Big Match Focus: Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur

Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino meet for the first time since April 2012 as Arsenal hosts Tottenham in the north London derby on Sunday.

Sunday's North London derby will be played at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.   -  Getty Images

Unai Emery heads into his first north London derby with Arsenal gaining ground on the Premier League's top four.

Chelsea is only a point ahead while third-placed Tottenham Hotspur can be overtaken with victory on Sunday.

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Mauricio Pochettino's men have long found points tough to obtain at Emirates Stadium, but a strong record on the road this season and last weekend's impressive showing at Wembley should inspire hope of overturning its rival.

And though Sokratis Papastathopoulos rejected the notion this match was make-or-break for Arsenal's hopes of Champions League qualification, the concession of a six-point gap to Spurs would be worrisome.

DAUNTING HISTORY FOR BOTH BOSSES

A 17-game unbeaten streak in all competitions is impressive, but Emery will really endear himself to Gunners supporters with a successful north London derby debut.

Only two of Arsenal's last nine managers have triumphed at the first attempt: Don Howe in 1983 and Arsene Wenger in 1996.

Emery does, however, own a commanding head-to-head record against Pochettino.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery.   -  Getty Images

 

Then in charge of Valencia, he won all three of his La Liga home games against the Argentine's Espanyol side between January 2010 and December 2011, prevailing 4-0 in its most recent meeting in April 2012.

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Those unflattering statistics merely add to what is already a managerial mountain to climb for Pochettino, who has failed to beat Arsenal in any of his five away league fixtures against the Gunners.

FORM GUIDE

Arsenal has dismissed the concerns that emerged from its 3-2 defeat at Chelsea in August. Now familiar with Emery's methods, a squad formerly averse to away days secured a fourth Premier League road victory of the campaign against Bournemouth last time out.

That 2-1 triumph extended its undefeated sequence to 11 in the league and 17 in all competitions.

Erik Lamela celebrates his goal for Tottenham.   -  Getty Images

 

Tottenham, too, is enjoying life beyond Wembley, winning seven of eight Premier League trips this season - its best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1960-61.

Pochettino's team made it three league wins on the trot with last weekend's barnstorming 3-1 defeat of the previously unbeaten Chelsea.

HEAD-TO-HEAD (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang v Harry Kane)

Arsenal has every reason to fear Harry Kane heading into this crunch clash.

Spurs' spearhead boasts six goals in his seven league appearances against the Gunners, the only blank coming in this exact fixture last season.

Tottenham's Harry Kane   -  Getty Images

 

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he has a worthy rival for the limelight.

The 29-year-old has notched nine times to Kane's eight in the Premier League this term and has incredibly scored with each of his last eight shots on target in the competition.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang   -  Getty Images

 

Their stat sheets otherwise make for nearly identical reading: from one assist and 12 chances created apiece down to a strikingly similar passing accuracy.

Kane's expected goals tally of 7.21 - in comparison to Aubameyang's leaner 5.2 - suggests the England captain could be sharper in front of goal.

HISTORY SAYS...

Clean sheets are unlikely.

Premier League matches between this pair have seen both teams find the net more often than in any other fixture in the competition.

Indeed, Arsenal has scored in each of its last 22 home games against Tottenham in all competitions, while suffering just one loss from Spurs' past 25 visits in the Premier League.

Pochettino's half-time team talk could be especially important: his club has dropped more points from winning positions in Premier League games against Arsenal (37) than any other side.

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