Monday 19 August 2019

Great Dane Eriksen in search of another away-day scalp

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen. Photo: Sportsfile
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen. Photo: Sportsfile

Throughout Arsenal's glory years under Arsene Wenger their supporters also delighted in their perennial pleasure in celebrating St Totteringham's Day, the confirmation that they had, once again, finished above Spurs in the league.

Last season, however, they were denied even that minor pleasure as Mauricio Pochettino's men trumped them in the league standings for the first time in 21 seasons.

Spurs remain ahead of Arsenal in the league ahead of today's North London derby but their sights are pitched much higher than securing local bragging rights this term; they and their team desire a trophy to back up their emergence as a true force.

They are no longer content with just finishing ahead of Arsenal for that no longer has a relevance in league terms. Spurs are the side jousting with Real Madrid - and beating them - while Arsenal are mired in drab Thursday evening Europa League fare.

And yet, for all the talk of decline at Arsenal, Wenger has nonetheless managed to win two trophies while the Spurs' trophy cabinet has remained firmly locked.

Their young, talented squad are expected to establish their credentials as a club who can win titles and that expectation will continue to grow as they prepare to enter their new home next door to White Hart Lane next season.

Manchester City's irrepressible league form, and a costly League Cup exit, has already halved their trophy options this term.

Arsenal's winless streak against their rivals stretches to six games, the longest drought in this storied rivalry, but they are strong at home, whether at Highbury or the Emirates.

They have lost just twice in 32 attempts and they are on the back of a 10-match winning streak here at present, albeit half against lower-ranked sides.

Aaron Ramsay and Granit Xhaka are improving as a midfield pairing but against the invention of movement of Harry Winks, Dele Alli and man of the moment Christian Eriksen, this will present one of their toughest challenges.

Arsenal may have Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in their ranks but for me, as an overall attacking unit, Spurs pose a bigger threat.

Spurs are without Toby Alderweireld until the new year but Davidson Sanchez is already an accomplished replacement and Eric Dier can also sit deep or slot in there.

This contrasts with an Arsenal defence which doesn't have the same solidity.

Spurs generally do well on the road but have only claimed one away league win against last season's top six under Pochettino.

Gaining nine points out of a possible 48 on the road in these pivotal games, in just over three seasons under Pochettino, may be the answer to why title challenges in successive seasons faltered.

Although the form-lines have become predictable in this fixture of late, the games can be wild affairs.

Spurs' last three visits here have ended in draws but another would leave them floundering in the title race.

Irish Independent

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