Connect in the back of the net

In a fortnight from their fifth-round Football Association Cup clash with Hull, Arsenal travel to Tottenham Hotspur for the first time since their supporters pulled down the hoardings during the third-round League Cup fixture.

The Gunners will have faced Manchester United and Swansea in the Premier League, besides Barcelona.


Title contenders and congested schedule

North London derbies always feature a plethora of drama but have failed at being called a crunch fixture in the Premier League, with the result seldom catalyzing the position where either team finish. Arsenal hardly appeared to be missing out on Champions League qualification, though it had only been about the same in most campaigns, and Tottenham perennially pursued European football with little success. Neither team had gone all in for a certain prize in the recent past, but either team will hope to nudge the other out of the title race when they lock horns with each other in March.

Arsenal last managed to lift the title back in 2004, and the future of their most successful gaffer largely depends upon whether they blow away their best chance to end the title drought. On the other hand, the shock, yet deserving title contenders in Tottenham are striving to take the English title to White Hart Lane after a 55-year hiatus. Neither team will get a better chance to etch their name on the trophy as regular title-contenders in Chelsea, Manchester United or perhaps, Manchester City are already out of the title scene.

With Arsenal and Tottenham both facing the same team (Swansea) and equally difficult opponents – Tottenham visit Upton park two days prior to NLD and the Red Devils entertain Arsenal next week – the two sides could still be separated only by goal difference on March 2. The fact that both teams will play two cup games before facing off against each other only adds to buildup.


Able personnel and contradicting principles

Danny Welbeck made a fairy-tale return to action with a last-gasp winner against Leicester on matchday 26 while big-game players such as Alexis Sanchez and Francis Coquelin marked their return only recently; Arsenal suddenly seem the imposing side they were during the first few months.

With the Gunners again creating numerous chances every game, it will not be long before their strikers put on their goalscoring boots again. In addition, Francis Coquelin offers a different level of protection to the back four whilst also effectively linking the defence with the attack, and makes Arsenal a strong defensive unit.

Tottenham, on the other hand, have taken the English top-flight by the storm with their passion, industry and strong attitude. Given their wealth of options,  fatigue has hardly been an issue at the Lane and the fantastic professionalism showcased by their second string players, who can be as impressive as automatic starters, has helped Mauricio Pochettino mount a title bid with limited resources.

While Arsenal bank on their players’ undoubted prowess, Spurs have proven that being workhorses pays dividends.


Yet another title decider

Premier League has witnessed many a title decider this season, with every top-four clash widely touted as a potential title decider. Arsenal only recently played one such title decider against the Foxes but will again be embroiled in another one next month.

However, the tag might suit this fixture – at least, more than the previous ones – as the Citizens could be out of the title race by that time, given they play Liverpool and Chelsea away from home in their next two league games.

Leicester play host to Norwich and West Bromwich Albion – two easy wins – before the kickoff in north London, and Arsenal and Tottenham will hope to claim all three points to remain within the sights of shock leaders.

A north London derby has never held such significance in the recent past.


Written by Praveen Paramasivam

Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen

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