The history of Arsenal and Spurs is no new thing. In addition, it’s been a pretty one-sided affair for much of English soccer history. The Gunners have won 13 league titles, 13 FA Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners‘ Cup, 2 League cups and a historic unbeaten season. Meanwhile, Spurs currently hold two league titles, eight FA Cups and four League Cups. Looking at those statistics alone paints a picture of a divided rivalry, little and large.
In reality, many would consider there to have been a changing of the guard. One of these teams has reached a Champions League final last year, maintained a top-four finish for the past four years and are backed by bookies to do it again next season. And that team is not Arsenal F.C.
A tale of two teams
The process of strengthening in both teams is particularly important right now. For Spurs, injuries have dogged their 2019/20 season, and lacklustre performance saw them linger closer to tenth than top four. For Arsenal, there is a wealth of youth in their ranks that could potentially give rise to a new dynasty of talent at the Emirates. Equally, with both under relatively new management, in Mourinho and Arteta, there are tactical changes and game philosophies that need to transfer to their respective teams. Looking at the current team development, they’re pulling no punches moving forward.
Matteo Guendouzi has made many positive steps since joining Arsenal in 2018. Making 55 starts and an impression on the fans for this intelligent, scrappy, energetic style of midfield play, it seems only a matter of time before the French national team comes calling. However, an Arsenal alumnus, Jeremie Aliadiere, speaking to Goal recently, cast doubt over the young Frenchman’s character;
“He’s grown up as a player, he’s matured massively as a player and every year he gets better. But unfortunately, as a man, he hasn’t grown and matured as much as I thought he would by joining Arsenal. I think that’s what he’s missing and that’s why he’s not playing as much under Mikel because Mikel is not really up for that.”
Meanwhile, Bukayo Saka, one of the most valuable prospects to come out of the Arsenal academy has commented on his aspirations to be deployed on the wing under Arteta, so far unfulfilled, as he stakes his claim in the full-back position. While it may seem entirely fair to not give a teenager their claim to any position they choose, keeping a promising player like Saka around – given the attention he is receiving – is paramount to Arsenal’s long-term development.
At least amongst Premier league betting crowds, the odds of Arsenal finally returning to the Champions League after a long hiatus are likely to be much higher with the likes of Saka around.
A clean bill of health
Meanwhile, over at White Hart Lane, Spurs are buoyed by having a fully fit squad list for the first time in several seasons. The end of the 2019/20 saw Spurs knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of Norwich City, followed swiftly by a Champions League exit from RB Leipzig. Mourinho would later admonish the injury issue, forcing his hand in choosing weak teams throughout February and March due to so many unfit first-team players.
Speaking recently on Sky Sports’ Mourinho commented on the improved situation:
“I cannot say at this moment that they are ready to play because one thing is to recover from an injury, and another is to be ready to play football.”
“Harry Kane, Son, Bergwijn, Sissoko, all of them are fine. I think in a couple of weeks, the boys will be ready to play.”
In the last seven meetings between the two teams, four ended in draws. It’s unclear if either side has plans to make any major changes to their squads. Whether David Luiz leaves Arsenal or Spurs choose to bring in any new talent are really nothing more than speculation for now. However, the rivalry has never been closer in its 99-year history. If that’s not reason enough to pay attention, it’s unclear what is.