When Arsenal and Tottenham last faced each other at the Emirates in the Premiership last February, Spurs took an early 2-0 lead through goals by Louis Saha and former Gunner, Emmanuel Adebayor; a result that, had it stood, would have given them a 13 point lead over their North London rivals in the race for Champions League qualification. However, goals from Bacary Sagna and Robin Van Persie before the break, then one from Tomas Rosicky and a brace from Theo Walcott turned the game – and ultimately the season – on its head. Arsenal won the match, 5-2, then proceeded to overtake Tottenham in the table, eventually finishing third and ahead of their neighbours for the
four hundred and twenty-sixth seventeenth consecutive season. Heading into this weekend’s derby, Spurs once again find themselves above Arsene Wenger’s men in the league, as the sides sit seventh and eighth, with a single point separating them thus far.
After a strong start, Arsenal have found themselves in something of a rut and last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Fulham means they have only won one of their last four games, that victory coming against Queens Park Rangers at home. On Saturday, the Gunners took an early two goal lead against Martin Jol’s team, with goals from summer signings Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, but headers from Dimitar Berbatov and Alex Kacaniklic had the visitors back level before the break. Following a foul on Bryan Ruiz in the box by Mikel Arteta in the 67th minute, Berbatov gave Fulham the lead from the penalty spot, but it was only to last for a couple of minutes before Giroud got his second of the game. With the game finely balanced, it was shocking to see many of the Arsenal fans streaming towards the exit prior to the final whistle, a decision which meant that they, like Arteta, missed a last-minute penalty the home side were generously given, after the ball had struck Sascha Riether’s arm in the box.
Tottenham went into their game last Sunday away to Manchester City, on the back of a defeat at home against Wigan and Andre Villas-Boas decided to switch his starting line-up around, preferring Adebayor up front to the club’s top-scorer this season, Jermain Defoe. AVB’s decision was perhaps inspired by the Togolese frontman’s proclamation that he was inspired to perform against his former team, though it really should have confirmed his previous choice to start with Defoe leading the line, who has tried his best in every game thus far, regardless of the opposition. As it was, Adebayor barely registered a shot in anger during the match, though Spurs did take the lead – albeit against the run of the play – when Steven Caulker headed in Tom Huddlestone’s free-kick, but he was helped by poor goalkeeping by Joe Hart (who then put in poor performance for England against Sweden in midweek, though his poor headed clearance did lead to this wonder-goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his fourth of the night). City were not rattled by being behind, however and continued to press, eventually finding their reward through Sergio Aguero and – inevitably – the substitute, Edin Dzeko. Things do not get particularly easier for Tottenham after the North London derby – their next league fixtures are a grudge match against West Ham and then Liverpool at White Hart Lane, followed by away trips to Fulham and Everton – so it is crucial for them to avoid a third consecutive loss this weekend.
Manchester United maintained their two point advantage over City at the top of the Premier League table, though they were forced to do it the hard way, coming from 2-0 down away at Aston Villa to ultimately win the game, 3-2. Two goals from Javier Hernandez, who also took the shot that led to an own goal by Ron Vlaar, helped United stretch their unbeaten run at Villa Park, which dates all the way back to 1995, when youngsters David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes were all blooded by Sir Alex Ferguson, leading pundit Alan Hansen to (incorrectly) predict that he would “never win anything with kids”. The leaders just two weeks ago, Chelsea now find themselves in third place and three points behind United, after a second consecutive 1-1 draw, this time against Liverpool. The Blues were boosted by the return from suspension of John Terry, and the former England defender opened the scoring with a powerful header inside the first 20 minutes. However, before half-time Terry was forced out of the game with a knee injury, after Luis Suarez had fallen on him having been pushed by Ramires, though subsequent scans have shown no significant damage and the Chelsea captain is expected to return within weeks, rather than months. As he had done against Newcastle the week before, it was Suarez who again earned Liverpool a share of the points, heading in from close range in the 73rd minute to stretch Chelsea’s winless run to three games and leave them below the two Manchester clubs in the table.
Sunderland had been 1-0 up away at Everton – including getting a goal from someone (Adam Johnson) who was not Steven Fletcher or an opponent for the first time all season – but strikes from Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic gave the Toffees the win and maintained their position in the top four. Southampton also scored first against Swansea at St. Mary’s, but ultimately had to settle for a 1-1 draw, as last weekend saw teams throw away more leads than Battersea Dogs Home. Arsenal, Fulham, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Tottenham, Chelsea and Southampton were all ahead at some point in their matches, but each of the seven ultimately failed to secure all three points. The other fixtures included an impressive 1-0 away win for West Ham against Newcastle; Stoke beat winless QPR by the same scoreline at the Britannia; West Brom continued their strong start with a 2-1 victory at Wigan; while Reading and Norwich played out a goalless encounter in Berkshire.
Alongside the North London derby this weekend, fixtures include Wigan’s trip to Liverpool; Manchester City host Aston Villa; Manchester United travel to Norwich; Swansea travel to Newcastle; and 5th plays 3rd at the Hawthorns, as West Brom take on Chelsea. The bottom two meet at Loftus Road as QPR entertain Southampton, a loss for either side could spell the end for either manager, Mark Hughes or Nigel Adkins; Reading continue the search for their first win of the campaign, this time they have a home contest against Everton; while Sunderland and Stoke are both in London to play Fulham and West Ham respectively.
Last week, 5-5; Season 47-60
Arsenal vs Tottenham – Home win
Liverpool vs Wigan – Home win
Manchester City vs Aston Villa – Home win
Newcastle vs Swansea – Home win
QPR vs Southampton – Home win
Reading vs Everton – Away win
West Brom vs Chelsea – Draw
Norwich vs Manchester United – Away win
Fulham vs Sunderland – Home win
West Ham vs Stoke – Draw