For the last two decades, Arsenal has been North London’s biggest force, regularly outperforming bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. However, in recent years, the previously substantial gap has closed so much that there is no dominant club in this region.
Last season only a single point separated the two teams, with Arsenal edging Spurs out on the final day. The gap has closed due to two main reasons. Firstly, Arsenal have gradually weakened going from Title contenders to a team having to look over their shoulders, in the battle for the Champions League places. Tottenham, on the other hand, have gone from a team happy to finish mid table year after year, to one that can compete with their North London rivals for a top 4 finish, instead of languishing well behind them.
It’s no surprise that both sides are competing with each other more as the gap between them closes each season. Tottenham’s strong finishes has meant that they now attract some of Europe’s top players, which they struggled with in the past. Players such as Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric helped to transform Spurs in the past. Although both have left, others, such as Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jan Vertonghen, have taken the team to new ranks. It’s no wonder then that Tottenham fans are more hopeful.
Lifelong Spurs fan Stuart Lewis, 24, of Uxbridge says: “I’ve been following Spurs all my life and never have we been so competitive. We’ve closed the gap massively on Arsenal now, but need to step it up another gear and overtake them.”
On the other hand, the Gunners haven’t really replaced some of the big names that have left the Emirates in the last decade or so. No one more so than Patrick Viera, who was the core of the team and used to lead the team into battle every week. Arsenal fans still remain confident that they’ll be top of the North London table come May, but are worried by Tottenham’s rising status and league position.
Anthony Stapleton, 28, of Highbury says: “We’re too inconsistent at the moment and that’s our biggest problem. Walcott signing a new contract is great for us but we have to come above Spurs this season. That is a must.”
Eddie Richards, 51, of Islington however is less confident; “The way we’re playing we will just about scrape top 6. I think it will take something special to secure 4th ahead of Spurs.”
Currently, the two sides are separated by 4 points, in the Premier League, with Spurs leading the race for Champions League qualification, and possibly bragging rights. The matches between the clubs also leave no clear indication of who is actually ‘Top Dog’ in North London. In November Arsenal thrashed Spurs 5-2 at the Emirates, in a result that was largely influenced by Emmanuel Adebayor’s dismissal. That result has since inspired Spurs to jump above their rivals and, after just 1 defeat since that game, they have quickly banished that poor result. Arsenal however, have been inconsistent, having home defeats to Man City and Swansea. The thrashings of Newcastle United and West Ham have left many Arsenal fans bewildered and expecting the unexpected.
The second North London derby of the season isn’t until early March, but it is clear that the game will have a huge impact on who finishes on top in North London this season. Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal since the 1994/1995 campaign, could this be the year they break that curse?