North London derbies are always feisty encounters but Saturday’s clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will have an extra incentive with top spot in the Premier League at stake.
Twenty four hours later champions Manchester City host Manchester United as the Premier League returns with a derby bonanza after the international break.
Arsenal and Spurs have both enjoyed flying starts with Mikel Arteta’s table-topping Gunners having won six of their first seven league games, their best start since 2007-08.
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are unbeaten, with five victories and two draws, their equal best start in the Premier League.
However, Spurs will have to overturn a horrid record at their neighbours if they are to leapfrog them and go top, having won at Arsenal only once in their last 29 league visits.
Despite that statistic, Tottenham have swung the balance of power in north London, finishing above Arsenal for the last six seasons having spent the previous 21 ending up below them.
Arsenal had a golden chance to re-assert themselves last season when they were poised for a top-four finish at Tottenham’s expense but a 3-0 capitulation at Spurs in May allowed Conte’s team to sneak above them.
Next up: the North London Derby ✊ pic.twitter.com/q0YVwButp9
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 28, 2022
Tottenham have carried the momentum of last season and are now on a 13-match unbeaten streak in the league going back to April even if there is a suspicion that their results so far have been more impressive than some of their performances.
They will travel to The Emirates for the lunchtime kickoff in buoyant mood and with forward Son Heung-min back in form after a 14-minute hat-trick in Tottenham’s 6-2 victory over Leicester City in their last match.
Three vital points at @SpursStadium 💪
🎥 Highlights: Spurs 6-2 Leicester pic.twitter.com/Pb7JVAOP0S
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 17, 2022
Son had not scored this season before his explosive cameo against Leicester and with Harry Kane already on six goals for the campaign, Arsenal’s defence faces a stern test.
This time last season Arteta’s Arsenal were just turning the corner after a dreadful start, but the Spaniard now looks to have instilled his blueprint on the team.
Striker Gabriel Jesus has been a revelation since joining from Manchester City, scoring four league goals already and helping bring a winning mentality to a young squad while Granit Xhaka looks re-born in Arsenal’s midfield.
Saturday’s clash will be a tactical battle with Arsenal’s probing, possession-based style up against the counter-attacking thrust of a Tottenham side happy to soak up pressure.
“It’s a specialty of Conte’s. With Son Heung-min now finding form, they could do damage to Arsenal,” former England striker Chris Sutton, now a BBC pundit, says.
If Arsenal win they will preserve top spot after eight games. Any other result means Pep Guardiola’s City can climb to the summit with a win against United on Sunday.
Despite the form of the north London duo, City already look favourites to retain their crown, especially with new signing Erling Haaland ripping up the scoring record books.
The Norwegian already has 11 goals in his first seven league appearances and if he maintains that rate he would smash the Premier League record of 34 in a season.
United are on a four-match winning streak in the league but have not played a league game since beating Arsenal on September 4 and face a manic schedule of nine matches in October.
Liverpool also return to action with a home game against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday knowing they have almost used up their margin for error after six games.
Graham Potter takes charge of his first Premier League game as Chelsea manager as they go to Crystal Palace.