Lewis Ambrose·24 September 2023
Lewis Ambrose·24 September 2023
Given Tottenham’s record in this fixture and the respective ambitions of the two north London clubs, anything less than a north London derby win is a disappointment for Arsenal whenever the game takes place at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners are eyeing another Premier League title challenge as they welcome Tottenham on Sunday. Tottenham are just happy to have a bit of optimism around the place (optimism brought about by good results and good football) following a difficult couple of seasons.
Follow the Seven Sisters Road north-east and the story of this fixture is a different one, with Arsenal’s win last season their first for almost a decade when not hosting this fixture in the league.
But Spurs’ record in N7 (née N5) is not one they will want any reminding of: they haven’t won a Premier League north London derby away from home since 2010 and you have to go back to 1993 for their last league win at Arsenal before that.
Add the fact that they finished 24 points behind the Gunners last season and then lost Harry Kane in the summer, you may expect dark clouds to be hanging over the club right now but Ange Postecoglou has brought an Australian summer with him since moving from Celtic to take the place in the dugout left vacant by the sacking of Antonio Conte last season.
Tottenham have 13 points from their opening five Premier League games, winning four on the bounce since an opening weekend draw at Brentford, they have a new hero in James Maddison, and they are playing exciting, front-footed football following the drab reigns of Nuno Espírito Santo, José Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
Those three managers took a Tottenham side to the Emirates Stadium once each during their tenures, losing 2-1, 3-1 and 3-1. Now it’s Postecoglou’s turn and one thing is for sure: he will not be taking the same defensive, backs to the wall approach as his predecessors.
“In terms of the way we play, we’re not changing, mate,” the 58-year-old told a reporter on Friday. “We’ll go out and scare the life out of them.”
It’s some statement, especially considering Spurs enter a north London derby without Harry Kane — the all-time top scorer in meetings between the two clubs – for the first time since he marked his first derby appearance with a match-winning brace all the way back in February 2015.
And it will be particularly interesting if Arsenal’s 4-0 demolition of PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in midweek did nothing to change Postecoglou’s mind. Even in the Champions League with Celtic the former Australia boss did stick to his guns and look to keep the ball, press high, play out from the back.
And that could serve Tottenham well when they have possession on Sunday, firing the ball forward and looking to move into space, but their pressing will have to be spot on if they are to avoid feeling the effects of such an open approach at the other end of the pitch.
After last season’s exploits, Arsenal have almost exclusively come up against sides who are more keen to sit back and keep a tight shape this season, wary of who Arteta’s side can slice through them if they press high and don’t quite get things right.
PSV were the exception in midweek and Arsenal relished the opportunity to attack at speed and break into space; Gabriel Jesus looked electric on his return to the starting line-up and everything seemed to click.
Knowing Postecoglou, though, that won’t even give him pause for thought. His teams will go out and play his way. If it works in the derby, the already-loud hype surrounding the Tottenham’s impressive new boss will blow the roof off of the Premier League. If it doesn’t, it could be a humbling defeat and a first real setback in his young tenure.
Tottenham are flying high right now but as they go into a game under Postecoglou as real underdogs for the first time, there is both no pressure but also the pressure to show the performances to date were worth the early season excitement. For Arsenal it’s all about three points. One way or another, one side of north London is going to be left very disappointed when the weekend comes to a close.