North London derbies are always feisty encounters but today’s clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will have an extra incentive with top spot in the Premier League at stake.
Arsenal and Spurs have both enjoyed flying starts with Mikel Arteta’s table-topping Gunners having won six of their first seven league games – their best start since 2007-08.
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are unbeaten, with five victories and two draws, their equal best start in the Premier League.
However, Spurs will have to overturn a horrid record at their neighbours if they are to leapfrog them and go top, having won at Arsenal only once in their last 29 league visits.
Despite that statistic, Tottenham have swung the balance of power in north London, finishing above Arsenal for the last six seasons having spent the previous 21 ending up below them.
Arsenal had a golden chance to re-assert themselves last season when they were poised for a top-four finish at Tottenham’s expense but a 3-0 capitulation at Spurs in May allowed Conte’s team to sneak above them.
Tottenham have carried the momentum of last season and are now on a 13-match unbeaten streak in the league going back to April even if there is a suspicion that their results so far have been more impressive than some of their performances.
They will travel to The Emirates for the lunchtime kickoff in buoyant mood and with forward Son Heung-min back in form after a 14-minute hat-trick in Tottenham’s 6-2 victory over Leicester City in their last match.
Son had not scored this season before his explosive cameo against Leicester and with Harry Kane already on six goals for the campaign, Arsenal’s defence faces a stern test.
This time last season Arteta’s Arsenal were just turning the corner after a dreadful start, but the Spaniard now looks to have instilled his blueprint on the team.
Striker Gabriel Jesus has been a revelation since joining from Manchester City, scoring four league goals already and helping bring a winning mentality to a young squad while Granit Xhaka looks re-born in Arsenal’s midfield.
Today’s clash will be a tactical battle with Arsenal’s probing, possession-based style up against the counter-attacking thrust of a Tottenham side happy to soak up pressure.
“It’s a specialty of Conte’s. With Son Heung-min now finding form, they could do damage to Arsenal,” former England striker Chris Sutton, now a BBC pundit, said.
If Arsenal win they will preserve top spot after eight games. Any other result means Pep Guardiola’s City can climb to the summit with a win against United on Sunday. – Reuters
Arsenal v Tottenham
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Liverpool v Brighton
Fulham v Newcastle
West Ham v Wolves
Southampton v Everton
Bournemouth v Brentford
Man City v Man United
Leeds United v Aston Villa
Leicester v Nottm Forest