Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
After three seasons without celebrating their derby holiday, Arsenal have a chance to bring St. Totteringham's Day back by season's end as they enter a key north London clash with Spurs at the Emirates.
For the uninitiated, St. Totteringham's Day was celebrated by Arsenal fans during seasons after they had mathematically clinched finishing with more points than the Lilywhites. But as Mauricio Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy built Tottenham into a power, Arsenal's star faded as first Arsene Wenger retired before Unai Emery was unable to keep the Gunners in the top four.
In this unprecedented and unpredictable season, everything is up for grabs between the north London rivals, including potential Europa League spots. Spurs (13-10-11) played to a damp squib of a 0-0 draw at struggling Bournemouth on Thursday, failing to register a shot on frame despite holding possession for almost two-thirds of the match.
"My thoughts are that the crucial moment of the game was the fourth or fifth minute," Mourinho told Spurs' official website. "When you play against a team that was surprisingly very defensive, you need to break them. When you can break them in the beginning of the game, it changes completely.
"We had the occasion in the fourth or fifth minute, and then they got some confidence and some stability, they defended very well and for the majority of the period of the game we were not sharp enough."
Mourinho is no stranger to London derbies from his time at Chelsea, and there were few matches he loved more than facing Arsenal given his, at times, rancorous back and forth with Wenger. He does not have that type of antagonistic relationship with current Arsenal manager Mikael Arteta - they were at Barcelona when Arteta was in the academy - but a derby is still a derby.
"At this moment we are both in a very similar situation," he said. "It's not that incredible emotion that we're fighting for something really big, more than to finish above you, or not finish above you. It's missing that. It's not a match that is going to decide big things.
"But it probably decides the only thing we can fight for, both of us. The fans have a special feeling for this match, so the players on the pitch have to fight for them."
Arteta is not reading too much into Spurs' recent struggles, even with a notable uptick in his side's play. Arsenal are making a late push for the European spots with a four-match unbeaten streak entering this contest but were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Leicester City on Tuesday.
"I think in a long period they've had a lot of injuries so he hasn't had the chance to be consistent with his team and that's a big disadvantage that they have," he told Arsenal's official website. "I know that he's done it and I know people that have worked with him and he always find a way to be successful and I'm sure he'll do it again."
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued his fine run of form with a first-half goal, but the match got turned on its head when Eddie Nketiah was sent off four minutes after entering the contest for a poor challenge on James Justin to start the final quarter-hour, and the Gunners could not hold out as Jamie Vardy equalised on 84 minutes.
Nketiah's three-match ban for his sending off was upheld by the FA, ruling him out of this match as well as high-profile clashes versus champions Liverpool and former title holders Manchester City.
Aubameyang, whose future continues to be the subject of speculation as Arsenal are all but mathematically guaranteed to spend a fourth straight season outside the Champions League, has three goals in his last three matches and is two back of Vardy in the race for the Golden Boot with 20. The Gabon international has taken a shine to the north London derby regardless of cup or league play with seven goals in nine lifetime matchups with Tottenham.
Aubameyang salvaged a point for Arsenal in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, leveling the match in the 71st minute for a 2-2 draw. The Gunners were all out of sorts in the first half as Christian Eriksen scored on 10 minutes before Harry Kane converted from the spot a half-hour later, but Alexander Lacazette gave Arsenal a lifeline just before the break.
Arsenal's lone win in their last 11 trips to Spurs (1-4-6) in Premier League play was a 1-0 victory in 2014. Mourinho has an impressive career record versus the Gunners with 10 wins and just two losses in 20 career matches.
Updated July 11, 2020