Arsenal v Tottenham: Goals and cards on the north London derby menu
Paul Higham can see the north London derby getting a bit tasty so is backing bookings at the Emirates on Sunday...
Gunners in good spirits after Greek victory
Arsenal enjoyed a fine Europa League win in Greece on Thursday to arrive at this vital north London derby in good spirits, if a tad bit more tired than Tottenham who had the benefit of a home tie in Europe.
The Gunners have generally been trending in the right direction recently under Mikel Arteta with solid wins over Leeds and Leicester and a decent rearguard action in defeat to Man City. Giving away sloppy goals is still a big issue though.
Both Burnley and Olympiacos were gifted goals through defensive howlers in the last two games - and that'll be Arteta's main area of concern, given the goal threat Spurs now possess.
Deciding on the shape and personnel of his back-line will be crucial if Arteta is to avoid becoming the first Arsenal boss to ever lose his first three north London derbies, but above all it's the individual mistakes that need to be eradicated if they're to get anything from Sunday's game.
Jose looking up, not down
Jose Mourinho couldn't wait to point out the fact Spurs are lording it seven points above their rivals ahead of this game, but he's right to be confident after five straight wins and 15 goals scored as Gareth Bale has found some of his old imperious form.
With Bale, Kane, Son, Moura and Alli all now forming a clinical and dangerous attacking unit, Spurs are eyeing a late Champions League charge as they look to earn a third straight league win over Arsenal for the first time since 1974.
The caveat to the three straight league wins that have elevated Spurs is that the opposition (Burnley, Fulham, Palace) hasn't been the strongest, and Tottenham haven't done as well against the better sides more recently.
Mourinho's approach will be interesting then - as the reverse fixture was a classic Mourinho big game outing as Spurs allowed Arsenal to have 70% possession but picked them off on the break to win 2-0.
Will Jose go the same way again? Or will he really test his side's newly acquired attacking impetus and let them off the leash in the big one?
Bookies can hardly split them
It's basically a coin toss in the odds, with Arsenal 2.6 and Spurs 2.7 to come out on top, with the draw at 3.3. It should be noted that only Everton v Liverpool has seen more draws than this fixture in Premier League history.
Both teams have scored in this fixture 38 times in the Premier League, that's more than any other game, and at 1.7 for both sides to find the net on Sunday that seems a highly likely outcome yet again.
Arsenal's last four games, and six of their last seven, have all seen both teams score.
The Gunners have lost just once in their last seven at home, against Man City, while in this rivalry they've only lost to Spurs twice in the last 35 home league games.
Spurs had a strong start away from home this season, including that 6-1 win at Old Trafford, but they've won just twice in the last nine on the road, against struggling Sheff Utd and Fulham, scoring just 10 in their last 11 away games.
Going for goals and cards
The stakes are still high here even without fans, and although it may be a slow start after their European exertions this could soon become a tasty derby game.
My old favourite the half-time draw, at 2.1, is definitely on the shortlist again as it always should in these big games - especially after a game in Europe. The over/under 2.5 goals is 1.9 the pair with the bookies undecided at which way that will go.
That's most likely the Jose effect, but even Mourinho will see that Arsenal's defensive mistakes, and their unflinching desire to play out from the back will give their high-pressing forwards, especially Son and Moura, every opportunity to cash in.
The two teams haven't picked up that many bookings themselves, but the stats tell us that they're the top two in having yellow cards for their opposition with Spurs seeing 60 bookings against them and 53 yellow cards waved against Arsenal's opposition.
Over 40 booking points at 2.1 seems very doable in this game with plenty of willing runners with the ball and plenty of yellow card candidates, none more so than Granit Xhaka (who is 2.7 to be booked) and Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg at 2.8.
No player has been booked more in the Premier League this season than Hector Bellerin (8) so his 3.7 to see yellow certainly catches the eye while no team has more red cards than Arsenal this term so the 4.5 on someone being sent off shouldn't be ignored.
In truth I can see this one ending all square, but fancy both sides finding the net and plenty of blood and thunder - and hopefully yellow cards - on show on Sunday.
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