remember those stories well, no doubt. Earlier this year, Spurs went ahead early but were reduced to ten men after a red card to Emmanuel Adebayor. Arsenal then scored four straight before Spurs pulled one back. The Gunners added a final goal in injury time for good measure, just so they could duplicate the now famous scoreline from last year's match at the Emirates.

You'll remember that story well too, I'm sure. Spurs went ahead 2-0 and were coasting as they suspected they would widen that gap they kept telling us to mind. Then, a booming Bacary Sagna header and Arsenal were back in it, level by halftime. Tomas Rosicky put Arsenal ahead in the second half, then Theo Walcott scored his patented goal (under the keeper's arm and into the far corner from the right wing) twice to make it 5-2.

Arsenal's record at the Lane has not been so peachy in recent years. More often than not, the games at the Lane ended in draws during the Wenger era. Arsenal's 2-2 draw there in 2004 won the league for the Invincibles (even if Spurs drew the match via a late penalty.) That match made it four straight league derbies at the Lane that ended level. Arsenal won the next league meeting there 5-4 in November of 2004. Then, three more draws across all competitions, before a 3-1 Arsenal win in September of 2007. Spurs won a Carling Cup semi-final second leg 5-1 in January of 2008, then drew 0-0 in the league there in 2009 (famous for Eboue being sent off within 37 minutes.) That match, by the way, is the start of Arsenal's poor record with Mike Dean, but that's another story. Spurs then won 2-1 in April of 2010 (that's covered below, as the referee was the same that day,) then lost 4-1 in extra time in the Carling Cup in September, drew 3-3 in April of 2011, and won last year 2-1.

So, after all of that, what it amounts to is that Arsenal have not won a league game at White Hart Lane since the 3-1 in September of 2007. Adebayor scored twice.

The Referee

Sassy Face.
The referee is Tyne & Wear-based Mark Clattenburg.

A brief aside: at the pub on Saturday during the Villa match, there was a brief conversation about how bad Arsenal's record is with Mike Dean in the middle (regular readers of this blog feature will know how often I highlight it.) At that moment, I (the go-to guy for referee facts) was asked with which referee Arsenal have the best record, since their record is clearly worst with Dean. I responded with Mark Clattenburg and we've been rewarded with him for the North London derby, perhaps as a test for my judgment.

Arsenal have lost with Clattenburg against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the past; that happened in April of 2010. You may recall Danny Rose, something something something. But, after that match, Arsenal then went on a seven match winning streak with Clattenburg in the middle. That streak was snapped by Michu and Swansea City at the Emirates in December, but was perhaps restarted against Michu and Swansea City at the Emirates in January. So, Arsenal have won eight of their last nine matches with Clattenburg in the middle. The only referee trend Arsenal have that's better right now is that they've never lost at home with Howard Webb, but that was relevant in the reverse fixture.

As for Tottenham's record with Clattenburg since that April 2010 evening, they have won five of seven, including one match this year (against West Brom.) At the end of last season, Clattenburg was in the middle of a damaging 1-0 Spurs loss at QPR in which Spurs could not find an equalizer against ten men after Adel Taarabt (the goalscorer) was sent off. Back in October of 2010, he also screwed over Tottenham at Old Trafford, allowing Nani to score from a live ball while Spurs believed it was their free kick.

Around the League

There is no early game on either Saturday or Sunday this week. Sky Sports is airing Scottish Cup quarter-finals in those time slots.
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Reading; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Norwich City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Queens Park Rangers; St. Mary's, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. West Ham United; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Fulham; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Newcastle United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Wigan Athletic v. Liverpool; DW Stadium, Wigan
  • Monday (night): Aston Villa v. Manchester City; Villa Park, Birmingham