Hello, thanks for joining, Alan Tyers here for the Tottenham vs Arsenal blog and without further ado, here is my esteemed colleague Sam Dean to set the tone for you.
Amid all his usual derby week game prep, Mikel Arteta has been trying to answer some tough questions: why is the away team struggling so much in this game and what can its players do this weekend to end that curse? ?
The use of the word “curse” may seem a bit dramatic, but the statistics are certainly striking. Since the turn of the century, only four away wins have been achieved in North London derbies in the Premier League. Since the beginning of 2010, there are only two. They have been gone since spring 2014.
Yes, eight full seasons have passed since Arsenal won at Tottenham Hotspur in the league. And in addition, it is now 11 seasons since Spurs claimed three points at Arsenal.
What is going on here? Arteta’s first reaction, as a former Arsenal player who has experienced the intensity of these games (he played in Arsenal’s 1-0 win at White Hart Lane in 2014, their last league win there), was to point to the atmosphere during the games.
“There’s definitely something there,” he said. “The atmosphere has an input and influences the game in a certain way. I’ve been going through some of them over the past few days to understand why that happens. It is difficult to draw conclusions, but the atmosphere is important.”
However, there must be more to it than that. After all, there are plenty of other passionate derbies in the Premier League, and plenty of other matches where the stadium atmosphere is aggressive and hostile.
Arteta’s second theory is perhaps the most convincing. “You have to see where both teams are at that moment,” he said.
This is certainly the most important point. Not only are North London derbies hugely important for local bragging rights. They are more than that. They have also often been extremely important in recent years in the wider context of the entire campaign.
For many seasons, Arsenal and Spurs have been battling for the same positions in the league. And over the past four years, they’ve averaged just two points apart at the final table.
Indeed, since the summer of 2018, Arsenal have won 89 games and accumulated 300 points in the Premier League. In that same time, Spurs also won 89 games, good for 296 points. These two parties are not only located in the same location, but were actually on the same level.
All this makes this season, and this weekend’s derby, even more exciting for Arteta and Arsenal. Because this year the two teams were not at the same level at all. It’s Arsenal that accelerate away, so much so that victory on Sunday would put them 14 points ahead of their fiercest rivals.
If now isn’t the time for Arsenal to claim that elusive away win at White Hart Lane, when will it be? This is their best team in years, and the back four look to represent the most resilient defense they’ve put together since that last away win in 2014.
If Arsenal produce their best football, they should win the game. But the recent history of these derbies shows that other factors can get in the way, and other pressures can cloud the mind on days like this.
The last meeting at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in May, provided ultimate proof of how the derby can rattle visiting players. In a straight shootout for fourth place, Arsenal traveled to Spurs knowing a win would cement their spot in the Champions League. They quickly crumbled, first losing their heads and then losing the game.
Arteta’s hope is that this season’s Arsenal are better equipped to handle the occasion. “She [the players] are definitely more mature,” he said. “What I would say is it’s an incredible dressing room. A pleasure to work with, every day. Some of the things we’ve done together I’ll probably never be able to do with another team and another group.”
A win at Spurs, and another major step forward in the title race, would be one of the group’s most significant achievements to date. It would be a sign of how much they’ve grown, and indeed how quickly the balance of power in North London is shifting.