Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal: Premier League – live!
61 and never again, Tottenham watching Eastenders, you win the league in black and white; it’s been a tough 20 years for Spurs. And, in typical style, they brought some of the stick on themselves. Of course there has been local rivalry for as long as Arsenal have been local, but they did not celebrate finishing above Spurs in 1996, nor was it so big a thing even in 2006, when Arsène Wenger went all hold me back on Martin Jol.
But then in 2012 Spurs went 2-0-up at the Emirates and looked set to go 13 points clear of Arsenal, so mind the gap patter duly ensued. Except Arsenal rallied to win 5-2, finished a point above them, and St Totteringham’s day was born.
The balance of power, though was established well before any of this. The last time Spurs were a serious side, under David Pleat in 1986-87, they lost to Arsenal in an epic League Cup semi-final and Arsenal went on to beat Liverpool in the final, after which Spurs were beaten to the FA Cup by Coventry. They did win the trophy in 1991, but Arsenal had got their retaliation in first, already crowned champions for the second time in three seasons.
Yet, even then, “Tottenham Hotspur Football Club” at least had their “Tottenham Way”, and with it their moral high-ground. Had. Because when, in 1996, Arsene Wenger arrived, “The” Arsenal stopped being quite so “Boring” and “Lucky”, becoming devastating and aesthetic destroyers of Charlton and ilk instead. In the process they won three titles, two more than Spurs have managed in their entire history; since Spurs last managed the feat, Arsenal have won it twice at White Hart Lane alone!
All this has contributed to what is now one of English football’s nastiest and most entertaining rivalries. And with Spurs now ensconced as the best side in the capital after Chelsea, the extra fury and indignance on either side should translate into extra fun for those of us unarsed about how things pan out.
Because, in the moment, it really doesn’t matter that Spurs are unlikely to win the league; football is far more primal than that. What they’re after is revenge for a generation and a story to tell until they die: that day they marmalised Arsenal in the last derby in the penultimate game at the old White Hart Lane, thereby cementing the legal transfer of official bragging rights. This is going to be something.