The biggest match to round off the fourth round in the EPL will be played at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon. In it, Arsenal will try to continue their winning streak when playing Tottenham at the Emirates in the EPL to three games in a row. Arsenal won their EPL home match last year 4-2 and did the same two years ago when they defeated their North London rivals 2-0.
Tottenham on the other hand, will try to record their first EPL victory at the Emirates in nine years. Their last triumph at their bitter rivals’ home came in 2010. That was a long time ago and none of Tottenham’s current players have ever tasted victory in the EPL at their rivals’ ground.
Encouraging Performance Against Liverpool
Arsenal have been playing quite well since the season began. The Gunners notched an impressive first round away victory at Newcastle and followed that with a 2-1 win at home against Burnley.
Their toughest test of the season came last week when they played against reigning European champions Liverpool. It was a match which the Gunners were expected to lose and so they did, but their performance was enough to convince their fans that better days are ahead for the North London club.
In that match, the Gunners adapted a strategy of trying to remain solid at the back and hit Liverpool when given the chance. However, that was easier said than done and required the Gunners taking their chances when they came. Unfortunately, Pepe and Aubameyang saw their efforts either saved by Adrian or wide of the post.
If Arsenal’s forwards turned some of these chances into goals, then the result might have been different. However, since they didn’t, it was only a matter of time before Salah and co came knocking at their door.
Poor Away Form Against Top 6 Rivals
That away defeat represented a continuation of what is a terrible run of results when Arsenal play some of their Top 6 rivals away from home. In fact, the last away victory which Arsenal managed to record at the home ground of a Top 6 rival came in January 2015 when they defeated Manchester City away. Since then the Gunners have been winless on their trips to their rivals.
That’s why Unai Emery sent a rallying call to his troops to improve their performances against their direct Top 6 rivals ahead of the match against Spurs. The Spaniard knows that losing against all of your Top 6 rivals means that you will probably be at the bottom of that Top 6 table or even out of it. That’s why he saw it as crucial that his players record a victory against their fiercest London rivals.
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Very Good at Home
Luckily for Emery, Arsenal’s home record against Tottenham is quite impressive as we already said. In fact, their 4-2 triumph last December was one of the performances of the season for Emery’s men. In that match the Gunners were down 1-2 at half time, but managed to things around and win the match courtesy of three second half goals from Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Torreira.
However, it is not just against Tottenham that Arsenal are getting good results at home. One of the traits of Emery’s Arsenal of last season was their very good home form in general. In fact, the Gunners were the team with the third best home record in the league with only the imperious Manchester City and Liverpool having better home form than them.
The Gunners won 14 of their 19 home matches and only lost 2. Something similar is to expected this season as well considering that the Gunners have largely kept their team from last season and have added several quality signings in the Ivorian Pepe, David Luiz, and Kieran Tierney.
Another thing which Unai Emery men may have got going for them in this match is the fact that Pochettino’s Tottenham looks like a different team from that of last season. Spurs’ performances this year have been largely lethargic and there is a feeling of overall apathy among the players when watching them play. It’s almost as if this Tottenham team has achieved everything that it can achieve and now players are looking for a new challenge.
In fact, this Spurs team might have reached its peak without even winning a trophy and last season’s Champions League final appearance may be the biggest accomplishment of this generation of Spurs players.
The End of the Road?
The biggest signal that things are not going the way they are supposed to was Tottenham’s performance against Newcastle last week. The Spurs lost the match 0-1 and at no point during the encounter managed to create anything worthy of mention. They only recorded two shots on goal and despite having 80% possession, they didn’t manage to create even one clear goal scoring opportunity.
And it is not just in the match against Newcastle that this was the problem. The same thing happened in Spurs’ matches against West Ham, Burnley, and Southampton as well. All of these matches took place this year and all of them had one thing in common – lack of motivation from Tottenham players.
This lethargy has been creeping into Pochettino’s team since the start of the year and you would have to go back to last season’s Boxing Day matches to see Spurs as they used to play a couple of years ago.
The deep run in the Champions League which culminated with Spurs appearing in the final only papered over the cracks which were evident to Spurs fans. That run seemed like the one final push that this squad had in itself and now they all seem emotionally and mentally drained.
Picking Fights with Players
Two prime examples of this are Jan Verthonghen and Christian Eriksen. These two players were part of the spine which held Spurs for several seasons and they were instrumental in everything which happened on the pitch.
However, their situation is becoming increasingly more difficult to clarify and even understand for Spurs fans. Most of them are pretty sure that Christian Eriksen wants to leave the club as he probably feels that he has achieved everything that he can achieve with Spurs.
Clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid have long held an interest in the Danish international, but none of them felt compelled to make a concrete move for him this summer. That uncertainty surrounding his future is definitely impacting team moral in a negative way and Mauricio Pochettino’s seems to be quite irked by the whole thing in particular.
The Argentine manager is considered as one of the best in the world, but his heavy handed and disciplinarian approach to management is an accident waiting to happen. We all know how Mourinho only lasts at a club for three seasons because by the time the third season is finished he has already burnt all of his bridges with the players and the team is worse off than when he started his reign. Pochettino’s approach may start to yield similar results.
Since Eriksen expressed his desire for a new challenge and started rejecting new contract offers, Pochettino sidelined him. The situation with Vertonghen is probably similar for all we now. The Belgium international looked far from happy sitting on the bench against Newcastle. And looking at the mistake that Davinson Sanchez made for Newcastle’s goal, you can understand Jan’s frustrations regarding his position in the club right now.
Mauricio has been with Tottenham for quite some time, but it is only now that it seems like players and manager are pulling in different directions. The love affair between Spurs and Pochettino may finally be coming to an end.
Arsenal to Win It
The main benefactor of this whole Spurs lethargy and off-pitch bust-ups will probably be Arsenal this weekend. Tottenham may be at the end of an era, but Arsenal are just starting their journey and seem more motivated than ever to show everyone how good they are.
They will be raring to go against their arch rivals and will know that history and home form are on their side when they face their bitter enemies. The fact that Spurs look lethargic and disinterested at the moment will only help in this regard. Arsenal are going to win this North London derby.