It will be a North London derby like no other on Sunday, with fans kept away by the COVID-19 outbreak. Kevin Hatchard says they won't be missing a sparkling spectacle.
"Tottenham's home games against Liverpool and the Manchester clubs in 2020 have all featured fewer than three goals, as have five of Spurs' last six outings in general. This is a team that didn't manage a shot on target against struggling Bournemouth."
Tottenham v Arsenal
Sunday 12 July, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Fault lines already appearing in Jose's reign
Jose Mourinho was never likely to be a unifying force at Tottenham, but even by his standards he seems to have split opinion among Spurs fans in double-quick time. One camp believes that the irascible Portuguese coach has inherited a slew of problems from his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino, and that the true villain is Daniel Levy, who has failed to reinvent and reinvigorate a jaded squad. Then there is the "Mourinho Out" gang who bemoan the lack of adventure, the creaking and groaning of a misfiring attack that has scored multiple goals in just one of the last eight games in all competitions.
The goalless draw at Bournemouth on Thursday provided further ammunition for Mourinho's critics. An attack that featured England's captain Harry Kane failed to muster a single shot on target against a side that had lost five top-flight games in a row, conceding 14 goals in the process. To put up an Expected Goals figure as low as 0.67 against a team with Bournemouth's record in 2020 takes some doing, and Spurs' hopes of Europa League qualification hang in the balance, with their Champions League bid surely in tatters.
Mourinho has overseen exits from the Champions League and the FA Cup, and has won just 10 of his 22 league matches. He can no longer hide behind injuries, and while you can sympathise with the notion that this "isn't his team" to some extent, the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss is in danger of missing out on continental qualification entirely. That would be a hefty blow for a club with an expensive new stadium that is trying to prove to players like Kane that it is heading in the right direction.
Eric Dier is still banned, and Dele Alli is still out with a hamstring injury. Youngsters Japhet Tanganga and Troy Parrott have returned to training after injury.
Arteta's iron fist must smash the clichés
Regardless of what happens in terms of results for the rest of this season, it seems things are slowly changing at Arsenal. Manager Mikel Arteta has demanded an alteration of attitude at the Emirates, and it appears it's his way or the highway. The Spaniard is happy to drop big names if they don't fall into line, and it appears French enfant terrible Matteo Guendouzi is on his way out after a series of misdemeanours.
You can see Arteta gently seethe in post-match interviews when things have gone awry, and that quiet intensity underpins the demands he makes of his players. As a former Gunner, much has been made of Arteta's understanding of the club, but much more important is his understanding of what he wants the club to be. No more mistakes, no more indulged players, no more feeble collapses.
There are still signs of the scale of the work that lies ahead. The feeble 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, the careless loss at Brighton and the failure to make the most of a dominant first-half display in the recent 1-1 draw with Leicester City. However, the general direction of travel is upward - Arsenal have harvested 19 points from their last nine games, and are through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. There are strong indicators off the field too - convincing dynamic youngster Bukayo Saka to sign a new deal was a coup, and a marker that Arteta is demonstrating to his players that there is potential for Arsenal to improve.
Eddie Nketiah is suspended after his red card against Leicester, which means Alexandre Lacazette will likely lead the line, flanked by Saka and Aubameyang. Mesut Ozil is still struggling with a back injury, while keeper Emi Martinez continues to deputise for the injured Bernd Leno.
Gunners can have the edge in close clash
The Match Odds market has Spurs as slight favourites here, and that's not a position I would echo. Arsenal have won four of their last five matches, and on the road they have lost just twice in their last 16 away games. Tottenham have won just two of their last eight matches, and although their home form is fairly strong, the last three performances in general have been distinctly disappointing. Against an improving and more solid Arsenal team, Spurs may struggle to create chances.
You can back Arsenal 0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at [1.73], which means you make a profit if Arsenal win or the match is drawn. Alternatively, you could back Arsenal Draw No Bet at [2.0].
Derby could be tense and tight
Under 2.5 Goals is trading at evens here, and I'm pleasantly surprised that's the case. Spurs aren't scoring freely, and five of their last six league matches have featured fewer than three goals. Also, Mourinho tends to tighten things up in the big games - home matches against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in 2020 have all featured fewer than three goals.
Arsenal have seen nine of their last 14 PL away games feature fewer than three goals, including six of the last nine. I'll go for Under 2.5 Goals here at [2.0].
Star strikers both odds-against to find the net
If you do think there'll be goals in this one, Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are the most likely sources. Kane has netted six goals in his last 11 appearances, while Gunners' skipper Aubameyang is one of the contenders for the Golden Boot, having smacked in 20 goals in the top flight.
Kane is priced at 13/10 to score, with Aubameyang 11/10, a curious discrepancy when you bear in mind that Spurs are favourites to win the match.
Kevin Hatchard 2019-20 English Football P/L
Points Staked: 53
Points Returned: 34.72
P/L: -18.28 points
2016-19 Premier League P/L: +11.57 points
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Back Under 2.5 Goals at [2.0]