“I have never lost against Tottenham, I’m so happy to say that. So great.”
Thierry Henry recalling a time I referenced on this week’s excellent Arsecast. On 23rd November 1996 ‘Arsene Who’ first managed Arsenal in the North London derby at Highbury. Tottenham were brushed aside 3-1, thereby setting the stage for a period of dominance for the red half of the divide.
Between then and the first leg of the League Cup semi-final in 2008 Tottenham won just one of 28 meetings in all competitions. In the 18 meetings that have followed they have won 6 to our 8. In the wake of the Invincibles era they have landed some blows but remain very much in Arsenal’s shadow.
It isn’t lost on those from Middlesex that Arsene has been manager for nineteen of our twenty consecutive celebrations of St Totteringham’s Day. “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” they gloated when two up at the Grove in Feb 2012. Then Bacary Sagna sparked a five goal response, and the 5-2 scoreline was repeated nine months later. They got their wish!
As with their ‘Mind the gap’ and ‘shift in the balance of power’ nonsense they have fought to deny the bleeding obvious for too long. It seems though that the lessons are starting to sink in. They have, to be fair, made an excellent start to this season. Unbeaten in ten Premier League matches since their opening day defeat to Manchester United, they entered the weekend in fifth place just five points adrift of the Gunners.
Yet they have been made nervous by our Mathieu Flamini inspired 1-2 win in their back garden in the League Cup. Without that free-scoring, swashbuckling, buccaneer this weekend Arsenal will have to rely on Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez to fire the Gunners to another success.
Our injury woes are well documented, but the spine of the side remains intact. With Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, and Mesut Ozil in tandem we will have chances to extend Arsene’s record against our old enemies. The major concern would be the relative lack of depth and experience on the Arsenal bench.
Tottenham’s main hope will be Harry Kane, anonymous for much of this season but who has sparked back into life with five goals in their last three matches, including a hat-trick at Bournemouth. He, of course, scored both goals in their 2-1 win against us at the swamp in February.
“He’s one of our own” Tee-hee.
The one good thing about Sky moving this game to the 4pm Sunday slot is that the supporters of both sides will have an hours less booze in them than a late Saturday kick-off allows. There are those who dislike the atmosphere that surrounds this fixture. I have to say I don’t relish the ever-worsening butterflies in my stomach as the game draws closer. By kick-off though it will be full-on vocal backing for the team. That’s the part of derby day that lifts the soul.
The ‘holic pound
I dare say, as with most derby days, we’ll go through the full range of emotions in the course of ninety minutes. The visitors can be expected to target the likely pairing of Joel Campbell and Mathieu Debuchy on Arsenal’s right flank. I wouldn’t be surprised if they snuck a goal at some point, but I am backing the Gunners to maintain their title challenge 3-1. That looks a trifle skinny even at market best odds of 13/1. The bookies strongly fancy a home win. I am surprised at the 4/1 widely available against Tottenham. Let’s hope their faith in us is justified.
There will be a good smattering of ‘holics in the usual place tomorrow, so I look forward to meeting you there. I think we’ll be on the singing Guinness!
Have a great one, ‘holics.