Arsenal Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2012 Premier League: Preview, This Means A Lot More To The Gunners

One man will be calm, the other not so much

"It means more to Arsenal than us." Huh, Jermain Defoe is right. The idea that a North London Derby means more to the Gunners than it does to Tottenham is downright strange, but this is a strange, strange time.

Spurs enter Sunday's match against Arsenal undefeated in their last five matches and also riding a nice little streak against their rivals, having not lost a league match to them since Halloween 2009. They are third in the table, 10 points clear of Arsenal and Chelsea and two times closer to second place than their London rivals are to them. It's a good time to be a Spur.

North London Derbies used to be an opportunity for Tottenham to ruin the fortunes of the Gunners and grab bragging rights, if only for a little while, but that's no longer the case. In the last two years, matches against Arsenal were chances for Spurs to prove that they are level with Arsenal and finally ready to compete with their neighbors, but that's no longer the case either.

There is no doubt now that Tottenham are the dominant team in North London. In a talk with BBC Sport, former Arsenal full back Lee Dixon called it a "gradual shift of power over the last few seasons." It has actually reached this point - this match doesn't mean that much to Spurs.

A loss to Arsenal and Spurs are still seven points clear of fourth place, which is also known as the same distance between Tottenham and first place. The title is out of reach to scratch that off the possibilities list and getting caught by Arsenal AND Chelsea - which is what it would take to miss out on the Champions League - is so unlikely that it is eye gouge inducing. The Champions League is there and the title isn't. This match doesn't change that. So exactly what does this match mean to Spurs?

On the flip side, you have Sunday shaping up as possibly the turning point in their battle with Chelsea for fourth place. To get three points from the third place team and their rivals would be a huge boost to Arsenal. It would not erase their embarrassment in Milan, but it would be a big step towards righting the ship for at least this season.

Over in West London, the Gunners' competition for fourth place are in a CRISIS of their own. The day before the derby at the Emirates, the Blues will host Bolton and merely winning won't cut it. Chelsea needs to thrash Bolton to make a statement and stabilize things for a bit. If that does not happen on Saturday and Arsenal win on Sunday - with the remaining Arsenal-Chelsea match set for the Emirates - then this weekend becomes when the Gunners turned the race for fourth sharply in their favor.

Dixon summed up how important this weekend's match is for the Gunners pretty succinctly: "This is the most important derby in Arsene Wenger's 16 years as Arsenal manager."

That's where Arsenal stands and on a day that really doesn't mean that much to Spurs. Strange, strange times indeed.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT. This is the North London Derby. The table can go do something to itself that is not suitable for children. Of course this matters to Spurs. Stretch that league streak over the Gunners to three years. Embarrass them. Make the Emirates Tottenham territory and send the Gunners back to Woolwich.

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