WENGER BIDS TO END DERBY SLUMP AGAINST OUT-OF-SORTS SPURS
Arsene Wenger could reach a most unwanted milestone on Sunday when his side host Tottenham in the first north London derby of the season.
The 67-year-old, celebrating 20 years in charge of the Gunners, has failed to win any of his last four league games against Spurs, with the same fixture last November finishing as a 1-1 draw.
Should Arsenal fail to end Spurs’ unbeaten start to the season, it will be the first time in his career that Wenger has not managed to record a top-flight win over their arch-rivals in five consecutive attempts.
The man who has so obstinately refused to bow down to the Frenchman, Mauricio Pochettino, would simultaneously become the first Spurs boss to go unbeaten in his first five league derbies.
One thing that looks almost guaranteed is goals by the bucket-load. Arsenal have scored in 42 of their last 43 meetings with Spurs; indeed, the visitors’ usually imperious defence has not kept a clean sheet against the Gunners in 14 league meetings.
When you consider that the last time this match kicked off at midday – back in November 2004 – it finished 5-4 to Arsenal at White Hart Lane, it would take a brave individual to back a turgid 0-0 draw.
Spurs captain Hugo Lloris is certainly looking on the pessimistic side, with the 1-0 Champions League loss to Bayer Leverkusen extending their recent run to six matches in all competitions without a win.
“We cannot be in a worse situation. It is difficult to accept that kind of performance from us,” he said.
“We need to learn quickly because there is a big game on Sunday. The derby is always important and we need to forget about this disappointment and be ready.”
Key to Spurs’ chances could be the return of Harry Kane. The England international, who has four goals in three derby games, is has battled back to be fit after missing 10 games with an ankle injury.
“In the last few seasons he has been very important for us and was the top scorer in the league [in 2015-16],” said Pochettino. “It is important for the club, it is very good news and good to have him back. He can help the team.”
For Arsenal – who have won 10 of their last 11 matches, including a stunning comeback victory over Ludogorets on Tuesday – the derby comes at a time when they are brimming with belief.
The Gunners are level on points with Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table – three clear of Spurs in fifth – while places in the Champions League last 16 and EFL Cup quarter-finals have been secured.
Central to that has been Mesut Ozil, who capped a superb run of a form with a sublime solo winner in Bulgaria that even had team-mate Aaron Ramsey struggling for words.
“I was just saying, ‘Shoot, shoot!’ so many times but he kept faking,” Ramsey said after Ozil scored his fourth goal of the group stage – twice as many as Spurs’ whole team have managed in their European campaign.
“Mesut is a quality player and it was a great finish. He was so calm in that situation and it topped off a great evening for us.”
4 – Mauricio Pochettino is undefeated as a manager in his four Premier League north London derbies (W1 D3). Preview. https://t.co/YJhEQX9oBW
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 3, 2016
THE NUMBERS GAME
– Since Mauricio Pochettino took over at Tottenham, they have amassed 154 Premier League points (the 4th highest total), with Arsenal accruing the most (169).
– The team scoring first has failed to win this fixture on 23 occasions, the highest number in Premier League history (15 draws, eight defeats).
– Tottenham are without defeat in their first 10 league games of a season for the first time since 1990-91. However, they eventually finished down in 10th that season.
– Since his debut in 2013-14, Mesut Ozil has provided 12 Premier League assists for Olivier Giroud, more than any other player has managed for a single team-mate in the competition during this period.
– Giroud has scored six goals in his last six Premier League appearances for Arsenal – three of these have been headers. In fact, since his league debut, Giroud has scored the most headed goals in the competition (20).
– Arsenal have averaged 1.59 points per game in November during Arsene Wenger‘s reign at the club; their worst performing month in the Premier League under the Frenchman.
– Tottenham have shipped a league-low five goals this season, with only 10 sides in Premier League history conceding fewer at this stage of a campaign.
“It’s a big home game for us and we have an opportunity to show we have an interesting role to play in this Premier League. What I am focused on is that this is more than the derby.
“There are still some uncertainties over injury because [Kieran] Gibbs has been touched on the shoulder and we don’t know how he’ll respond. There is also some uncertainty over [Santi] Cazorla, [Nacho] Monreal and [Theo] Walcott.
“Discipline is important and we want to be effective in all situations we face. In the derby it is important to keep control of your reaction and to have a strong discipline, because it is part of the effectiveness in these games.
“Normally [Granit] Xhaka is a very composed and calm guy. Sometimes on the field he has a reaction that is a bit impulsive and he knows that. It is not because you talk about that. He has to work on that and keep control of his reactions in the game.”
“You never know if it’s a good or bad time to play. I’ll tell you after the game.
“We’re not in a positive situation, we’ve struggled to win games after beating Manchester City. We need to work hard and try more than before because we’re in a difficult moment.
“You need to be ready to change the dynamic and we have a very good opportunity on Sunday.
“It will be an exciting game for us and for them, too. It will be tough for both teams. It’s a big challenge for them to beat us and for us to win.
“I was very disappointed with the performance on Wednesday. We know we were poor and we cannot play that way against Arsenal. But it’s a completely different competition and it will be a completely different game.”