Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal
- Arsenal (42 points) currently sit 5th in the Premier League, one goal behind 4th-placed Southampton on goal differential; third-placed Manchester United are on 43.
- Hosts Tottenham Hotspur (40) currently sit 6th in the PL.
- Arsenal have won just twice at White Hart Lane (2007, 2014) in their last nine tries.
Saturday’s North London Derby (Watch live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra, 7 am ET) pits an in-form Tottenham against an in-form Arsenal as Arsene Wenger’s side aim to run their streak of finishing ahead of Spurs in the Premier League to a staggering 20th-straight season (beginning in 1995-96).
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Six wins and a draw over each of their last eight Premier League games sees Spurs and Arsenal come into Saturday’s showdown riding identical hot streaks and both, as ever, eyeing a place in the Premier League’s top four and UEFA Champions League qualification.
Spurs nabbed a 1-1 draw away to Arsenal back in September after holding a 1-0 lead for nearly 20 minutes in the second half, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s equalizer in the 74th minute denied Spurs a famous away win. Nacer Chadli scored for Spurs on that day.
Following a slow start in the months of September (0-2-1 in PL play) and October (1-0-2), Mauricio Pochettino has overseen a serious uptick in form in recent weeks as his Spurs side reached the final of the Capital One Cup last week, smashed London rivals and PL leaders Chelsea 5-3 on New Year’s Day and risen from eighth to sixth in the league table.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
Academy product Harry Kane has become the club’s golden boy over that span, scoring six league goals (10 all season, to lead Spurs) in his last eight starts, including two plus an assist against Chelsea. Kane signed a new five-year contract on Monday and spoke on Friday of his aim to spend his entire career at Spurs.
Star summer signing Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s unquestioned player of the season after scoring 12 league goals in 21 appearances. The 26-year-old has set up seven more in PL play, making his presence in the team borderline irreplaceable.
Arsenal will perhaps be without Sanchez, however, according to Wenger on Thursday. Wenger left the Chilean’s availability up in the air on Friday. Midfielders Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere are all out, while Danny Welbeck could return and make his 2015 debut.
Meanwhile, Spurs have a largely clean bill of health despite a busy month of January in which Mauricio Pochettino’s side played nine games across all competitions, compared to Arsenal’s five. Midfielder Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria) also returned from Africa Cup of Nations duty this week and will be available on Saturday.
What they’re saying
Mauricio Pochettino, on selection dilemmas with a fully fit squad — “All the players are available and this is a very good thing for us. It’s difficult for me to now pick the 18 players, but it’s better to have that competition. It’s important for all the team to be fit and available for Saturday.”
Arsene Wenger, on the NLD at WHL — “These are two teams fighting very hard to be at the top of the league and it can be a spectacular game. In the derby, the home ground is not too significant at times. It is high commitment, high pace and we just focus on the quality of our game and the quality of our performance, no matter where we play.”
Pochettino’s Spurs have shown a backbone and mental fortitude in recent weeks that teams under previous bosses Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood never had. As the time of year where Spurs typically wilt under the pressure approaches, they’re the best version of themselves to date. Spurs 2-1 Arsenal.