Pitchside

Goals, drama and Adebayor – the North London derby

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The North London derby is always a game upon which you can count for goals, drama and intensity, with the gulf in class between Tottenham and Arsenal having closed over recent seasons to the extent that games generally have more significance than they did for much of Arsenal's recent reign of dominance.

With all to play for, Sunday's match-up will be as fiercely contested as ever.

Arsenal's title challenge this season was somewhat unprecedented given their performances over the past few campaigns, and after a run of one win in their last four Premier League matches, they have lost some of the momentum that the marquee signing of Mesut Ozil had brought them at the back end of August.

Successive losses at Liverpool and Stoke might spell a chance for Spurs to close the gap on their rivals.

That gap currently sits at six points, but with Tottenham coming into the game on the back of a 4-0 drubbing at Chelsea there is little reason for their fans to be optimistic that overturning the deficit is a realistic possibility.

Arguably the most obvious team for them to find inspiration from could be Arsenal themselves, who finished above their rivals in 2011/12 despite trailing by 10 points with just 13 matches to go. Tottenham continue their 19-year wait to finish higher than Arsenal in the table but it doesn't look like this season will be their time to end it.

Recent clashes between the sides favour the home side, with only one away victory in a Premier League North London derby in the last 12 meetings, that coming when Spurs came from 2 goals behind to win 3-2 in 2010.

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Arsenal might not have won in the league at White Hart Lane since 2007, when a certain Emmanuel Adebayor netted a brace for the Gunners, but they should be confident of ending that run on Sunday, currently boasting the second-best points-per-game record in away Premier League games this season.

What is more, only Tottenham have fared better than them, but that of course means - given Spurs' league position of fifth - that they have a distinctly worse record at home, having won just seven out of 14 games.

Adebayor's history with the Gunners, coupled with a recent emergence that Spurs manager Tim Sherwood was a boyhood Arsenal fan, adds further fuel to the fire. The Togolese striker been a revelation since Sherwood brought him back into the first team after succeeding André Villas-Boas, with eight goals and three assists in 13 league starts.

He has more goals (10) in North London derby history than any other player and, on current form, could well be key. There is, on the surface at the very least, something of a tactical naivety in Sherwood's management, but whatever is he doing with Adeabayor seems to be working.

Sunday is highly likely to be just like your typical derby. There will be goals, cards and drama and, with the added incentive that Spurs could keep alive their dream of finally finishing above their rivals while Arsenal put an end to it with a win, the latest North London derby could be one of the games of the season.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

By Alistair Tweedale - on Twitter @alitweedale

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