This weekend the Premier League fixture list has graced us football fans with two of the most famous derbies that world football has to offer: Everton v Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal. Derbies in this country are about more than football, they are about pride, local supremacy, bragging rights and also an all important 3 points. This season is a lot of different from others; it’s almost like we are in a parallel universe as times for all the sides mentioned have changed dramatically. Let’s take a look at both of these historic derbies and what they mean for these clubs this early in the season:
Everton v Liverpool
Saturday 12.45pm Kick off
Live on Sky Sports 2
Go back 5 seasons and Everton were a solid ‘top six’ side and regulars in Europe, Liverpool were battling for the Premier League title and also firing in the Champions League; fast forward to today and the fortunes of both these sides have drastically changed. Everton are in the midst of a financial crisis, severely restricting what they can do in the transfer market and they have to operate with a bare bones squad, supplemented by some very young, but exciting, talent. Whereas Liverpool have more money to splash around than ever before and have just emerged from two transfer windows having rebuilt a whole team at the cost of tens of millions of pounds.
Despite these contrasting financial fortunes both teams have suffered slightly from a drop in performance levels. Liverpool who used to enjoy being title contenders year on year are now scrapping with Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to finish fourth, whereas Everton fans would probably see a top half finish as a good season with the slender squad at David Moyes’ disposal.
So far this season neither team has started too badly, Liverpool have dropped 8 points but still sit in 5th spot. Everton have also dropped 8 points occupying 11th place with a game in hand, which if they win, will put them on exactly the same points as Liverpool. Coming in to this game things couldn’t be much tighter; perfect conditions for this fiery encounter and mark my words it will be fiery. There have been 19 red cards in matches between these two sides, more than in any other Premier League fixture in history, so it would be no surprise to see another in a match that will now mean more than ever.
Liverpool have moved away from a team of nearly all foreign players and British footballers litter the squad, players that understand what this game means. It is no different for Everton, the players the Everton academy have produced, who have been thrust in to first team action, are all local lads who know exactly what this game means from a fans perspective and also what it means to the city of Liverpool. What we have on our hands is probably the most important Merseyside derby that the Premier League has seen for some time. Have a bet on a Suarez goal, a red card for either Suarez or Drenthe – this one is going to be tight.
Tottenham v Arsenal
Sunday 4.00pm Kick off
Live Sky Sports 1
Down in London times have changed for both Spurs and Arsenal and for once it seems Spurs come in to this massive derby as favourites. Spurs have no doubt improved over the past 3 or 4 seasons, becoming European regulars and also challenging for a spot in the top 4, but after a summer of tight purse strings on the back of last season’s 5th place finish, Tottenham’s push to become genuine title contenders seems to have stuttered like Gareth Gates’ music career.
Arsenal seem to have begun a fall from grace that could end up echoing the downturn in fortunes Liverpool have suffered lately. During the summer their squad was ripped apart as star players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri departed and weren’t suitably replaced. There is real doubt from fans for the first time over Arsene Wenger’s continuation as manager and a lot of things at this highly successful Premier League club have taken a for the worse.
Arsenal approach this game on the back of a win in the Champions League, but also on the back of news that their star midfielder Jack Wilshere is out for at least 5 months and there is also uncertainty surrounding a contract extension for captain Robin van Persie. Arsenal face, for the first time in a long time, going in to a game against Spurs as underdogs, whilst also having to deal with off-pitch uncertainties that haven’t been this severe at the club before.
Neither Spurs nor Arsenal really did the business in the transfer market that ideally the managers would have liked, but that is not to say there won’t be some players keen to make an impact in such an important match. Adebayor will no doubt dominate the headlines today and over the weekend with so much history both for and against Arsenal. Adebayor was once Spurs fans most hated player, but irony in football seems to be rife these days and it may well be the performance of Adebayor that brings down Arsenal come Sunday. Still not fully accepted by Spurs fans, this is a game to make a name for himself in front of the White Hart Lane faithful. It is also a chance for Arsenal’s new boys to become instant fan favourites. Wilshere’s injury will mean there may be space for both Arteta and Benayoun to play in a 5 man midfield, both of which would love to be the hero in this encounter.
Spurs are currently 6th in the league and will want a win to stay in the top 4 mix. Arsenal need nothing less than a win as they sit in 13th – a win would take them level on points with Tottenham and keep them within arm’s length of the top 4. This derby is symbolic for both teams; if Spurs win, psychologically it could signal that there has finally been a shift of power in north London and give them confidence in a season where nothing less than a top 4 finish will do. A loss for Arsenal to such a fierce rival could have the opposite effect on their season and could signal that a tough road lies ahead for the Gunners. A win would do wonders, showing the league that Arsenal are not dead and buried already and it will also give fans and players some much needed belief. Either way it is a huge game, anything could happen, but don’t be surprised if you see a red card somewhere during what will no doubt be a bloody battle