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Tottenham vs. Arsenal preview: Can Spurs dampen Arteta's title charge?

2M5EN2P 26 Dec 2022 - Brentford v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League - Gtech Community Stadium Tottenham's Harry Kane during the Premier League match at the Gtech Community Stadium. Picture : Mark Pain / Alamy Live News

Tottenham and Arsenal renew hostilities in the Premier League on Sunday in what will be the 172nd league meeting between the North London rivals.

Victory for Mikel Arteta’s side would extend their lead at the summit while denying arch-rivals Spurs the shot at punching their way into the top four, though three points have been hard to come by when Arsenal have been the visiting team in recent derby matches.

Since Spurs returned home to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Arsenal have not managed to claim the bragging rights on three occasions to add to their near nine-year wait for an away win.

They are, however, riding on the crest of six London derby wins out of six so far this season and enter the game with an 11-match unbeaten run.

Spurs on the other hand, with rumours circulating of a potential takeover by Paris Saint Germain’s Qatari owners, have lost five of their last 11 and sit 11 points behind Arsenal.

Their outlook in attack has been boosted by the news that Dejan Kulusevski is back fit from an unnamed muscle injury and available to join Harry Kane in Antonio Conte’s plans.

Two milestones potentially await Kane, who can equal Jimmy Greaves’ all-time goalscorer record for Spurs (266) and is two goals away from becoming only the third player to score 200 Premier League goals – with a chance he does so at an age younger than Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney were during their careers.

What was said in the press conference:

Spurs key player: Heung-min Son

The Spurs forward has faced some criticism over his performances this season with the adulation that came his way in the previous two campaigns falling silent outside of the hat-trick he scored against Leicester back in September.

That 13-minute salvo as a substitute along with a goal on the opening day at home to Southampton leaves Son’s tally for the season sitting at 4. At the same point after 16 appearances in the last two campaigns, Son had scored 12 and 8 goals.

The decline in numbers doesn’t indicate a lack of opportunity when you compare him to Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli, who has outscored Son with 7 goals from a lower xG total of 2.9 to 3.6.

Son’s presence in attack hasn’t been allayed by the ability of his teammates behind him to progress the ball, as he has received the most defensive-line breaking passes (11) and almost matches Kane in completed line-breaking passes received at 30% to 31%.

Arsenal key player: Gabriel

Out of Arsenal’s eight clean sheets thus far in the Premier League, six have come on the road and that is down to their centre-back pairing of Gabriel and William Saliba.

Among players in his position, Gabriel (204) is second only to Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu (227) in challenges recorded and contested 49 more than Saliba.

The Brazilian has also been difficult to expose positionally and boasts the best net position grading of the centre-backs expected to feature in the North London derby at -7.0. A figure better than Saliba’s -9.5 and Eric Dier’s -7.5. For context, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is resting on -10.5 having played a similar number of minutes and is a player for a top seven team.

Metrics to know from last league meeting (Arsenal 3-1 Spurs, Oct. 1):

  • Goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Aaron Ramsdale did not concede goals deemed saveable. Lloris faced 23 shots and Ramsdale, 7.
  • Arsenal’s Thomas Partey completed 10 line-breaking passes which was double the amount of the next highest. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Eric Dier, William Saliba and Cristian Romero all completed 5.
  • Spurs attempted 12 crosses to Arsenal’s 26, only one cross by Spurs was completed while Arsenal completed 8.
  • Gabriel Jesus (8) and Gabriel Martinelli (5) were the only players to attempt more than 2 dribbles among both teams. Ivan Perisic and Rodrigo Bentancur both led Spurs with 2 dribble attempts.

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