There is little doubt that Sunday’s huge clash between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur has got the stats bods in a frenzy.
After all, when was the last time that Spurs went into a derby in a far superior position to their usually domineering rivals?
That 4-0 defeat for the Gunners in Milan was only compounded by their elimination from the FA Cup, which means that they will go into this game having conceded six goals in two matches.
They will also be facing a side which mauled Newcastle 5-0 on their last Premier League outing, thumping three in before the 20-minute mark.
While these numbers are no doubt interesting, they are merely a symptom of how unstable Arsene Wenger’s defence has been ever since Per Mertesacker suffered a nasty knee injury on Wearside.
His reading of the game was sorely missed in Milan and while Thomas Vermaelen is a fantastic player in his own right, his move to the middle means Kieran Gibbs will take the left – a variable if ever there was one.
Spurs are, therefore, good value to net and are likely to count on their strikers. Emmanuel Adebayor and Louis Saha are the kind of players who will give the frequently distracted Laurent Koscielny nightmares.
The former Everton man will be particularly motivated by Laurent Blanc’s decision to recall him to the national side for what will only be his 20th cap, making the 17/10 on him scoring look inviting to say the least.
There is little need to exalt Adebayor’s predatory instincts (nor the 17/10 quote on him netting at any time), though his tendency to infuriate Arsenal fans will always be remembered, that mocking run and plunge at the Etihad a couple of years back confirming just how controversial this striker can be.
A friend of mine (who oddly enough is an Arsenal fan) even secretly admitted to appreciating the Togolese striker’s antics: as a die-hard WWE aficionado, he could not think otherwise when it came evaluating a typical bad-guy character, one who, in my opinion, has thrived on this kind of animosity.
Tottenham possess other threats, namely Gareth Bale, whose piercing runs will doubtless cause either Gibbs or Bacary Sagna countless headaches.
Rafael van der Vaart has passed a late fitness test and could be included to face a side against whom he has netted three goals in as many games, confirming how the Dutchman tends to rise to the occasion. They are both quoted at 2/1 to net at any time.
Regarding Arsenal, a small trip to RVPholics anonymous would do them the world of good – if anything because the Gunners sometimes seem to lack any viable alternatives to the fiery Dutch striker, who is at 6/5 to score.
One name does spring to mind, however – that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose assist against Manchester United seemed to turn the tide of the game.
Wenger’s decision to replace him with the ineffective (and now departed) Andrei Arshavin was greeted by a chorus of whistles, as the Emirates faithful have come to realise how the Portsmouth-born midfielder’s charges up the park might even free the other winger (most likely Theo Walcott, priced at 5/2 to score) with a quickly-delivered diagonal ball to the far post.
At 9/4, Oxlade-Chamberlain can be counted on to add to the two goals he netted in the 7-1 rout of Blackburn recently and maybe ease Wenger’s headaches for a few days at least.
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