LONDON:Recent statistics do not make pleasant reading for an out-of-form Arsenal side as they prepare for Sunday’s north London derby at table-topping Tottenham Hotspur.
The Gunners have failed to win on any of their last six Premier League trips up the Seven Sisters Road and have never won an away game against a Jose Mourinho-managed team.
Add in the fact that Tottenham are riding high after a nine-match unbeaten league streak and Arsenal have endured their worst start since 1981, the prospects for Mikel Arteta’s side appear grim. Derbies, however, do not always follow logic.
This one will not feel like the usual red-blooded affair, even if the presence of 2,000 Tottenham fans will help whip up a little of the atmosphere sadly missing when the sides met in an empty Tottenham stadium in July, a match Spurs won 2-1.
Since that rather low-key end-of-season contest, the fortunes of the two sides have been in stark contrast.
Mourinho, blending a potent attack with a defensive pragmatism, has turned Tottenham into title contenders, winning over the majority of fans who were opposed to his hiring just over a year ago in the wake of Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking.
While on occasions Mourinho has let the handbrake off, such as thumping away wins against Southampton and Manchester United, Tottenham’s rise has been built on focus, discipline and organisation and a tough-to-beat mentality.
The way they soaked up Manchester City’s passing game to win 2-0 in their last home game, then ground out a 0-0 draw at Chelsea last week would have delighted the Portuguese manager.
It also rubbished suggestions that Spurs would be found wanting during a tough run of fixtures which also includes a trip to Liverpool in a fortnight.
At home to an Arsenal side languishing in 14th spot, however, fans will expect a more front-foot approach.
Arsenal have three points fewer after 10 games this season than they did under Unai Emery last season. He was sacked before Christmas and replaced by fellow Spaniard Arteta.
An FA Cup triumph for Arsenal endorsed the faith shown in Arteta, but things have since stagnated. His team have scored only 10 league goals and appear shapeless.
While it is far too early to talk of Arteta’s job being on the line, he needs an upturn in form quickly and a win at Tottenham would be the ideal place for that to begin.
Champions Liverpool, who trail Tottenham on goal difference, kick off at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in Sunday’s late game, meaning third-placed Chelsea, two points adrift, could go top on Saturday when they host Leeds United.