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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal Preview: An uncomfortable reality

The vibes are much different on the opposing sides of North London.

Arsenal FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

No way to hide it, the power is shifting in North London. While it is Tottenham Hotspur who has finished higher in the table the past six (!!) seasons — which has featured five Champions League appearances to just its rival’s one — the reign of prosperity seems to be ending; Arsenal now sits atop the entire table nearly halfway into the season, and Spurs have some work to do to just make the top four.

Obviously, there is still plenty of season to go, but it does feel like this might be the end of one (shorter) era and the beginning of the next. Spurs continue to deal with managerial unhappiness and transfer frustrations while Arsenal’s young squad looks set for a sustained period of quality play.

The narratives on and off the pitch will be plentiful Sunday, but the simple truth is that Tottenham just needs a win, to both validate that there is good yet to come from this season and to delay the full ascent of Arsenal. A victory for the home side still leaves a sizable gap between the bitter rivals, but a defeat would feel pretty ominous for how this year ends up, even in January.

Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 33pts) vs. Arsenal (1st, 44pts)

Date: Sunday, January 15
Time: 11:30 am ET, 4:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: Peacock Premium (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Just about everything has gone right for Arsenal this season, with the club sitting second in goals scored, goals allowed, and goal difference, as well as xG, xGA, and xGD. No one expected a five-point lead over Manchester City at this point in the season, and it might fade soon, but regardless, this start has been a great validation for Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal has not lost since early September but did draw Newcastle last time out in the league. The key to earning a result against this squad is limiting the events; while the defense has been very sharp, not allowing the midfield to command the ball and impose constant pressure will help reduce the number of chances.

Recent results:

  • Oct 2022: 3-1 loss, away (Kane)

Of course, that is exactly what happened at the Emirates last fall, as Spurs were overwhelmed by ceding possession and suffering far too many turnovers due to an aggressive press. Add in some individual mistakes and it was a typical North London Derby on the road, of which Arsenal has won three straight.

The flip side to that is Tottenham has won the last three at home as well (Toby’s late header, Son’s belter with the limited crowd, last spring’s battle for fourth). To keep that streak alive, Antonio Conte will need his healthy players to play up to their potential as they did at Selhurst Park last week, with nearly everyone stepping up in the second half and the wingbacks and midfield gelling particularly.

Arsenal will certainly provide more resistance than Palace, particularly in the middle of the park, but we have seen Spurs get up for this fixture before, especially at home. Harry Kane is always a real threat to score, and with Jimmy Greaves’ record nearly achieved, it almost feels like destiny that he will lead his club to three points on Sunday. For so many reasons, a win this weekend feels monumental.