By Adam Clark
Arsène Wenger is clearly impressed with Tottenham.
Earlier this week the Arsenal manager described Martin Jol's current contingent as the best Spurs side he's faced during his 10-year tenure.
After pushing Arsenal all the way in the race for the final Champions League spot last term, Jol went about strengthening his squad in the summer to prevent a similar fate occurring this campaign.
The Dutch manager parted with £8.2million of his transfer budget to bring in Ivorian anchorman Didier Zokora, and on Saturday the latest addition to the Spurs midfield will get his first taste of the North London derby.
Opposing Zokora will be the industrious Brazilian Gilberto - a man who has vast experienced in doing battle with our neighbouring rivals.
Whether those past encounters will give our man an edge on Saturday is yet to be seen, but what do this season's statistics suggest about each player's form?
Well, Gilberto has been the more frequent, and more efficient, distributor of the ball, finding his intended target with 64 per cent of his 120 passes. In comparison, Zokora has attempted to find a team-mate on 89 occasions, with a 63 per cent success rate.
When it comes to tackling, the Tottenham man has the edge. He has made 18 challenges and come out on top 11 times, four more than our man, who has attempted two fewer challenges.
In terms of their other defensive contributions, there is barely room to draw a line between them. Blocked shots? They have two each. Clearances? Gilberto leads 15-13. And interceptions? Well, 9-2, again to the Arsenal man, but in fairness he has played 265 minutes more than his counterpart.
The Brazilian has been less disciplined than Ivorian, committing 16 fouls to the Zokora's 10. The Tottenham midfielder is the only one of the pair to be booked however.
Finally, Gilberto appears to have the upper hand in terms of getting on the scoresheet this season. He headed Arsenal's only goal in last weekend's defeat at Bolton to add to his strike against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. Zokora on the other hand is yet to open his account for Spurs, but will no doubt be desperate to do so on Saturday.
So they're quite even, or so the statistics suggest. Maybe Gilberto's experience will be the decisive factor in the end, but much like the meeting of their two sides, it promises to be a fascinating battle.
View Gilberto's player profile
Head to Head Statistics Gilberto Didier Zokora Premiership Appearances 13 12 Minutes on pitch 1149 884 Attacking Goals 2 0 Shots on target 9 1 Shots off target 6 3 Shots blocked 4 1 Offside 0 1 Supporting Assists 0 1 Passes made 120 89 Passes complete 77 56 Passes incomplete 43 33 Crosses successful 0 0 Crosses unsuccessful 3 8 Total dribbles 6 14 Dribbles successful 5 10 Dribbles unsuccessful 1 4 Defending Tackles made 16 18 Tackles won 7 11 Tackles lost 9 7 Interceptions 9 2 Blocked Shots 2 2 Clearances 15 13 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 16 10 Yellow Cards 0 1
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 30 Nov 2006