After their defeat at the Boleyn Ground on Wednesday night, Tottenham face their second London derby of the week against title-challenging neighbours Arsenal on Saturday afternoon.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side go into the game only three points behind league leaders Leicester City, but will feel aggrieved they did not hit the front after slipping to only their fourth league defeat of the season.
Spurs fans will be hoping their side can put this setback behind them, and get back to the form that saw them win their previous six league games, and launched them into second place.
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There have been a few Spurs Premier League teams on the verge of success, most notably during Harry Redknapp’s reign when talented players such as Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart and Dimitar Berbatov were present. Although they qualified for the Champions League, they never quite lived up to their full potential and their stars soon moved on to pursue their dreams of silverware.
A criticism of contemporary Tottenham teams has been that they have never had the backbone to achieve success in the league. With Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Harry Kane, Spurs now have one of the strongest spines in the league and opitimise the high-pressing and hard-working style of play that Pochettino has adopted since his arrival in English football.
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The Argentine coach has assembled a side full of energy and solidarity, and it is clear to see why they have proven so difficult to beat this season and conceded the least amount of league goals - just 22.
One of the most notable characteristics of this team is the belief they possess. Their performances against Manchester City this campaign perfectly represented it.
They have suffered heavy defeats against the Citizens in the last few years, but this year they have beaten them twice and were worthy winners on both occasions. Rather than wait for City to attack, they took control of both games and executed their chances perfectly to take all six points.
Their new-found confidence against the top teams was also evident at the Emirates in November, when Spurs took the lead and dominated large parts of the game. It was only a late equaliser from Kieran Gibbs that denied them the three points they arguably deserved for their efforts.
Top scorer Kane will have good memories from the last time the two teams met at the Lane when a late double from him led his team to a 2-1 victory. Another match-winning performance could be enough to put his side on the top of the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger has regularly been involved in title races during his 20-year tenure and has had no shortage of rivals to contend with, not least with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
However until now, he has never had a challenge from his closest league opponents and Gunners fans would surely value a winner this Saturday even more than Robert Pires’ goal which booked a place in the FA Cup Final in 2001.
As with every game towards the top of the table, there will be important individual battles across the pitch, and the result will also be decided by whoever has the most desire and belief on the day.
Although Spurs lost to a side in great form and exceeding expectations in the form of West Ham on Wednesday night, Arsenal slipped to their third straight defeat against relegation battlers Swansea City.
At 12:45 on Saturday, we will find out a little more if Arsenal’s challenge is fading, or if there is a different north London team more likely to taste league triumph this May.
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