Reeling from their worst start under Arsene Wenger, a north London derby could be exactly what Arsenal need – just like last season.
The Gunners were trailing Tottenham by 10 points going into their last encounter in February but won 5-2, sparking a revival that led to a European Champions League spot.
Now Arsenal again find themselves below Tottenham in the English Premier League, sitting eighth with only 16 points from 11 matches – the lowest haul since Wenger arrived in 1996.
“Their position (in the league) is completely irrelevant,” Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said.
“Last season they had a poor start and managed to clinch third spot by picking up points. You drop three points, you are condemned. This is the nature of the Premier League.”
Closing the gap
It has been 18 years since Tottenham finished above Arsenal – despite being so far ahead for much of last year – and are only one point in front now.
“Arsenal have won trophies in recent times and they have qualified for the Champions League more often – that is where we want to be in the future,” Villas-Boas said.
“We’re getting nearer.”
But even West Ham and West Bromwich Albion as well as Everton are ahead of the struggling north London teams after their erratic starts.
“Neither we nor Arsenal are where we want to be – the position in the league doesn’t suit either of us,” Villas-Boas said.
“This time last year, we were higher up the table and had our poor period towards the end. We have both shown we can do better, though, and there is still time.”
Tottenham will still be without midfielder Mousa Dembele due to a hip injury that has sidelined him for the last seven games, but winger Aaron Lennon could return from a hamstring problem.
Manchester United lead the league, two points ahead of Manchester City and a further point in front of Chelsea.
United head to Norwich emboldened by a comeback victory at Aston Villa last weekend which gave them five wins on the run since losing to Tottenham.
Villa now face second-place City after coming from behind to beat Tottenham last weekend.
Third-place Chelsea are searching for their first league win since also beating Tottenham, travelling to West Bromwich Albion after two draws and a loss.
At the other end of the standings, Queens Park Rangers are still without a win after 11 matches despite an expensive overhaul of the squad. The west London side host Southampton, who have only one more point.
Reading, the third team in the relegation zone, will also be hoping their quest for a first victory will end on Saturday as they play fourth-place Everton.
“Obviously we haven’t won a game in 10 but we’ve got six points and six results, we could have had six wins because a draw can be a win very easily,” Reading manager Brian McDermott said.
“We have been scoring goals so if we can keep being solid I know we are going to score goals.”
Reading were the last team Liverpool beat before a run of three draws left them languishing in 13th place.
On Saturday, Brendan Rodgers will come up against Wigan counterpart Roberto Martinez, who he beat to the Liverpool manager’s job in the offseason.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Roberto … our philosophies are on the same line in terms of how we want to work and he’s done a terrific job, none more so than last season because Wigan beat Liverpool at Anfield,” Rodgers said.
“So I know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Swansea are at Newcastle on Saturday, while Fulham host Sunderland in Sunday’s only match and West Ham take on Stoke on Monday.