A worm for the early birds – some match pointers!
• Tottenham have kept only one clean sheet in 31 matches in all competitions against their north London rivals
• Arsenal have won only two of their last 16 games away from the Emirates Stadium in all competitions
• Emmanuel Adebayor scored eight goals in nine games for Arsenal against Spurs
• Robin van Persie has scored four times in his last four starts against the hosts
• These sides have drawn 17 times in the Premier League, the most ties of any fixture in the competition's history
here's a list I made earlier (not exactly by myself, as you'll notice).Hello world! So, the north London derby then. A fixture that has produced all sorts of breathless excitement in the past. So you want examples, do you? Well,
Enough of yesteryear, though – here are today's teams!
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Van der Vaart, Parker, Modric, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe. Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Giovani, Bassong, Corluka, Livermore, Sandro.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Coquelin, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho. Subs: Fabianski, Park, Andre Santos, Arshavin, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Benayoun.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).
One change each for our rival combatants, then – Arsenal bring in Francis Coquelin for the injured Laurent Koscielny (Theo Walcott and Gervinho both having passed fitness tests), and jugular-seeking Tottenham replacing Sandro with Jermain Defoe.
Elsewhere, right now, Fulham are 2-0 up on QPR and Swansea are a Scott Sinclair penalty to the good against Stoke.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in London: Fulham 3 (Andrew Johnson 38) QPR 0.
So, readers, how will Emmanuel Adebayor celebrate when he inevitably scores?
"Hello, Simon!" Hello, Ryan Dunne! "Is it fair to say that most neutrals, like me, are hoping for an Adebayor hat-trick and some 'get it right up ye!' fist-pumping aimed at the Arsenal fans? I admired Barry Glendenning for stating last year, in the midst of much Old Firm sixth-form moralistic hand-wringing, that the on-pitch fiery hi-jinks make it more, not less, of a compelling spectacle, and Adebayor's past triumphant wind-up surely falls within the same category. And, based on past form, he'll probably stop playing well in a couple of months anyways, so Arsenal fans will surely get the last laugh." Well I'm all for hi-jinks on principle, and as public as possible, but do feel that there could be public order issues if Adebayor doesn't control himself today (and heaven knows Tottenham – the area rather than the club – have had enough of those recently).
Interesting if not-that-surprising-when-you-think-about-it stat from Sky: this is the first time in the history of the
worldPremier League that Tottenham have gone into a North London derby as favourites.
"I think he runs to the touchline and hugs Wenger à la Balotelli-Mancini last weekend," suggests Ryan Wakefield. I would love to see Adebayor running down the touchline attempting to embrace Wenger, while Wenger runs down the touchline attempting to evade him.
The players are running out, and that can only mean one thing – an ad break.
"I agree that Adebayor has some responsibility for not kicking the hornets' nest," says Niall Mullen. "Still I've heard some of the chants to which he is subjected and frankly if it was me I'd run towards my abusers and do my 'in your face' dance. The fans aren't contractually obliged to get violent but they really should show some common decency and not insult Adebayor's family." Yes, but football fans are supposed to be vicious, mean-spirited idiots. Footballers, however, are supposed to be gentlemen. Aren't they?
1 min: Peeeeeep! And they're off!
1 min: Arsenal stupidly give the ball away, allowing Tottenham to burst into a counter-attack that ends only because Modric inexplicably strolls offside.
4 mins: "I enjoy a bit of joy," decides Gary Naylor, "but baiting the crowd is just not on these days. It's a shame as I loved Kevin Sheedy giving the Kop the Vs, but crowds are different these days – too serious, too keen to take offence and too willing to bear a grudge. I always feel for the stewards when players wind up the crowd – why should they have to cope with the impact of players' ego trips?"
4 mins: Tottenham get a second chance from a half-cleared corner and Jermain Defoe is unmarked as he heads the cross high. He was offside, but the linesman didn't seem to have noticed.
7 mins: Song gives the ball away hideously, just outside his penalty area, straight to Van der Vaart, who with a simple pass releases Scott Parker, who fails to take the chance.
8 mins: Just before that Adebayor had brilliantly collected Friedel's long throw, beaten Song for pace down the right wing and then given the ball away just as a goal or at least a damned good chance of one seemed inevitable. He may have thought that he had carried the ball over the goal-line, which he very nearly had, but the linesman seemed happy to let him carry on.
10 mins: This has been a very bright, ludicrously fast-paced opening 10 minutes. It's ended with the game's first proper foul, by Parker on Arteta, which wasn't serious enough to merit a yellow card but was certainly a warning that the referee is going to have to be on his mettle today.
12 mins: Mike Dean sets out his stall – Modric has the ball but his touch is slightly too strong, giving Coquelin a chance of a tackle. The Croat, though, knows that he need only get a toe to the ball and the Frenchman will certainly take him out, guaranteeing a free kick. And he does get a toe to the ball, the Frenchman certainly does take him out, and Dean waves play on.
16 mins: Sagna seems to be permanently in acres of space down Arsenal's right flank, and he collects a long pass and skips inside before shooting. Assou-Ekotto blocks it, the ball falls at Walcott's feet and his shot is deflected just wide of the far post.
18 mins: Across London, Andrew Johnson completes his hat-trick to put Fulham 4-0 up against QPR.
19 mins: Bale intercepts Ramsay's pass and bursts 60 yards into Arsenal's penalty area, but his pull-back is just behind Van der Vaart, whose improvised finish (I'm still not sure what exactly he did with his feet there) sends the ball well over the bar.
22 mins: Arsenal win a free-kick just outside Tottenham's penalty area, about five yards from the goal-line on their left wing. Arteta shoots.
24 mins: Walcott attempts a speculative 40-yard low shot, which Friedel collects with a (I'm guessing here) chuckle.
26 mins: "Theo Walcott epitomises so many Arsenal players doesn't he? He looked so bright, so full of potential, a real player in the making," writes Gary Naylor. "And yet, fours years on, he's not improved at all. He's capable of the odd good game, but the output over a season is pitiful compared to the talent. Who is coaching these players? Why do they fail to improve?" A little unfair – it seems to me that Arsenal's big problem is with players bought when theoretically at their peak. The likes of Arshavin and Chamakh have been real disappointments. Walcott still doesn't look the kind of player who gets picked in World Cup squads at 17, but then he never did.
27 mins: Van der Vaart earns the game's first booking, for an uneccessary and not very clever foul on Gibbs.
28 mins: The game's first clear chance, as Defoe crosses low from the right wing and Van der Vaart – who with Adebayor is in the middle with only Mertesacker for company – runs to the near post and clips the ball straight at the keeper.
29 mins: The game's second real chance. Van Persie – one player who Arsenal bought young and has improved massively since – does well down the left and pulls the ball back, Gervinho tries to trick Friedel by aiming at his near post but with the goalkeeper stranded the ball flies a good yard wide.
32 mins: Defoe totally does Mertesacker there, giving him enough of a sight of the ball to draw a challenge but no chance of every winning the thing. The German gets booked. Kind of like the Modric incident (12th minute), but with a different outcome.
35 mins: "Gary Naylor (26th minute) has a point," says Hubert O'Hearn. "The mystery to me about so many players is that they never improve their skills. Walcott is a miserable crosser of the ball. Wouldn't you think he'd spend endless hours working on that. In contrast, I remember Magic Johnson in the NBA. Magic had already won NBA titles and was a huge star, but every summer he would work on adding a skill - improve the jump shot, improve the free throws. It's as though Theo - who I actually like as a player by the way - sort of shrugs and thinks, 'Well no one's good at everything now are they?'"
36 mins: "Was Gary Naylor talking about Theo Walcott or Aaron Lennon?" ponders Ade Cooper.
36 mins: It's been a ludicrously fast-paced contest so far, and this hasn't really helped Arsenal, who have too often hurried their decision-making in promising situations. They've looked OK, though, and have created a couple of chances all by themselves – Spurs have needed their opponents' assistance to make theirs.
GOAL! Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0 (Van der Vaart, 40 mins)
40 mins: Defoe picks up the ball in the centre circle and prods it right to Adebayor, who measures a chipped cross from deep that Van der Vaart controls with his chest and then calmly passes back across goal and into the net. Nice goal. Mertesacker protests, insisting that the Dutchman handled when controlling the ball.
42 mins: A brilliant tackle from Parker wins Tottenham possession midway through Arsenal's half, and a couple of passes later Bale has a shot, still from midway through Arsenal's half, that curls wickedly but flies well wide.
44 mins: Van der Vaart ran into the crowd to celebrate his goal. He had already been booked. The referee took no action.
46 mins: We'll have three minutes of stoppage time.
45+3 mins: Peeeeep! It's half-time!
Half-time: Just before Sky slow everything down and prove that it definitely was a handball, I'd say that even if it was, it wasn't clear enough to expect the officials to spot it. In terms of officiating cock-ups, it isn't really up there with this season's classics, of which there have already been many. But I absolutely support the booking of players who celebrate goals with fans, and think Van der Vaart should thus have been sent off.
Handball latest: Glenn Hoddle says "it hit the apex of his shoulder and his chest".
Handball latest: Alan Smith says "it's marginal" but "put it this way, if he didn't have a left arm I don't think he'd have been able to control that". I'm with Smith, but don't think it is enough ammunition to condemn Mike Dean.
Almost action time: "I think it's time to ban ex-players/coaches from commenting on Sky about their old teams," writes Christopher Meredith. "Does Glenn Hoddle think using the word 'apex' three times makes him right? It doesn't. It was a handball, his arm stopped the ball (difficult for the ref I admit.) And yes he should have been sent off for going into the crowd. Because he did." I certainly think that Ray Wilkins shouldn't be doing co-commentary on Chelsea, as he did this afternoon. He spends far too much time telling everyone how they're such a great bunch of lads.
Kick-off delayed while a groundsman ties a knot in the netting behind one of the goals.
46 mins: Peeeep! They're off! Again!
48 mins: For all those who have asked, I think that players who celebrate goals with fans encourage people to lunge and surge forwards in a way that since the installation of seating is (mildly) dangerous. I'm not absolutely furious about it, I just think it was right that action was taken to discourage it.
48 mins: Bale takes a corner short to Modric, who is suddenly in space, inside the penalty area, but his little Croatian feet get in a muddle.
50 mins: "Regarding the Van der Vaart incidents, it's always a good rule of thumb to take the opposite line to Glenn Hoddle's runic pronouncements," writes Gary Naylor. I certainly think that once a pundit starts referring to parts of the arm-torso interface with which you are unfamiliar, it's only right to arch an eyebrow.
GOAL! Tottenham 1 Arsenal 1! (Ramsay 51 mins)
51 mins: Kabout heads the ball clear, and Song picks it up about 40 yards out and runs more or less unmolested to the byline on the left-hand edge of the penalty area, and his low, hard centre is turned into the net by Ramsay.
54 mins: Arsenal have started this second half extremely strongly. This whole Van der Vaart debate could yet become academic.
55 mins: Arsenal give the ball away in Tottenham's half and leave themselves horribly exposed to a counter-attack. Fortunately, though, Adebayor wanders offside. Gary Neville, whose voice is becoming more and more irritating the more of it I hear (and some of my best friends are Mancunian), rightly points out that Arsenal's defence was ludicrously high, especially given that their centre-backs are not exactly lightning fast.
57 mins: Brilliant save! Van der Vaart prods the ball to Adebayor, who is suddenly clean through on the keeper, but Szczesny gets a hand to his low shot.
60 mins: Sandro warmed up and stripped off, but now he appears to have sat back down. Replacing him with Defoe for this match may have been an aggressive move by Tottenham but having fewer bodies in midfield hasn't really helped them.
61 mins: Benoit Assou-Ekotto foul-throws. Always funny.
62 mins: In the first quarter-hour of this half Arsenal seem to have sent in a lot of crosses from the left corner of Tottenham's penalty area. They just tried another one, which floated uselessly out of play. Just saying, like.
63 mins: Now Sandro is coming on, with Van der Vaart being replaced.
64 mins: "Was the ludicrous highness of the Arsenal back four caused by their toking on a Camberwell carrot?" ponders Ian Copestake. I doubt it.
65 mins: Younes Kaboul marauds his way into Arsenal's penalty area, but after a thrilling run he's closed down before he can deliver a cross.
66 mins: Assou-Ekotto challenges Sagna for a bouncing ball on the touchline. The Spurs player gets his head to the ball first before flying into his opponent, and Sagna falls badly, clatters an advertising hoarding and then clutches his ankle in apparent agony.
68 mins: ...and though Sagna swiftly regained his composure, he's not able to continue. Carl Jenkinson comes on.
71 mins: Yossi Benayoun comes on for Arsenal, with Walcott coming off.
GOAL! Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1 (Kyle Walker, 73mins)
73 mins: Sandro pulls the ball back to Modric, who seems certain to have a shot on goal but some speedy blockage sends the ball flying out of the penalty area, to Kyle Walker. He picks the ball up a good 40 yards from goal, takes a strong touch and then wellies the ball from range, low and hard into the far corner of the net. Szczesny gets a limp-wristed hand to the ball, but to no avail.
75 mins: "I just heard the perfect, quintessential British statement," reports Hubert O'Hearn. "Not sure who's doing the play-by-play for Setanta Canada, but he said: "Finally we have a clear view of the game, unimpeded by sunshine."
76 mins: Terrible miss! Song and Mertesacker ignore Friedel's long goal kick, Bale doesn't and he bursts onto the ball in the penalty area but rolls it just wide. That would have been a hideous goal to concede.
77 mins: Now Arsenal replace Gervinho with Arshavin.
81 mins: Adebayor and Song wrestle each other for the ball. It's very much six of one and half a dozen of the the other, but when the Spurs striker suddenly finds himself with the ball at his feet six yards out, the referee has little choice but to whistle.
83 mins: Ledley King breaks up an Arsenal attack and then works the ball to Jermain Defoe. With no one else supporting the break, King himself lumbers into the Arsenal penalty area to offer his team-mate some kind of target. The cross is easily cut out and Arsenal themselves break, but find Scott Parker capably filling in for King in defence.
84 mins: Bale attempts one of his surges down the left and centres for Defoe, whose shot is palmed wide.
85 mins: There will be no goal for Adebayor, and no provocative celebrations – he's going off (slowly), and Jake Livermore is replacing him.
87 mins: So the stage is set: Arsenal will pour forwards for the final five minutes, but if they lose the ball Spurs will get it to Bale as quickly as possible and hope for the best.
88 mins: Bale chips a 40-yard pass over Arsenal's defence for Defoe to run on to. He does indeed run on to it, pauses while he waits for some support and then ignores said support to chip narrowly wide of the far post.
89 mins: Luka Modric wrestles some space on the left side of Arsenal's penalty area, but shoots wide of the near post from an optimistic angle.
90 mins: Vedran Corluka comes on for Parker. Tottenham have managed the game well in the last 10 minutes or so.
90+1 mins: This is the first of five – five! – minutes of stoppage time.
90+2 mins: Benayoun gives the ball away to Modric, and then hacks him down to hide his embarrassment. He gets away without a booking, but from the free-kick Spurs give the ball to Assou-Ekotto, who can't quite find the unmarked Defoe.
90+4 mins: Mertesacker is playing up front for Arsenal, but he's had no chances as yet.
90+5 mins: Arsenal send the keeper up for a last-minute corner, but Arteta can't find a team-mate's head.
90+6 mins: Peeeeeep! It's all over! Victory for Tottenham, misery for Arsenal. The winning goal, incidentally, was the 10,001st in Spurs history. Or so I'm told – I haven't counted.
Final thoughts: A game played at a ludicrous pace but without enough moments of skill and class to really impress. Arsenal will mutter darkly about handball, and about Mike Dean's failure to show Van der Vaart a second yellow card for his post-goal celebrations (though the referee did little else wrong, I thought), but they aren't 15th in the league by accident. It's a bit of a false position, but their defence isn't good enough to challenge for the league title – and if Sagna's injury is remotely serious it's only going to get worse. True, they were a little unlucky to lose here – they can quibble about the refereeing before the first goal and about the ball's manic swerving before the first – but they never really looked likely to get more than a point. Spurs, who looked superior to their opponents only in defence, go sixth, with a game in hand on the rest of the top 10.