Let me come out and say this: I’m a Tottenham supporter (if you couldn’t tell). This fact does not mean that I don’t love my friends who are Arsenal supporters, but I want you Gunner fans to hear me out – and not in an argumentative way – as a football fan rather than a supporter of one specific team or another.
Over the past 100 years, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have had one of the biggest rivalries in soccer. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post on the North London Derby, the games between the two teams have been fierce and can often cause rifts betweens friends and family. And, for those of you who don’t understand the ‘big deal’ about this certain Derby, Tottenham and Arsenal matches can be likened to the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, the Yankees and the Red Sox, or North Carolina and Duke. Yea, it’s that big.
After this weekend, there are only 10 weeks left of the Premier League calendar. That doesn’t seem like a big problem, but 3 points (a win) can add up quickly, but so does receiving zero points (a loss).
Recently, the Lilywhites have been on a hot streak in the Premier League – and in the Europa League after coming away with a win and a tie against Lyon (win on aggregate) in the Second Round – after winning or drawing the last 11 matches.
The Gunners, on the other hand, have had a bumpy mid-season with a few wins, a few draws and a few losses. A bright note for Arsenal is that they continue play in the Champions League (Round of 16), though they are hanging on by a thread. The next match they play will be said Champions League match…against Bayern Munich…in Allianz Arena in Munich. Oh, and the Gunners have a 2 goal disadvantage in the home-away series.
Turning back to the North London Derby then, I assume Tottenham will be playing ‘balls to the wall’ so to speak, especially with nothing to lose against Arsenal, considering they were beaten by their bitter neighbors in a 5-2 drubbing in November. I also assume that Arsenal, though this is always a huge match, will be focusing on the Champions League game.
The upcoming match is at Tottenham’s home, White Hart Lane, and they will show up with eyes on the prize – a win, especially after that humiliating loss this past fall – even though they will be without either famed American playing as Brad Freidel has been recalled to second banana (backup keeper) and midfield/forward Clint Dempsey is out with a calf injury. However, the Hotspurs are featuring their newest pick-up – the German U-21 captain – who has been solid in his play already, Lewis Holtby, as well as an extremely in-form Gareth Bale who’s been tearing up every game Tottenham plays.
Arsenal have a healthy Jack Wilshere, an always-smiling and pretty lethal Santi Cazorla, as well as their latest transfer from Spain (Malaga) who has solidified three games under his belt, Nacho Monreal.
Historically, Arsenal have won 40% of the North London Derby matches over the past 100 years in the 236 games that have been played. However, I have a gut feeling that the tides are a-changing. With a squad including the French national captain and Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris; the 2012 Professional Footballer Association’s Young Player of the Year, Kyle Walker; a constant threat at left-back and possibly the player with best hair (disco-style), Benoit Assou-Ekotto; one of the best midfield lines in the Premier League with Scott Parker, Gareth Bale, Moussa Dembele, Lewis Holtby; and strikers like Jermain Defoe and the ever-evolving and hungry-for-success American Clint Dempsey.
If you want more information on this, one of the biggest rivalries in not only Premier League soccer, but soccer in general, read this unbelievable piece by Roger Bennett from November 2012. Also, the best parts of that article: “They (Arsenal) originally got into the league on the diddle [illegally] in 1919. We have a much richer history and that is what I love…”Spurs have won the league twice,” he said. “We have won it 13 times. This game is like an episode of ‘Downton Abbey’ in which we are the Upstairs and they are the Downstairs.”
But let me ask you this, who wants to be in the stuffy upstairs?
Not me. Hopefully I’ll see you at the downstairs party.