Arsenal vs. Tottenham Stats Through Time: The Viz
Want the very best North London derby stats? Arsenal and Tottenham renew their rivalry this weekend, with two of England’s biggest clubs meeting in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. As one of the most famous fixtures in the English football league calendar, we’ve decided to look at the game through time with the help of a delightful array of data viz.
Saturday’s fixture will be the 171st league meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, although only 162 of the previous English Football League matches between the pair have been considered a true derby. Originally located south of the Thames in Plumstead, Arsenal eventually moved to North London in 1913 – this move to Highbury incensed Tottenham, who believed this was their territory. Now true neighbours, the North London rivalry began.
Arsenal lead the all-time Football League head-to-head record in this fixture, with 68 wins to Tottenham’s 55 – though just four of these wins have come in the last 16 encounters (W4 D6 L6). But at home, the recent record is very different.
The Gunners have lost just one of their last 29 league home games against Spurs (W17 D11) and are unbeaten in their last 11 against them at the Emirates Stadium since a 3-2 loss in November 2010. This fixture pits two of the most successful clubs in English top-flight league history together, with only Manchester United (47.9%) and Liverpool (47.4%) having a higher win ratio in the top division in England than both the north London clubs.
Arsenal have won 1,946 league matches in English top-flight history, second only to Liverpool’s 2,018, while their win ratio of 45.7% is the third best ahead of Spurs (41.8%) in fourth. Tottenham are now just 29 wins away from becoming only the seventh team to tally 1,500 wins in top-flight league history in England, behind Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
In terms of club success, Arsenal lead Spurs by quite a way for both league titles (13-2) and major trophies won overall (31-17). Just two of Spurs’ major honours have come in the last 31 years, with both of those coming in the League Cup (1998-99 and 2007-08), while Arsenal have won four major titles since Spurs’ last trophy – all of them FA Cups, a competition that they have won more often than any other team (14).
Arsenal have finished above Spurs in the league pyramid in 67 different seasons since their first campaign together in the EFL (1908-09), with 21 of these coming consecutively between 1995-96 and 2015-16 – the longest run of supremacy (either way) between these clubs in league history. Arsenal’s dominance in the Premier League era hasn’t lasted, however…
The Premier League
The phrase ‘mind the gap’ became synonymous with Arsenal’s league position dominance over Spurs across that 21-season period, but the tide has turned since. As it stands, Spurs are on a six-season run of finishing above their rivals in the Premier League table.
Arsène Wenger had never finished below Spurs in the Premier League as Arsenal manager until his final two seasons at the club, including a 14-point deficit in 2017-18, his final season in charge. Spurs’ current run of six successive seasons above Arsenal in the English league system is their longest run since the late 1960s, when they finished nine successive First Division campaigns ahead of their rivals between 1959-60 and 1967-68.
Between 2002-03 and 2003-04, Arsenal were the dominant force in north London within the Premier League – seeing as high as a 1.37 points per game average higher than Spurs over a 38-game period in April 2004. Over time, Tottenham have caught up with Arsenal, and led the Gunners for the majority of time between March 2017 and September 2021.
Since the end of last season, they are the closest they’ve ever been in the Premier League era – on 16 May, they even had the exact same PPG average across their previous 38 matches (1.89). Coming into this match, Arsenal’s 38-game PPG average is 2.11, just ahead of Spurs’ 2.08.
To emphasise that this is one of the strongest periods for both clubs at the same time in the Premier League era, this fixture will be the first Premier League meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham with one of the sides top of the league since December 2007, with league leaders Arsenal winning 2-1 at the Emirates. If Tottenham win, it will be the first time in top-flight history that either side has beaten the other to replace them at the top of the table.
After Manchester City’s 3-2 defeat to Tottenham in February, Pep Guardiola said that Spurs were “deep and compact” and “created a lot of space to run on the counter-attack”. Antonio Conte was almost offended by that suggestion, posting on Instagram to bite back.
But Conte was surely posting in jest. There’s no shame in being a counter-attacking team, and Spurs have been one of the best at doing it since the Italian arrived at the club last year.
So far in 2022-23, Spurs have kept a much deeper shape than the other clubs in the ‘big six’, averaging much less of the ball in the final third of the pitch than those teams.
Just 19% of Spurs successful passes have ended in the final third of the pitch in the Premier League this season – that’s only higher than Bournemouth (18%). Compare that to Arsenal (30%), Chelsea (30%), Man Utd (29%), Man City (27%) and Liverpool (27%) and Tottenham are the clear anomaly of the big six sides in 2022-23 so far.
Field tilt is a metric to show the territorial dominance between teams. It measures the share of possession a team has in a game, considering only touches or passes in the attacking third. It can be useful when trying to understand which team is more dominant in games, rather than looking at overall possession, mainly as it looks at how teams are able to get the ball into areas that matter.
When we look at the field tilt numbers in the Premier League this season, the stark difference between Spurs and Arsenal’s willingness to hold possession in attacking areas becomes even more evident.
Only Manchester City (83.7%) and Liverpool (75.3%) have a higher field tilt than Arsenal (69.2%) in the Premier League this season, while Spurs’ average (37.6%) is the 17th highest – lower than teams like Nottingham Forest (38.3%), Fulham (40.9%), Wolves (54.7%) and Leicester (50.9%).
Spurs’ are much more direct with their attacking in 2022-23 than Arsenal have been. In fact. The Lilywhites have attempted 19 direct attacks this season – the most in the Premier League and only one fewer than Liverpool (11) and Man City (nine) combined.
Direct Attacks: The number of open play sequences that starts just inside the team’s own half and has at least 50% of movement towards the opposition’s goal and ends in a shot or a touch in the opposition box.
Direct Speed: How quickly teams progress up the pitch in open play sequences, measured in metres per second.
Because Spurs set their stall out deeper than many other teams, this also makes them harder to counter against – only West Ham and Brentford have a lower direct speed against average than they do in the Premier League this season (1.16 metres per second). Sitting deeper makes them much more compact in shape, which makes it much harder for opponents to get clear shooting opportunities.
The average xG for non-penalty shots faced by Spurs this season is just 0.064 – essentially meaning that the average expected shot conversion rate of these shots is 6.4%. That’s a league low value, ahead of Newcastle United’s 0.078 (7.8%). Arsenal, in comparison, give their opponents an average non-penalty xG per shot of 0.102 (10.2%), while Chelsea are the league’s worst in this metric at 0.139 (13.9%).
Arsenal give their opponents a lower non-penalty xG per game on average (0.76) than Spurs do (0.96), but it’s a case of what do you prefer? Giving away higher quality shots on a less frequent basis over the average 90 minutes (Arsenal) or allowing opponents to accumulate more shots but at a lower quality on average (Tottenham).
Again, pointing back to Spurs’ low-block strategy this season under Conte, their ability to restrict opponents to low quality shots comes despite allowing opponents 25.6 touches in their box per game on average, more than 10 more than Arsenal do (15.3) and more frequent than struggling teams like Leicester (23.1) and West Ham (22.4). Yes, they allow opponents the opportunity to get into their box, but it’s so crowded, they can’t get a clear sight of goal.
Which team have seen their outfielders block the highest number of opposition shots this season? Spurs, of course (34).
This fixture has been one of the most entertaining since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992-93.
The North London derby is the fourth highest scoring fixture in Premier League history (171), behind only Arsenal vs. Liverpool (175), Liverpool vs. Spurs (172) and Arsenal vs. Everton (172). Twenty-one of those goals have come from the penalty spot, which is a record tally for a single fixture in the competition.
Ten Premier League North London derbies have seen the team that score the first goal go on to lose the match, including one in each of the last two years. Only Spurs vs. Southampton (13) and Chelsea vs. Sunderland (11) have seen more wins in a fixture after conceding the opening goal.
Spurs have thrown away leads in 19 of their previous 60 Premier League meetings with Arsenal, with 11 of these coming away at the Gunners.
Overall, they’ve dropped 45 points from leading positions against Arsenal in Premier League history, which is more than any other club against a single opponent.
There have been six goals scored in the 90th minute (or later) in Premier League history in matches between Arsenal and Spurs – all four of Spurs’ have been equalisers, the last of which was arguably the most dramatic of all. Aaron Lennon’s goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time in October 2008 at the Emirates Stadium rescued a point despite Spurs being 4-2 down in the 89th minute.
Weirdly, there’s never been a winning goal scored in the 90th minute or later in a Premier League London derby. In comparison, the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton has seen a league-high five.
It comes as more of a surprise when learning that Spurs have suffered more 90th minute defeats than any other team in Premier League history (24), while only Liverpool (54) have seen more Premier League games decided by a 90th minute winner than Tottenham (52).
So far in 2022-23, Arsenal have the second youngest average starting line-up in the Premier League (24 years, 173 days) behind only Southampton (24y 137d) – both the youngest averages ever seen in a Premier League season. But it would be unfair to compare this – at just two months into a campaign – to an entire, complete season. Both sides will see their average age creep up as the 2022-23 season progresses.
The average age of Arsenal’s starting XI last season was 24 years and 308 days old – the sixth youngest ever and the youngest across a full Premier League campaign since 2014-15, which happened to be Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs’ side (24y 282d).
With youth comes a relative inexperience, which was ultimately telling when Arsenal and Spurs met at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May. The hosts ran out 3-0 winners, with Arsenal not helped by an early red card. Tottenham’s starting XI (26y 341d) was almost two years older than Arsenal’s (25y, 54d), while their starters had played a combined 800 more Premier League games than the Gunners’ (1,731 vs 931).
Another area where experience proved crucial last season was in the two managers. Though a graduate and disciple of Pep Guardiola, this is still Mikel Arteta’s first job in management, while Antonio Conte is (rightly) a highly revered top-flight coach. At club level alone, the Italian has managed well over 400 more games than Arteta, with five top-flight titles to his name to boot.
Conte won his first game against Arsenal as Tottenham manager in May (3-0). He’s looking to become only the third Spurs manager to win his first two competitive meetings with the Gunners after Jose Mourinho and Jimmy Anderson. Meanwhile, Arteta has won both of his home games in charge against Tottenham. Only two Gunners managers in the club’s history have won each of their first three at home against Spurs – George Morrell (1909-1911) and Terry Neill (1977-1979).
The Record Goalscorer
Harry Kane loves playing against Arsenal.
The Spurs and England captain has scored 13 times against Arsenal overall, with each of those goals coming in the Premier League. He’s the highest scoring player in North London derby history, ahead of Bobby Smith and Emmanuel Adebayor (10) – who incidentally is the only player in Premier League history to score for both clubs in this fixture, with Jimmy Robertson the only other player to do it all-time.
Kane has also scored the most Premier League goals against Arsenal (13) overall, across all teams – aided by the fact that he’s both taken and scored more penalties against the Gunners than any other player in the history of the competition (six).
The striker has scored against four different Arsenal goalkeepers – David Ospina (three), Petr Cech (four), Bernd Leno (four) and Aaron Ramsdale (two), but just four of these have come in away matches.
Just 10 players have scored more goals against a single opponent in Premier League history, with Kane’s 18 goals versus Leicester just behind the competition record held by Alan Shearer against Leeds United (20).
Kane’s scored with 19.1% of his shots in the Premier League against Arsenal – that’s higher than his Premier League average conversion rate against every other club combined (17.5%).
Research support: Tom Ede in the UK Data Insights team.
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