Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur meet for a high-stakes north London derby amid various stages of rebuilding

The North London derby is always one of the most anticipated games of the Premier League season, largely because it has become a check-in for two teams eager to disrupt the current state of affairs at the top of the table: Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. It means the latest edition of the rivalry has a fitting place as a high-stakes late-season encounter between two teams with lofty ambitions.

Sunday's match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a must-win for both. Arsenal are trying to keep pace in a three-way title race in a bid to win the Premier League for the first time in 20 years, while Spurs are eyeing their first Champions League place in two years. Both targets are ambitious, but also highlight the differences between the rivals, a target that arguably better reflects where each team is than the 2-2 draw they faced in September.

Take Arsenal, who have had a near-perfect 2024 and are still in the title race. It comes off the back of a high-scoring season in which they led the Premier League with 82 goals and ranked second for expected goals with 68.56, but have perhaps achieved the most success as a defensively strong team. The Gunners have conceded just 26 goals this season, the fewest in the league, to the point of holding Manchester City goalless in the league this season thanks to their ability to absorb the opposition's attacking pressure. It is becoming increasingly clear that Arsenal play with precision at both ends of the pitch when they are at their best, and the good days far outweigh the bad.

As for Spurs, the hot start, including a draw against their north London rivals, gave way to a season full of inconsistencies. It's clear what they want to do stylistically under Ange Postecoglou, who is about to complete his first season in the role. They favor a high-intensity, attack-first identity and rank second in the league for ball possession with 61.7%, third for passing accuracy with 87.3% and fourth for ball touches with over 25,000, ahead of Arsenal in each of these categories. It's far from a bad strategy, but the execution has let them down at several points this season. Recent results have ranged from a 4-0 win over Aston Villa to a 4-0 defeat to Newcastle United, the latter highlighting Spurs' need to step up their attack and a less-than-ideal sloppiness at the back. They have not kept a clean sheet in their last five games and have conceded ten goals in that time.

Why Arsenal are big favourites

Despite the many intrigues this fixture may bring, the data suggests the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Arsenal comes in as the oddsmakers' favorite and fitness advantage. Mikel Arteta should have a full squad to choose from on Sunday, with Postecoglou likely to prepare for line-up tetris. Destiny Udogie's strong first season for Tottenham is over after he underwent surgery on a hamstring injury last week, while key players such as Richarlison and Pedro Porro could be sidelined by their own problems.

However, those are not the only differences between Arsenal and Tottenham. The odds may be long and the odds may be high against Spurs at home, but Sunday's match may not be as defining a moment for them as it was for the Gunners. Both are playing catch-up in their respective races to the finish, but for Tottenahm this game is just a progress report in the first year of rebuilding. There are indications of a good foundation, but a test against a top-flight side will provide some more answers about where the team should go.

Arsenal may be right to go into this match with a lot of confidence, partly because the rebuilding period is over – and can be considered a success by several measures. Chief among them is that Arteta has guided them to two of their best seasons in recent history, keeping them in the title race for two consecutive seasons. The Gunners are getting closer to the point in the post-reconstruction era where making statements is a necessity, meaning the pressure is on for them to deliver results on Sunday.

So it's up to them to avoid a repeat of their 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa a few weeks ago that damaged their hopes of winning the title. Arsenal were uncharacteristically unclinical that day, scoring fourteen shots and restricting Villa to no goals before conceding twice in the second half. Their defensive inconsistencies were clearly visible on the day and even though they followed that up with two games in which they outscored their opponents seven games to nil and conceded just four shots on target, it's still worth wondering whether Spurs can achieve a repetition. . Scoring has been something of a weakness in recent weeks: they have been held scoreless twice in the last five and have been in the bottom five of the league in that stretch with just six goals scored and 22 shots on target. This means they performed below the expected goal score of 8.69 in the competition. the process. Son Heung-min and Brennan Johnson are still probably as likely as ever to score, so it's hard to discount them completely.

As long as Spurs maintain a competitive advantage throughout, they can survive this game and build for the future. While one project in North London is still in its early stages, another is under pressure to deliver the final results of their experiment. Sunday isn't just about bragging rights against a rival, although they are undoubtedly important. For Arsenal, it will also be an exercise in turning trophy chases into actual silverware – something they will have to do sooner or later if Arteta's tenure can be considered a resounding success.

How to watch

  • When: Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 9:00 AM ET
  • Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
  • To follow: CBS Sports App
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try it for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)

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