Tottenham Hotspur will look to extend the gap between themselves and Arsenal to 13 points when they visit the Emirates on Sunday in the North London Derby. Manager Harry Redknapp should take Spurs into the match in some confidence. Aside from an excellent season, since Redknapp took over the Lilywhites have only lost once in the English Premier League to their North London rivals, that being nearly two and half years ago.
Spurs may appear to have an advantage in form but perhaps form in respect to derbies can be misleading; the edge that comes with derbies, the battle for local pride of place can affect performances positively or negatively. However, whereas Spurs in the past may have had a mental block that saw them struggle to beat Arsenal even from good positions, the Lilywhites have matured. Helped by the key signings of experienced players such as Scott Parker, that mental block does not appear to be in the make-up of this team.
Spurs would also appear to have the advantage on the injury front. Arsenal may be missing key players, especially in defence, with Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Sebastien Squillaci and Andre Santos injured. Conversely, Spurs look like they might have Benoit Assou-Ekoto, Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor returning from injury, the latter two stating their confidence in being fit in time. With Younes Kaboul and Aaron Lennon both returning in the FA Cup, Spurs may be close to full strength. Unlike Spurs, Arsenal look to have less depth in their squad.
Arsenal may usually dominate possession at home but when a top rival team like Manchester United has gone to the Emirates this has dropped to around 50%. If Spurs can enjoy as much possession, they have the players to worry Arsenal. The key maybe not to set out too defensively and so encourage Arsenal to play. Redknapp though may have some interesting selection dilemmas that may also influence formation. In defence both Kaboul and Michael Dawson may be vying to start alongside Ledley King, though if Assou-Ekoto is not fit Redknapp may prefer Kaboul at left back to Danny Rose. In midfield, Niko Kranjcar has performed well recently but the prospect of Aaron Lennon running at an under strength Arsenal defence may be too difficult for the manager to ignore. Up front, there may be a temptation to field van der Vaart and Adebayor which may dictate a 4-4-1-1 formation. Nevertheless, there may be a risk in playing both from the start coming back from injury. Redknapp may prefer to start in a 4-4-2 formation with the partnership of Adebayor and Louis Saha that gelled so well against Newcastle.
Defensively Spurs look more solid and to have greater variation going forward. If they play to their strengths they may complete the double, in the process claiming North London as Lilywhite.
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