White Hart Lane, North London,
October 03, 2011; 08:30 p.m. IST
The first ever game between Arsenal and Spurs that happened 124 years back, stopped due to ‘darkness’, the irony of things has it – that ‘darkness’ never left North London. The rivalry between the fans of the two clubs have gone beyond human logic, the two set of fans cannot stand the sight of each other. The fierce animosity between the clubs also means players playing for the ‘other side’ are absolutely loathed men in their respective ‘corners’.
There has been a number of controversial characters over the years who ‘chanced upon’ their fate and moved across borders – some of them are Wille Young, the legendary Pat Jennings, Sol ‘Judas’ Campbell, William Gallas (having played for Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs – Only player in football history to do so) and finally Emmanuel ‘Mercenary’ Adebayor. The tall Togo striker was one of the most hated players at White Hart Lane when he adorned the famous Red and White, he never missed a chance to wreck havoc against Spurs. In fact, he scored against them and threw them out of the Champions League during his loan spell at Real Madrid. His summer move to Spurs gave the fans a real jolt, it will certainly need some time for them to come to terms with the loan move of Ade, though the player has already started firing.
In recent times, Spurs with their new manager and renewed ambitions, have done exceptionally well in league and Europe. They have even gone to The Emirates and got the better of Arsenal, a feat achieved for the first time since Arsene joined Arsenal in 1996. In a recent interview, Arsene was asked about the certain ‘Balance of Powers’ in North London. The manager responded –
“Tottenham is a good side, I agree, and we have to try to be better and that is what we try to do. I believe the consistency has been on our side, but Tottenham has a huge potential. They played Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night and were sold out, so that is a massive potential. But we are at the end of September and the season finishes in May. Don’t come to quick conclusions about teams – there is a long way to go.”
The importance of the game is huge, some times the league takes second priority as the territorial supremacy gains more magnitude. The players are aware of the significance of the game, the build up is always special, there are extra nerves between players, managers and fans. Winning the game is of utmost meaning to Arsenal. They have won three games on the trot, Shrewsbury, Bolton and Olympiacos in three different competitions and they need to build on that streak. The new players bought in are trying to gel into the team, with Mertesacker and Arteta already regular members in the side. Spurs on the other hand, has a decent form guide coming into this match. They thrashed Liverpool at home before succumbing to Stoke City in the Carling Cup, and then picked up back to back wins against Wigan and Shamrock Rovers. The confidence is high in the team and they are all set for another upset of sorts when it comes to the famed North London Power Race. Harry, not getting too carried away responded to questions thrown at him about the ‘power race’ –
“Yeah, but if I start saying we should be top dogs and God knows what and then they go and chin us on Sunday then everyone says – Serves him right for opening his big mouth. We are getting better. But you need your best players.”
The Last Five North London Derbies
The two clubs have met 163 times with Arsenal having the upper hand, winning the derby 63 times compared to their rival finishing as winners 50 times.
The last Five Derbies between the clubs are as follows:
24th April, 2011 – White Hart Lane – Spurs 3 – 3 Arsenal [League
20th November, 2010 – The Emirates – Arsenal 2 – 3 Spurs [League]
21st September, 2010 – White Hart Lane – Spurs 1 – 4 Arsenal [Carling Cup]
14th April, 2010 – White Hart Lane – Spurs 2 – 1 Arsenal [League]
31st October, 2009 – The Emirates – Arsenal 3 – 0 Spurs [League]
Team News and Tactical Brief
The biggest boost for Spurs has been the signing of Adebayor and Scott Parker in the summer transfer window. They have seamlessly fit into the side and have already started delivering the goods. Harry, being the stubborn manager, even didn’t let prized asset Luka Modric leave the club for Chelsea. The manager has his sights for Europe this season, he wants to take his team back to the Champions League, for that he has to fight with the likes of Liverpool, Everton and of course, Arsenal. Spurs started their season loosing to the two Manchester giants but have turned their fortunes around since then.
Former Gunner William Gallas will miss out with an injury, but Adebayor will certainly get a start against his former employees. If he scores against Arsenal, he’ll just be the second player to score for both teams in a North London Derby. Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone are both out with injuries. South African sensation Steven Pienaar is fit for his first game of the season while Aaron Lennon will need a late fitness test before he brings his armory against Arsenal.
Possible Starting Line-Up: Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; van Der Vaart, Modric, Parker, Bale; Adebayor, Defoe
Arsenal have run themselves into that part of the season where they are generally hit with a flurry of injuries. The most difficult decision for Arsene is to pick a Center Back combination for the trip to WHL. He made Song do that job alongside Mertesacker in midweek against a weak opposition, which looks to be a much difficult option in the league with Frimpong having to handle the likes of Modric, Parker and van Der Vaart – midfield stalwarts. Arsene might opt for Miquel in Center Back and go for Song in the middle of the park but it means taking a huge gamble at the back. Only time will tell what Arsene decides on match-day.
On the injury-front, Gervinho, Wilshere, Vermaelen, Diaby and Koscielny is out for the fixture. Theo, Squillaci and Yossi are ‘almost’ fit to play but it remains to be seen if the manager takes a gamble on any of them, especially Theo, after seeing the promising Alex Chamberlain in midweek. van Persie and Ramsey were both rested in midweek, they came on late in the second half in the game against Olympiacos.
Possible Starting Line-Up: Szcznesy; Sagna, Song, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Frimpong, Arteta, Ramsey; Theo, Arshavin, van Persie
Key Match Facts/Trivia
- Emmanuel Adebayor in Arsenal colors has scored a record eight times against Spurs, his current employee.
- Arsenal-Spurs played a nine-goal thriller in 2004 which Arsenal won 5-4, considered by many as the greatest game between the two teams.
- Arsenal has won the League at The White Hart Lane twice in their history, once in 1970-71 and later on in the historic season of 2003-04.
- Arsenal go into this game after three consecutive wins in all competitions, a feat achieved after February, 2011.
- Adebayor goes into this game as a threat to Jimmy Robertson’s record, only layer to have scored for both teams in a North London derby.
TheHardTackle’s Key Battles
Sagna vs Bale
The French International is easily one of the best Full Backs in the league right now, his consistency and ‘heart’ is second to none. He has hands full this Sunday with ‘World’s best footballer’ Gareth Bale to operate on the same wings as the Frenchman. The winner of this particular mini-battle can decide the outcome of the match.
Per vs Ade
The two tall players will come one-on-one for the first time with Adebayor sure to give Mertesacker a lot of trouble with his movement and trickery. The German Center-Back has settled well into the Arsenal system and has looked calm and solid at the back. He needs to bring his ‘A’ game to the White Hart Lane to handle the likes of the Togolese International.
Arteta/Ramsey vs VDV/Modric
The midfield battle between the two creative heads of each team is the most important battle of all. While Ramsey is the inexperienced man among the four, the other three are quite used to big matches over the years. Aaron, the Whales Captain, needs to find his foot and combine well with Arteta to cause trouble in this big game. van Der Vaart and Modric are highly experienced campaigners and are sure to dictate terms in the midfield.
TheHardTackle’s Players to Watch Out For
Luca Modric (Spurs),
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
Modric and van Persie are the heart of their respect teams both creating and scoring important goals for their teams in the recent past. While, Modric had a major case to leave the club at the starting of this season, van Persie has a little contract situation of his to settle at the end of this season. The derby will bring the best out of the two – Modric needs to deliver the goods on the creative front while van Persie needs to continue his great goal-scoring form.
Spurs 2 – 2 Arsenal
TheHardTackle’s Blast from the Past
Arsenal 3 – 3 Spurs, 20/4/2011