The North London Divide – Battle for Champions League Qualification
I am a lifelong Spurs fan and season ticket holder. Sucked in by Lineker and Gaza and haven't looked back since. After suffering years of mid-table mediocrity, I am enjoying being ...
Will Tottenham earn Champions League qualification this season? Will Arsenal finish in the top 4? Today on the blog Matt Swan takes a look at the chances for each of the North London rivals in 2013.
The rivalry in North London between Tottenham and Arsenal is a fierce one. In recent seasons this has become even more intense with the sides coming closer together and battling one another for a Champions League spot. Last season the Gunners pipped Tottenham to 3rd place on the final day of the season, having overturned a 10 point deficit against their closest rivals.
Once again this season appears as if it could be a battle between the North London giants for the coveted 4th spot. With Chelsea faltering at home, there could be two Champions League places up for grabs, and with Everton this is likely to be a four horse race. For the purpose of this article though I will be focussing on the battle between Tottenham and Arsenal, drawing on stats and looking at the players that will play a key role for their respective teams.
Having suffered the heartbreak of missing out of Champions League football and having to witness Chelsea winning the competition last term, they will be keen to ensure this does not happen again. With Harry Redknapp dismissed and AVB taking charge, Tottenham took a while to get going. Their recent form has been impressive though and they are currently in the coveted 4th spot.
The home form has been a little patchy and they have struggled to break teams down that come and put 10 men behind the ball. Aside from a disappointing defeat at the hands of Wigan, the only other team to take maximum points from White Hart Lane so far this term is Chelsea. There have also been disappointing draws against West Bromich Albion, Norwich and Stoke.
- Tottenham have had 22.5 shots per game at home, the most of any side in the Premier League
- They have had the most shots on target per game at home with 7.4
- Have made the most interceptions per game with 20.5
Tottenham have been impressive on the road this season. They have managed the same number of victories away as they have at home (6), including their first win at Old Trafford since 1989. With a counter attacking style of play, they are perfectly set up to play on the break. With teams more inclined to attack in front of their own fans, Tottenham have taken advantage of playing to their strengths.
Their away defeats have come at the hands of Newcastle, Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton. The issues they have faced at home in terms of breaking teams down also hurt them at QPR last weekend. With QPR adopting the tactics of an away team, Tottenham once again failed to unlock a packed midfield and tight defence.
- Tottenham have averaged 13.8 shots per game away from home
- 5.4 shots on target per game away from home
Dembele – with the news that Sandro is likely to be out for the remainder of the season following knee surgery, Dembele is going to be even more important for Spurs. He has the ability to keep the ball and provide Tottenham with attacking flair through the centre.
- Tottenham’s win percentage with Dembele is 73% while it is only 20% without him
Bale – with Tottenham’s style of play focussed on the speed with which they are able to attack down the flanks, Bale is an integral part of the system employed by AVB.
- Bale averages a goal every 174 minutes played whereas top scorer Defoe averages a goal every 179 mins in the Premier League
Tottenham will benefit from home advantage in the fixtures against Arsenal and Everton. Having previously lost to both of them in the away fixtures yet still remain above them, home advantage in the 2nd half of the season could be vital in the race for 4th place.
In addition, they will also face both Manchester teams at home having already played them away but face difficult trips to Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
Beating Tottenham 5-2 at the emirates last season was the catalyst for an upturn in their fortunes. Having been 10 points behind the White Hart Lane outfit as we entered February, the turnaround was complete on the final day of the season with Arsenal securing automatic qualification for the Champions League by finishing 3rd.
However, losing Van Persie to Man Utd was a major blow and despite the addition of Steve Bould as assistant manager, the defensive errors that plagued them last season have remained.
It has been difficult to know which Arsenal team will turn up at the Emirates. Devastating attacking play has seen them put 7 past Newcastle, 6 past Southampton and 5 past Tottenham.
However, they have also had disappointing times at home most notably losing 2-0 to Swansea, surrendering a two goal lead to draw 3-3 with Fulham and failing to break down a stubborn Sunderland defence in a 0-0 draw.
- Arsenal have the most dribbles per game at home with 12.2 per game
- They have mustered 16.5 shots per game at home with 5.9 on target
- 9.9 shots per game have been conceded at the Emirates
Similar to their home form, Arsenal’s away form has been a little hit and miss. Having won comfortably at Anfield and putting 5 past Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, there have also been disappointments – namely the 0-0 draw with Villa, losing to Norwich and a draw with Southampton where they were restricted to just a solitary shot on target.
- Arsenal have enjoyed the most possession of any team away from home with 59.8%
- They have a very impressive pass completion rate of 85.5% away from home
Theo Walcott – Arsenal will be delighted to tie Theo Walcott to a new contract in the coming weeks as he has looked a threat when playing through the middle. His hat trick against Newcastle was testament to how he is able to play in his favoured role.
- Walcott is Arsenal’s top scorer on 8 goals and has scored 20% of their league goals
Santi Cazorla – He has been a revelation since signing for the Gunners. Providing the creative spark from advanced positions he has enabled Arsenal to break down stubborn defences. More recently he has been a little anonymous so Arsenal will be hoping he has a strong end to the season if they are to clinch a Champions League spot.
- Cazorla has created a chance for his teammates every 36 minutes on average
With a tricky away tie to Stamford bridge facing the Gunners this weekend, they also have to travel to White Hart Lane which could be a shootout for the Champions League. They can take comfort in the fact that they have already faced Man City twice and will entertain Man Utd, Liverpool and Everton at the Emirates.
The battle for the top four is one that is likely to go to the wire. Having blown a significant lead over their arch rivals last season Tottenham will be keen to ensure that this does not happen again. The loss of Sandro is a major blow for Tottenham but they will hope they have the strength in depth to cover his absence.
For Arsenal, Jack Wilshere is becoming somewhat of a talisman and it will be interesting to see if he retains his number 10 position after excelling in this role against Swansea in the cup. Wenger must decide if Wilshere or Cazorla is more effective in this role.
With this likely to go to the final weeks of the, Tottenham may well have the edge having Arsenal to play at home. If there is not too much transfer activity in the final weeks of the transfer window from either team, my money would be on Tottenham to just pip the Gunners – but then I may be biased!
Follow Matt on Twitter: @Matt_swan40
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The odds currently on offer are quite correct - in the balance. I would agree that Tottenham are favourites. Arsenal will probably not even be in the fight until the end with Everton a force one should acknowledge this season. The current Champions League might keep the Gunners occupied and thus distract them from the fight.
I expect it will be a close run battle and Wenger has done a superb job getting Arsenal in the top 4 each season, but this is the poorest Arsenal side I have seen in his time there.
I think a lot will come down to each teams activity in the transfer market over the next couple of weeks.
Will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out and if Chelsea can pick up their home form.
It does seem like you are a bit bias on this subject but of course, you having a season ticket and being at white hart lane in the mist of below zero degrees, then I can see how you got into that conclusion even if the Sandro is out for a while. Although, just looking at the likelihood then it's firm to say that Arsenal will be in the champion league next season as they have every season. Good Luck.