14 March 2014

Epic matches in the North London Derby

In the run-up to Sunday's North London Derby, I introduce to you Kevin Tarrant, who provides us a fascinating run-down of some of the more epic matches in the history of our long-running feud with Tottenham over, among other issues, what color London is (still red, I believe). Take it away, Kevin...

This time last year fans were calling for the head of Arsene Wenger. They had sold their best player to Man United when Robin Van Persie left in the summer and some lacklustre performances had left them outside the top four with people not giving them a chance of qualifying for the Champions League. Meanwhile everything seemed so rosy for their North London neighbours. Manager Andre-Villas Boas looked like he was building a team that was genuinely capable of challenging for honours, and in Gareth Bale they had a player who was terrorising defences.

Fast forward twelve months and it was Villas-Boas who has found himself out of a job after he couldn’t take Tottenham on to the next level. They failed to qualify for the Champions League, and Bale was sold to Real Madrid. Meanwhile Arsenal got 35 points from their last 14 games to give them a top 4 finish. What made it even sweeter for the Gunners was the fact they did so at the expense of their rivals from up the road, edging Spurs by just one point. They have since added to their squad bringing in the world class Mesut Ozil, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud look like different players putting in performances that have made them title contenders.

Arsenal is six points in front of Tottenham and have a game in hand over their North London rivals. Their fans have an FA cup tie against Wigan to look forward to as well as competing with Chelsea and Man City for the League. Tottenham however might be all but done in the Europa league after a dispiriting 1-3 loss to Benifca, and this is hardly what Spurs fans were dreaming of last year. This seems to be a reoccurring situation though for Tottenham. Whenever they seem to be getting their noses in front of their arch-rivals, Arsenal hit back and claims the glory. It’s a scenario that has happened time and time again in a rivalry that has lasted over a century.

History
Arsenal claimed a 1-0 win in the first competitive meeting between the two in 1909. However at the time the two weren’t rivals as Arsenal played their home games in Woolwich. It wasn’t until 1913 when Arsenal moved to Highbury which was just 4 miles from Tottenham’s White Hart Lane ground that the rivalry really commenced. The two teams faced each other in friendlies over the next few years but they were kept apart in any competitive match as the Football League was abandoned for four years during the First World War. Tensions rose between the clubs after the war when the FA decided to expand the first division from 20 teams to 22. Tottenham who had finished 20 in the top division were hoping they would be able to keep their place along with Chelsea who finished 19th, and were allowed to keep theirs. However the final spot was decided by a vote of the top division clubs and it was decided that Arsenal who had finished 6th in division 2 would be playing in the top division next season (www.bleacherreport.com). There were reports of underhand dealings by Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris however it was never proved. Never the less Tottenham were outraged at the decision and over the next few years the already touchy relationship between the two clubs escalated into a hatred that would separate the North of London. 

 Tottenham didn’t have to wait long to face their enemies. They won the second division the season after and were promoted back to the top flight. There were some viscous encounters between the two in the following seasons. One match turned particularly nasty in 1922 which led to both clubs being censored by the FA and threatened with being forced to play their matches behind closed doors. Amongst all the controversy and in spite of the hatred between the clubs, it is the game that both sets of fans look forward to the most every season, and it is a fixture that has produced some cracking matches over the years.

Tottenham 0 – 1 Arsenal, 1971
This match sits well with the Arsenal fans and the Tottenham still have bad memories of it. Up to the 70’s Arsenal had enjoyed a lot more success than their neighbours having won 7 league titles compared to Tottenham’s 2.They went into this match knowing that if they won or managed a goalless draw they would claim their 8th League trophy. Where better to do it than the ground of their arch rivals and the chance to rub their nose in it. The match was tense and still no side had no side managed to capitalise on their chances. At 0-0 Arsenal would win the league but Tottenham desperately tried to score and if they did the title would go to Leeds instead. The breaking point came on the 88th minute when Ray Kennedy scored to calm Arsenals nerves and give them the 3 points. Tottenham had to witness the wild celebrations from their rivals as they clinched another title.

Tottenham 0 – 5  Arsenal, 1978
If watching your rivals win the league at your ground was bad enough then getting thrashed by them just rubbed salt into the wounds. This is exactly what happened 7 years later when Arsenal ran Tottenham’s stars off the park. Since 1971 Tottenham had been relegated to the second division only to return to the top flight a year later. Arsenal had fallen off the pace and since their title success and were finishing mid table. With new arrivals at Spurs such as Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa at White Hart lane it promised to be a thriller.Liam Brady ran the show for Arsenal in midfield though and Alan Sunderland scored a hat trick as Arsenal tortured their neighbours to a 5-0 drubbing. Tottenham recovered though to finish in a respectable 11th whilst Arsenal claimed 7th place that year.

Tottenham 5 – 0 Arsenal, 1983
Tottenham had to wait 5 years to get their revenge but they delivered a mesmerising performance in 1983 to give their fans some pride back. Tottenham had finished above Arsenal the previous season and had a young Paul Gascoigne in their team who was inspiring them to a great season.  Chris Hughton opened the scoring and Spurs were 3-0 up in less than 20 minutes. Revenge was sweet for Spurs as they punished Arsenal with 2 more goals to inflict the same score line their neighbours had on them 5 years earlier. The result summarised a fantastic era for Spurs in the North London rivalry as they went on to finish 4th again that season whilst Arsenal finished 6th.

Tottenham 1 – 2 Arsenal, 1987
After a winner of this league cup tie couldn’t be decided over 2 legs, a replay was needed to decide who would win this semi-final and face Liverpool in the final. Spurs had won 1-0 at Highbury and Arsenal then won 2-1 at White Hart Lane. With no penalty shoot outs at the time a coin toss decided a third match would be played at White Hart Lane. Tottenham took the lead and Arsenal left it late to equalise. David Rocastle then fired home the winning goal to send Arsenal to Wembley. They went on to beat Liverpool in the final coming from behind to win 2-1 again.

Arsenal 1 – 1 Tottenham, 1995
This clash was seen as the “battle of the super strikers” as Jurgen Klinsmen for Totttenham and Ian Wright for Arsenal were both aiming to get to 30 goals for the season, Wright had 29 goals and Klinsmen 27. It was an open game and played in a typical derby style. Both Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould were fortunate not to get sent off. Both strikers scored in this thriller as they shared the points. It proved to be Klinsmens season though as he went onto win the footballer of the year that season helping Tottenham finish higher in the league than Arsenal. (www.foufourtwo.com)

Tottenham 4 – 5 Arsenal, 2004
If there was ever a match that represented what a derby should be and why the Premier League is the most exciting league in the world then this was it. Goals, passion, entertainment, this match had it all.

Arsenal went into the match as champions and had gone the previous season not losing a single Premier League match. Spurs on the other hand were very much a mid-table side. The form guide means nothing in derbies though and the Arsenal defence who are famed for being so strong leaked 4 goals. When you have the class of Thierry Henry upfront though then you’ve always got a chance.

The Frenchman scored along with Patrick Viera and Lauren to put the Gunners 3-1 up after Noureddine Naybet had put Spurs ahead.  Jermaine Defoe struck back for Tottenham but then Freddie Ljunberg seemed to have put the game past Spurs when he made it 4-2. Ledley King pulled Spurs back into it before Robert Pires gave Arsenal breathing space making it 5-3. The match wasn’t over yet though as Freddie Kanoute’s late goal set up a tense final few minutes. Arsenal hung on to claim a victory that goes down as one of the all-time greats. The result wasn’t enough for Arsenal to regain the title as they finished second to Chelsea. FA Cup glory capped off another successful year though whilst Tottenham could only claim 9th place in the league. (www.foufourtwo.com)

Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal, 2010
This match in April 2010 had all the makings of a classic. Both teams were enjoying a successful period and still had plenty to play for that season. Arsenal was still chasing the league title whilst Tottenham were vying for Champions League qualification for the first time in their history.
The fans were up for this one and the atmosphere around White Hart Lane was electric. Sol Campbell in particular came was greeted by boos and jeers. The Spurs faithful still hadn’t forgiven him for joining Arsenal on a free transfer in 2001. This was a great chance to prevent their former skipper from achieving success with their rivals and proving Bwin wrong with their odds. Harry Redknapp had an exciting young team at Spurs and the youngsters proved too much for Arsenal. An incredible 40 yard volley from Danny Rose put them ahead and then Gareth Bale put those 2-0 just after half time. Arsenal scored late on through Nicolas Bendtner but Tottenham hung on to claim victory. The result wasn’t enough though as Spurs only managed to finish fifth that season and Arsenal failed to win the league by finishing third. (www.foufourtwo.com)

Will Tottenham ever catch Arsenal?
We’ve seen some thrilling meetings between the two clubs over the years and there have been spells where Spurs have looked like they really could challenge Arsenal for the title of best team in North London. Just like in 1919 though  Arsenal always seem to somehow find a way of finding the glory and leaving Spurs fans with a bitter taste in their mouth. Sol  Campbell’s move to Arsenal in 2001 summed up where players believe they have more chance of success. Both clubs have had to see their best players leave in the past. When gunners captain Cesc Fabregas left for Barcelona in 2011 people wrote Arsenal off but they still managed to qualify for the Champions League. The same thing happened a year later when new skipper Robin Van Persie joined Man United. Arsenal showed their resilience though and finished in fourth spot again. When Tottenham lost Gareth Bale the whole team seemed to fall apart.  Champions League qualification looks unlikely now for Tottenham.

Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 9 years now but have stuck by manager Arsene Wenger.  Tim Sherwood is the fifth manager has had in that time, and it makes you think which team have the best policy? Right now Arsenal looks more likely to add to their success. Every season Arsenal fans celebrate “St Totteringham’s day” which is the day Spurs cannot mathematically finish higher than them. The form that both teams are in it wouldn’t be a surprise if the gunners fans have celebrated the day by the 16th of March when the two teams meet at White Hart Lane. Whether they have or not you can be sure to expect another classic.

References
  • Rover, J. (2011). Tottenham vs Arsenal: History of the North London rivalry. Available: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/867549-tottenham-v-arsenal-history-of-the-north-london-rivalry. Last accessed 30th Jan 2014.
  • Ross, D. (2013). Top 10: Best ever Arsenal - Tottenham games.Available: http://www.fourfourtwo.com/features/top-10-best-ever-arsenal-tottenham-games. Last accessed 30th Jan 2014.