Friday, October 30, 2009

North London Derby Preview

The biggest London derby kicks off at 12:45 local. If you are in the US you can see it on ESPN2 at 8:30 AM Eastern.


Though they played before, this derby really got going in 1913 when Arsenal moved from Plumstead to Highbury. That put the teams four miles from each other. Unlike the East Lancashire Derby, these two teams have met nearly every year. Since 1950 they've been in the same division every season but one. In fact they have met 144 times in league play. In those matches, Arsenal have had the upper hand winning 59. Tottenham have won 45 and 40 were draws.

Recent history is significantly worse for Spurs. They haven't beaten Arsenal in league play in nearly 10 years, last doing so at White Hart Lane on November 7th, 1999. The last time Spurs won in Highbury in league play was in 1993. The last 10 years at home in the derby Arsenal have 8 wins and 2 draws. Those draws came last season and 4 seasons ago so I suppose you could argue that Spurs are doing better in this fixture if you like.


The two clubs are level on points though Arsenal have a match in hand. Despite that and the season still being pretty young, their form is pretty different. Spurs started out on fire with four wins. They have since gone 2-1-3. To be fair, two of their three losses were at Chelsea and against Manchester United so schedule plays a role. They can't feel good about their loss last week though as it was at home against Stoke City, the first win for the Potters away from home this season. Since losing 4-2 at Manchester City, the end of two straight matchdays of losing in Manchester, Arsenal have won 4 and last week got a draw at West Ham. Expanding beyond league play, both teams won at home in the midweek against opponents from Liverpool. Spurs beat Everton 2-0 while Arsenal took care of Liverpool 2-1. The previous week Arsenal also had a disappointing 1-1 draw at AZ Alkmaar, giving up the equalizer in stoppage time in the second half.

Injuries and Suspensions

Arsenal have several injuries. Rosicky is questionable with a knee injury and Denison, Djourou, Wilshere and Walcott will all be out. Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski picked up a thigh injury in the league cup so he should be out as well. It's unlucky for Fabianski who was playing in his first match of the year due to a knee injury.

For Spurs, Jermain Defoe is still out suspended and Modric out with a broken leg. Other concerns are Aaron Lennon and Giovani Dos Santos. Both have ankle injuries and may or may not be ready. Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King will probably be available but have had injury issues as well.

Scoring and Conceding

Arsenal have been the best scoring team this season. They have scored 5 more goals than any other club despite playing one fewer match than most. For the Gunners, the problems look to be at the defensive end. They have conceded 13 goals, 5 more than Chelsea, 2 more than Manchester United and the same as Liverpool. Again though, that's playing one fewer match than those title contenders. It is inevitable that their goal-scoring rate will slow down as they are on an unsustainable pace. They rate as the best team at scoring but only 10th best at defending in my EPL ranking.

Looking at goal differential, Tottenham have been running a bit above expectation. The teams around them have significantly higher goal differentials. My model rates them as the 4th best scoring team, 9th best defensively and 6th best overall.


I'm a bit in between models right now. I'm using the PLM to predict the result and the Poisson model to give me the most likely scorelines. Both models have Arsenal as huge favorites. The PLM gives them a 67% chance, Spurs just a 14% shot with the other 19% the likelihood of a draw. It gives 3-1, 3-2, 4-1, and 4-2 all about the same chance as the most likely scorelines, though each only have around a 5% chance. This is one of those matches where I don't fully trust the model. The problem is that Arsenal have been running at a ridiculous pace, almost certainly scoring more goals than expected given their skill level. They are on pace for 122 goals for the season while last year they scored only 68. I think Arsenal are still favorites but not to that extent. Something more like 50% Arsenal win and 25% for Spurs and the draw seems about right to me.

I'm making my prediction 3-1 Arsenal.

1 comment:

  1. Nice preview Jared, almost got the scoreline correct. 3-0 to the Gunners.