There is one fixture that every British football fan keeps in their diary – Spurs vs. Arsenal. Forget the Merseyside derby, the Tyne and Wear derby, even the Manchester derby, it is the North London derby that over the years has produced classic game after classic game, with scintillating attacking displays (and quite often dreadful defensive displays), it is the El Clasico of the Premier League.
Looking to Sunday’s game, here are five classic Spurs vs. Arsenal encounters of the past 10 years:
13th November 2004: Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal
I remember this being the most torturous game I’ve ever listened to on the radio; nine goals, nine different scorers, and SEVEN goals in the second half. It was Martin Jol’s first game in charge, and it started perfectly; Noureddine Naybet (of all people) put us ahead after 37 minutes with a volley, only for Thierry Henry to level just on half-time. Second-half chaos ensued as Lauren, Patrick Vieira, Jermain Defoe, Freddie Ljungberg, Ledley King, Robert Pires and Freddie Kanouté all scored (in that order). Certainly not a game for either set of defences, but this game, perhaps more than any other in this list, epitomises the gung-ho mentality and potential for complete madness which make these derbies such special occasions.
22nd January 2008: Tottenham 5-1 Arsenal, (6-2 on aggregate) – Carling Cup semi-final
After a nervy 1-1 in the first leg, it was all to play for when the two teams played the return leg at the Lane. Whilst many of my Arsenal supporter friends were highlighting Wenger’s ‘youth’ team selection before the game (backing themselves out of a hole, I like to think), I don’t think anybody expected what was to follow. Years of unwanted history (i.e. Arsenal domination) was well and truly put to bed as goals from Jermaine Jenas, an own goal from Nicklas Bendtner, Robbie Keane, Aaron Lennon and Steed Malbranque produced one of the Spurs performances of the decade. A night that no Spurs fan could ever forget, made all the sweeter by the defeat of Chelsea in the final in February, with Jonathan Woodgate’s (fully intentional) header sealing the win in extra time.
29th October 2008: Tottenham 4-4 Arsenal
This goes down as my favourite football match of all time, no question (yes, even better than the 5-1). ‘Arry’s second game in charge, and it was certainly not one for the faint of heart; another goal-glut, and non-stop excitement from start to finish. David Bentley’s stunning thirty-yard volley got things off to the perfect start, introducing the fad of Spurs one-goal wonders against Arsenal (see also Danny Rose and Kyle Walker). Arsenal then battled back, and with goals from Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor – the latter two now transported to the white and blue side of North London – led 3-1. Darren Bent pulled one back, only for Robin van Persie to restore the two-goal cushion. Come the 89th minute, things were looking bleak. But Jermaine Jenas’ superb solo goal brought one back, and in the 93rd minute, a Luka Modric volley was deflected agonisingly onto the post, but then directly into the path of Aaron Lennon, who duly obliged and planted the ball into the back of the empty net. Cue pure, unadulterated chaos. I like to think that this was the moment which the gap between the two clubs was well and truly closed; well, we haven’t done too badly in the resulting three-and-a-half years, anyway.
14nd April 2010: Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
Going into this fixture, we had gone 11 years and 20 games without a league win over Arsenal; with Champions’ League football on the cards (and the potential to end the Gunners’ title challenge), there was a definite incentive to end the hoodoo. And end it they did. This was the game of the infamous Danny Rose 30-yard-thunderbolt; the game of Gareth Bale’s renaissance; the game of Heurelho Gomes’ magnificence (notice the use of the singular there), despite Robin van Persie and Sol Campbell’s best efforts. Basically, it was THE game where the pendulum swung well and truly in our favour, and put us on course for our Champions’ League campaign the next season.
20th November 2010: Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham
Our record at Arsenal was nearly as bad as against Manchester United – we hadn’t won there since 1993, and I certainly don’t remember that. I was watching the game at Canterbury Christ Church University’s student union, surrounded by Arsenal fans, who were certainly chirping at half-time. Comprehensively outplayed and two goals down, thanks to Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh, I considered leaving to avoid further embarrassment. Thankfully, the sadist in me persuaded me to stay for the second half. A Gareth Bale goal after 50 minutes meant that things became interesting; after Cesc Fabregas inexplicably handed a Rafael van der Vaart free-kick, and the Dutchman put away the resulting penalty, things became very interesting; and when, five minutes from time, Younes Kaboul headed in a van der Vaart free-kick, the Emirates (and the student union) were stunned into silence, only punctuated by my own celebrations. An absolutely incredible game, but this is what we’ve come to expect from these games.
Sunday at 1pm? Bring it on.
By James Day
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