By Toby Davis
THE next instalment of Arsenal’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season features a north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur where manager Arsene Wenger will hope his side can maintain their stunning domestic form and forget their European woe.
In the Premier League, Wenger’s side seem to have confounded the naysayers, who predicted a testing campaign after the Frenchman failed to sign a single senior outfield player in the close-season transfer window.
With 25 points from 11 games, they trail leaders Manchester City only on goal difference and face familiar foes on Sunday (6pm), having won their last five Premier League games.
While there have been blips – notably a recent 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup – they look well-placed to launch a long-desired title challenge.
Their continental exploits, however, have been far from impressive, which was perfectly illustrated in a woeful 5-1 defeat by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Their third defeat in four Champions League games left them bottom of Group F.
In many ways, Wenger could not have chosen a better fixture to rebuild morale than against their fiercest foes.
Arsenal have not lost at home to Tottenham for five years. Spurs have won only one of their last 22 Premier League trips to their north London rivals and have already lost a League Cup clash between the sides this season.
Yet Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham will be more optimistic than usual for a trip to the Emirates Stadium. They are in a rich vein of form, unbeaten in 10 league matches since losing at Manchester United in the first game of the season and up to fifth in the table, five points adrift of the summit.
Spurs could go third if they end their poor run at The Emirates, and Arsenal will probably have to win to keep pace with Manchester City, who face bottom club Aston Villa on Sunday (3.30pm).
Villa have lost five and won none of their last six Premier League fixtures at Villa Park, a dismal record that proved to be the undoing of former manager Tim Sherwood.
New boss Remi Garde watched Monday night’s defeat by Tottenham from the stands, but will be in the dugout for the first time on Sunday.
Manchester United will hope that Wayne Rooney’s winning goal in their Champions victory over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday will prove a turning point in their scoring fortunes after going three games without finding the net.
Louis van Gaal’s side, who are fourth, four points behind City and Arsenal, are at home on Saturday to West Bromwich Albion (5pm), the only team to have beaten them at Old Trafford in their last 13 Premier League games.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has the chance to build on last weekend’s victory at Chelsea when his side host Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday (6pm).
While Jose Mourinho will be pleased with his team’s 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, his future remains precarious and Chelsea face another testing trip to Stoke City in Saturday’s late kick-off.