Antonio Conte is set to take charge of his first north London derby on Sunday.
We say “is set to” rather than “will” because there does appear to be the possibility of the game being postponed due to Arsenal’s growing list of absences, with the club reportedly requesting for it to be called off.
The Gunners were without as many as nine first-team players for Thursday’s EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Liverpool, and Mikel Arteta intimated they have further issues as a result of that match.
But, for the moment, the game is planned to go ahead as normal and Conte will surely be eager for it to do so, with Arsenal’s predicament seemingly giving him the best possible chance to right some previous wrongs…
CONTE’S ARSENAL HOODOO
When you consider how good Conte’s Chelsea were, it seems quite remarkable he could have such a poor record against any team.
But during his time at Stamford Bridge, Conte won just one of eight games against the Gunners, or 12.5 per cent.
Among the clubs he has faced at least five times across his managerial career, Conte does not have a worse win rate against anyone.
Spurs can perhaps take solace in the fact they have not lost yet under the Italian in the Premier League, though if they do lose on Sunday, Conte will be the first Tottenham manager to suffer his first top-flight defeat in a north London derby since Ossie Ardiles in August 1993.
KEY MEN RELISH A DERBY
In Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Tottenham have two players with a track record of impacting north London derbies.
Son has had a hand in five goals across his previous four meetings with Arsenal (three goals, two assists), while Kane is, of course, this fixture’s all-time leading scorer with 11 strikes in 16 games.
Nevertheless, Arsenal may have some confidence in keeping Kane at bay at least given he has not scored in his past two derbies – failure again will make it his worst drought in the fixture.
Further to that, Kane’s record of 0.35 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes is bettered by as many as 15 players this season (minimum 500 minutes played) and he is under-performing that in terms of non-penalty goals (0.19 per 90 mins), suggesting he may not be the Mr. Reliable he once was.
YOUNG GUNS MADE OF THE WRIGHT STUFF?
While Arsenal’s squad may have a little less derby pedigree, it would be fair to say they have a greater presence of youthful exuberance, with young players playing a prominent role for Arteta.
Arguably chief among them are Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who were both on the scoresheet when Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 earlier this season.
No English player has scored in both north London derbies for Arsenal in the same year since, remarkably, Ian Wright in 1993-94.
Given the form of both players, there is a strong chance that run could end.
SAKA BACK ON TRACK
After dazzling at Euro 2020, some might have expected Saka to truly light up the Premier League this season. He perhaps has not quite reached that level, though his recent form has been excellent.
He has been involved in at least one goal in each of his previous five Premier League games, netting four and setting up a couple.
Should he continue that streak against Spurs – or whoever they play next if the game is postponed – he will be the youngest player in the competition’s history to have a hand in a goal in six successive Premier League games.