These are not happy times at Arsenal. All is not roses with Tottenham Hotspur either. While the Gunners are feeling déjà vu all over again as a title challenge is all but abandoned, and questions are raised against both manager and owner, Tottenham are also feeling a pinch. Andre Villas-Boas' standing has oscillated through his short time at White Hart Lane from risky appointment to praised reformer back to being doubted again.
Villas-Boas' tactical twiddling has not impressed, and his team have regularly gone ahead only to blow their advantage. From the first home match of the season, when a lead against West Brom was converted only into a 1-1 draw, Spurs have too often surrendered their primacy. It happened last week at Manchester City, too, where an early goal from Steven Caulker was wiped out and then overtaken by a City team that had been let back into the game. That the same also nearly happened at Old Trafford, in Villas-Boas' keynote victory of the season, shows a worrying pattern in the latter stages of matches.
Is it a question of psychology, or one of tactics? AVB seemingly tries to sit out on a lead, yet his team is not very good at doing so. Tottenham fans are rarely appreciative of a negative outlook, and they will hardly be impressed by the recent loss of three games out of four. With the Manchester duo and Chelsea streaking clear at the top of the Premier League, fourth place is the scrap that the rest of the clubs are fighting for. Arsenal and Tottenham are two of that group, while Everton are the team currently in possession and looking good for a season-long challenge. Meanwhile, West Brom and West Ham are above the North London clubs.
This, then, is a London derby of high stakes, and at an early juncture of the season too. Arsene Wenger's recent claim that fourth is a trophy in itself was mocked but is a reflection of its importance to his club. Should Wenger fail to reach it then his standing would look as low as it ever has during his time at Arsenal, while Villas-Boas cannot call on a comparable previous body of work to quell the doubters. His predecessor managed fourth place twice.
Arsenal are four points behind Everton, with Spurs three in deficit. Had Everton not drawn four games in a row then they might even be out of sight, but two clubs who have been there and done it before are still in touch, if they can recover any semblance of form.
Arsenal's recent defensive performances have been ruinous, with Manchester United, Schalke and Fulham exploiting careless defending, with set-pieces being a particular Achilles' heel. Talk of Steve Bould being the brains behind a tightening up of the backline has hushed, and Wenger always bristled at such a suggestion anyway. Should Villas-Boas get his team to push on, Arsenal could be there for the taking.
Back in February, the corresponding fixture was the key game of the season in both team's fortunes.
Arsenal looked to be lurching towards disaster when losing 2-0 to a Spurs team who were on course for their first back-to-back win at Arsenal's home for 86 years, and set to put three points into their rivals. Arsenal were off the back of a 4-0 humiliation by a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired AC Milan and an FA Cup defeat to Sunderland. But a 28-minute spell saw them grab five goals and rescue their season. They soon surged clear in third, and while Spurs did make fourth, Chelsea's winning of the Champions League negated that as an achievement.
They may not like to admit it, but both clubs' stars are in danger of being on the descent. Back in February, they were fighting for third and fourth. On Saturday they are fighting each other to be in the fight for fourth.
Arsenal player to watch: Olivier Giroud. It has not all been bad news for Arsene Wenger. He can take a crumb of comfort in the fact that his latest import from Ligue 1 is beginning to find his feet. A goal at Schalke and a brace against Fulham served to bury unfair comparisons to the lesser spotted Marouane Chamakh. In any case, such a comparison was faulty, since Chamakh began well, only to fade fast. Giroud began slowly but is pushing on from there. He is also able to contribute far more away from goal.
Tottenham Hotspur player to watch: Steven Caulker. Two years ago, Caulker made his Spurs debut in the League Cup against Arsenal, as one of an understrength team fielded by Harry Redknapp. That night, despite a 4-1 win for a higher-powered Arsenal, saw him praised by Redknapp, though the manager could not actually remember Caulker's name. Now, 26 months later, "the young defender", as he was labelled that night, is an international, with a debut England goal to his name, and is keeping former captain Michael Dawson out of the Tottenham team.
Key battle: Mikel Arteta v Clint Dempsey. Last Saturday was not a happy afternoon for Arteta. Having not enjoyed his best afternoon in midfield, he stepped up to take the penalty that would secure a 4-3 win against Fulham. A Mark Schwarzer save later, the final whistle was blown and Arteta was flat out in frustration. That he took the penalty was a reflection of his growing importance to seniority in his team, from a position at the base of the midfield where he is likely to often encounter Dempsey, Villas-Boas' deep-lying forward of choice. The American, aside from a wondrous afternoon at Old Trafford, has yet to impose himself as a Spurs player, giving rise to thoughts that he may have been better off at Liverpool. For differing reasons, both have points to prove.
Trivia: This is Arsenal's worst start to a league season since 1982-83, when they had just 14 points after 11 games. That season, they were under the stewardship of Northern Irishman Terry Neill, who was Spurs manager in 1976, when Arsenal made him the youngest man, at 34, to manage the club. That also means that he was younger than Villas-Boas when managing Spurs, making him the youngest manager of both clubs.
Stats: In the last two meetings between Spurs and Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, a team has taken a 2-0 lead and then gone on to lose the match (Spurs won 3-2 in 2010-11 and Arsenal 5-2 in 2011-12). (Opta)
Odds: Arsenal are a shade under odds-on at 1.90 at bet365, while Tottenham are double that at 3.80. The draw is 3.75. Another 5-2 Arsenal win is 67.00.
Prediction: Tottenham to go into the lead, but Arsenal to blast back and beat them.
Follow John Brewin on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN