SOMETHING weird is going down in north London – everybody is happy.
It’s late September and neither Arsenal nor Tottenham have lost a Premier League game this season.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have exploded back into the Champions League with a 4-0 stuffing of PSV Eindhoven and are threatening to repeat last season’s Premier League title challenge.
Meanwhile, up the Seven Sisters Road at Spurs, Ange Postecoglou is spreading the love, James Maddison is a new folk hero and chairman Daniel Levy is actually admitting that he’s made mistakes.
Not for years, possibly even decades, has a North London Derby been staged amid such optimism on both sides as Sunday's meeting at the Emirates.
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The rivalry between these two clubs is so bitter, so petty, that when Arsenal built the Emirates Stadium with a 60,000 capacity, Levy ensured the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would hold 61,000.
So it is doubtful that Levy, or any other Tottenham man, would readily admit that Spurs might have learned lessons from Arsenal’s resurgence under Arteta.
But there are certainly similarities.
Arsenal have undergone a major re-boot over the past three seasons, showing humility and patience in losing their highest-paid players and improving with an emphasis on the collective.
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It is early days yet for Tottenham’s rebuild – their four wins have come against modest opposition, including Manchester United.
But last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Sheffield United, courtesy of injury-time goals from Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski, was greeted by scenes reminiscent of the liberation of Paris.
So Levy chose an opportune moment to stage a first fans’ forum in six years this week.
There, a chairman who had become a figure of hate in recent years was widely cheered as he sounded realistic, optimistic and contrite. Most of all, he sounded like a fan again.
Levy admitted he had got it wrong by appointing ‘trophy managers’ Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, who were ‘not right’ for his club.
“We want to play a certain way, and if that means it has to take a little bit longer to win, maybe it’s the right thing for us,” said Levy,
“That’s why bringing Ange in was the right decision.”
Under the guidance of Postecoglou, the likeable Aussie with a flair for man-management and an innate feel for the ‘glory game’, Spurs fans are rediscovering the basic feeling of enjoying going to watch their team again.
And this just six weeks after the sale of the club’s record goalscorer, Harry Kane – the man who, as his new Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel stated this week ‘carried Tottenham on his shoulders’ for years.
Kane scored 30 Premier League goals in a Spurs team which finished eighth last season – a staggering personal achievement – and yet his former club somehow look as if they could be better off without him.
In very different circumstances, Arteta froze out the club’s two biggest earners – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil – and thrived, Spurs are showing signs that they may flourish without Kane.
Levy spoke of Postecoglou’s willingness to blood young players, which has certainly been a trait of Arsenal’s resurgence under Arteta.
And both North London clubs are playing eye-candy football, with an emphasis on entertainment.
Levy spoke of those joyless ‘trophy managers’ Mourinho and Conte.
But in an era of dominance from Manchester City – who have stashed 11 of the last 18 English domestic trophies – the chances of anyone else winning silverware are becoming increasingly remote.
To come second to City and play thrilling football, as Arsenal did last season, is perhaps as good as it gets.
Arsenal will start as firm favourites tomorrow, with home advantage and a far more advanced project than Postecoglou’s Spurs.
But at least until kick-off, there will be two sets of supporters with smiles on their faces and North London has not seen the likes of that in donkey’s years.
When is Arsenal vs Tottenham?
- Arsenal's mouthwatering match against Tottenham will take place on Sunday, September 24.
- It is scheduled to get underway at 2pm BST.
- Emirates Stadium in North London is the allocated arena for this epic game and it can host approximately 60,000 fans.
- The Gunners did the double over Spurs last season which includes a 2-0 win at Spurs.
What TV channel is it on and can it be live streamed?
- Arsenal vs Tottenham will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League.
- Coverage is scheduled to commence from 1pm BST – a whole hour before kick-off.
- Fans can also stream the entire match live on NOW TV
- Alternatively, follow SunSport's blog for minute-by-minute coverage including pre-match and post-match reaction.
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Here is how Arsenal's skipper Martin Odegaard compares to Spurs' summer signing James Maddison.
What is the team news?
Mikel Arteta will be sweating over the fitness of Brazilian sensation Gabriel Martinelli who sustained a hamstring injury in last week's win against Everton.
Long-term absentees Thomas Partey and Jurrien Timber are certainly set to miss the North London derby.
But all eyes will be on the goalkeeper scenario and whether Arteta decides to stick with David Raya or bring Aaron Ramsdale back into the fold.
Elsewhere, Tottenham have confirmed that Ivan Perisic has suffered an ACL injury which could see the Croatian miss the rest of the season.
And he'll be joining the likes of Rodrigo Bentancur, Bryan Gil and Ryan Sessegnon who are all on the sidelines.
What are the odds?
- Arsenal to win 4/6
- Draw 16/5
- Tottenham to win 7/2
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