LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal and Tottenham will be fighting for much more than local bragging rights today as the north London rivals aim to prove they are serious contenders for the Premier League title.
As top-flight action returns following the international break, Arsenal sit top of the table after an unexpectedly strong start, while unbeaten Tottenham are just one point behind in third place.
With Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United still recovering their equilibrium after turbulent starts to the season, a path has opened up for the north London clubs to gate-crash the title race.
If a title challenger was expected to emerge from either end of the Seven Sisters Road, it was Tottenham who were the more likely candidates after snatching a top-four finish from their bitter rivals and neighbours in dramatic fashion last term.
Arsenal were in pole position to qualify for the Champions League when they moved four points clear of Tottenham with just three games left.
But Mikel Arteta’s side blew their chance as a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Tottenham was followed by a devastating loss against Newcastle, ruining their hopes of returning to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.
Buoyed by pipping Arsenal, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy bowed to Antonio Conte’s demands, sanctioning a close-season spending spree that further enhanced the feelgood factor around the club.
With Conte refusing to let his players rest on their laurels, Tottenham have continued to progress in their second season under the demanding Italian.
Conte showed his ruthless side in Tottenham’s last game when he dropped Son Heung-min after his eight-match goalless run and was rewarded with a hat-trick from the South Korean after sending him on as a substitute in the 6-2 rout of Leicester.
While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term.
Arsenal’s implosion in the final week of last season could have been a hammer blow to Arteta’s gradual rebuild of a club mired in mediocrity since well before the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign.