Two shining stars to tangle in London Derby
TOTTENHAM v ARSENAL
(Tonight, 8,45pm, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Thank heavens for Harry Kane and Santi Cazorla. They are courtiers outshining kings.
Chelsea and Manchester City are Premier League royalty, but they are not sitting pretty at the summit. Something is off. The crowns are slightly crooked.
All right, the title race is proving to be as dull as dishwater. The automatons are chasing the silver, but the real gold is coming from Tottenham and Arsenal.
North London is glowing, basking in the illuminating form of both Kane and Cazorla.
In a season increasingly dulled by efficiency and caution, Kane and Cazorla are casting off the shackles and regressing to the school playground.
They're kids having a kickabout. They're scoring for fun, winning matches on their own.
Opponents are left defeated, but strangely dazzled. These guys put rivals down with panache.
And it's infectious. Their fans are a classic Depeche Mode record stuck on repeat. They just can't get enough.
Kane has smashed 20 goals in all competitions this season. He's 21 and committed to his boyhood club for the long term, or at least until Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy says otherwise.
Cazorla has come up with six goals and five assists in his last 10 games.
From early December onwards, nobody's been better. Since Cesc Fabregas' injury, the Arsenal midfielder has assumed the title of mischief-maker in chief.
Cazorla and Kane are equally able.
And tonight, they will clash at White Hart Lane. It's more than a north London Derby and a battle for a top-four spot. It's a meeting between the men of the moment.
In their respective positions, both men stand at the summit. They'll only be room for one at the final whistle.
Right now, there's little to choose between them.
Pundit Gary Neville called Kane a monster. He plays without fear, which only terrifies those who confront him. For a young Englishman, he's an unusually potent mix of pace and power.
Against Chelsea on New Year's Day, Kane didn't so much steamroller John Terry and Gary Cahill. He sidestepped them. They were trailing footnotes in his story, lost in his disappearing slipstream.
Kane doesn't only punish weakness. He punishes space. Give him an inch and he'll take a goal.
Fortunately for the Gunners, their defence exhibits greater fortitude these days.
Goals once leaked through Wojciech Szczesny's defence like cigarette smoke through a dressing room window.
But the nicotine-stained, butter-fingered goalkeeper is out, David Ospina is in and the Colombian has kept four clean sheets in four games.
Laurent Koscielny's return from injury helped and Arsene Wenger finds himself in the enviable position of having solid defensive support on the bench.
Kane has bypassed most obstacles, but he faces a roadblock against Arsenal.
Nabil Bentaleb may prove a stabilising influence if he can successfully swop the rigours of the African Nations Cup for the Premier League. He has been missed in midfield, particularly at Crystal Palace.
But the Algerian fills only one hole behind Kane.
Cazorla, on the other hand, has been served a smorgasbord of midfield maestros. They are all hitting the sweet spot.
It's a testament to Arsenal's squad depth that the absence of leading scorer Alexis Sanchez has been covered so effortlessly. Theo Walcott and Mesut Oezil are both back and both scoring.
Francis Coquelin mops up at one end and Olivier Giroud applies a little French polish at the other.
But Cazorla remains the captivating centrepiece. The away end won't be able to take their eyes off him. The home crowd will watch him through the cracks of their fingers.
Wenger has granted the Spaniard unprecedented freedom, even by Arsenal's standards, to stroll wherever he pleases.
Cazorla changes position when he wants, runs where he wants and creates a goal when he wants.
Kane relies on the support of others. Cazorla can help himself to whatever he likes with those around him. He's opened up a buffet in the final third and the Gunners are gorging.
Arsenal have won five in a row, scoring 15 goals along the way and conceding just two. The advantage lies with the visitors at White Hart Lane.
Kane possesses the hallmarks of a predatory assassin, but Cazorla operates in a company of killers. Any one of them could take out Tottenham tonight.
Wenger: Wilshere is not a smoker
Jack Wilshere is "not a smoker", according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Speaking at the Gunners press conference yesterday morning (Singapore time), Wenger responded to photos of the England midfielder holding a shisha pipe at a nightclub which were posted on social media earlier this week.
"I have spoken with him about that. He is not a smoker, he is sorry about what happened, but he has to master his own life," said the Arsenal manager.
"When he is here, he has to follow the rules. This photo has been taken at half past 12 after the Super Bowl. I don't know what happened really.
"Away from the club, it is his responsibility to master his life."
Wenger said that Wilshere has always behaved in a professional way at the club.
"You have been 20 (years old), sometimes you need to ease the pressure," he said.
"Today, everywhere you go, people make photos, but one second of your life does not define who you are."
Wenger feels some of the negative headlines which surround Wilshere are unfair, given the player's dedication to his football career, which has been hampered by injury.
"You are always worried for your players that they get what they don't deserve, but I think I observe him well and he behaves in a very professional way," said the Arsenal manager.
"Every morning, he is certainly one of the first in and, every afternoon, certainly the last out. He works very hard.
"Jack has gone through some bad spells in his career and always recovered.
"It would be wrong to give him that kind of reputation because he is a serious player and he works very hard.
"He is two weeks ahead of schedule in his (recovery) training, and you don't do that if you are not serious."
Wenger, though, warned that once Wilshere was fully fit, there would be no guarantee of being able to walk straight back into the Arsenal team.
"Any player has a battle in our squad now," he said.
"We have a compact squad, but a very competitive one in every position, so you need to be at your best to have a chance to play."
- PA Sport.