Spurs coach, Clive Allen pushes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger out of the way during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane last season. Spurs and Arsenal play in the North London Derby on Sunday, October 2, 2011.
For the first time in years, footballing supremacy is at stake in Sunday's North London Derby.
The North London derby has a merited reputation for providing an exciting game of football. Last season's editions saw a 3-3 draw in this fixture and a come-from-behind 3-2 win for Spurs at the Emirates. Last season's aggregate victory for Tottenham Hotspur, saw them cement a recent trend of reversing Arsenal's historic primacy in this fixture (Younes Kaboul's late winner at the Emirates sealed Tottenham's first away win over Arsenal for seventeen years).
This season's round of fixtures have added significance, both tangible and intangible. It looks like the very tangible prize of fourth place and Champions League qualification will be fought between these two sides (and Liverpool). The intangible question of local supremacy also feels, for the first time in years, as though it is genuinely at stake on Sunday.
Since their 5-1 defeat to Manchester City at the end of August Tottenham have enjoyed a run of four wins and two draws in all competitions, including an impressive 4-0 victory over a disjointed Liverpool in their last Premier League outing at White Hart Lane. Supplemented by the additions of Scott Parker and Emanuel Adebayor (whoalways scores in this fixture), Spurs look every bit the top-4 contenders they should have been last season.
Arsenal's starting eleven is more significantly altered since their made-in-Manchester humbling, and their recovery has been more unstable than that of their rivals as a result. Although three successive victories suggest an upturn in fortunes, fans remain unconvinced - especially since these victories came over the more modest challenges posed by Shrewsbury Town, Bolton Wanderers and Olympiakos, at home - and will recall the calamitous defending that led to Alex Song and Laurent Koscielny scoring own-goals in Arsenal's 4-3 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
While Arsenal did a good job of beating themselves at Ewood Park, their efforts were supplemented by Blackburn's ability to exploit the space behind the Arsenal full-backs, especially Andre de Santos who has yet to convince of his defensive qualities, with quick wide players complimented by the strong forward play of Yakubu. Given that Tottenham will look to play the same way, with the parts of Martin Olsson and Yakubu being played by the significantly more threatening Gareth Bale and Adebayor, Arsenal fans have good reason to worry that Tottenham will prove too much for their still fragile defense to contain.
The issue of fourth place will not be decided on Sunday; the spirit that pervades football in North London, though, could be about to make its first significant change of the Premier League era.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal
Time: 4:00 pm BST, 11:00 am EST
Venue: White Hart Lane, London, England
TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK), Fox Soccer Channel (USA), Setanta Sports (Canada)
We'll have live coverage of Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal and all of this week's other Premier League matches in our English Premier League Week 7 StoryStream. For more on the Gunners, check out Arsenal blog The Short Fuse. For more on the Lilywhites, head over to Tottenham Hotspur blog Cartilage Free Captain. For more on the entire world of football, head over to SB Nation Soccer.