With so many ingredients to the final North London derby at White Hart Lane, it promises to be a cracker
WITH so many ingredients to the final North London derby at White Hart Lane, it promises to be a cracker.
Arsenal need to win today to push towards the top-four places — and that would also end Tottenham’s title hopes.
Meanwhile, Spurs must win to keep chasing Chelsea — and that will surely kill off Arsenal’s Champions League bid.
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A draw is no good to either side so both should be going all-out for victory. Add the bragging rights that go with winning the final derby and it should be tasty.
For Tottenham, they will know at kick-off if Chelsea have dropped points at Everton which, on paper, is the hardest game they have left. So that could be an added incentive.
A Spurs win will guarantee finishing above Arsenal for the first time in donkey’s years.
But that is kindergarten stuff. Who cares? Spurs want to win because they want to close the gap on Chelsea — not finish higher than their neighbours.
If I was giving the pre-match speech, that wouldn’t even come up. There are bigger things.
I was impressed by the manner of Spurs’ win at Crystal Palace.
Sam Allardyce’s side have won at Liverpool and Chelsea recently and smashed Arsenal at home.
So for Mauricio Pochettino’s side to win there shows they’re doing something right.
They didn’t sit back. They controlled the game, put pressure on, had lots of possession.
They were excellent on the ball — but off it too, winning the battles, the aerial duels, the dirty stuff and then Christian Eriksen provided the little spark.
Compare that performance with how Arsenal played at Palace and it was night and day.
It’s a North London derby and it doesn’t matter how the teams are playing. Overall, Spurs are heading in the right direction but at some point they need something to show for it.
Chelsea did it. They were runners-up in the league, then won the League Cup, then the title. Then they won the FA Cup and so on. You lay foundations, build brick by brick.
It will not get any easier to win trophies next season, however, when they are playing at Wembley, or when they are in their new stadium.
I know the new ground backs on to the old one but it will still be different. It’s difficult moving… with a bigger crowd, more money coming in — suddenly the expectation goes up.
And a new stadium does not guarantee success… just look at Arsenal.
Spurs will have sentimental reasons to factor in, too. It’s not nice to leave all that history behind — even if they haven’t won a lot at the Lane.
For that reason it will be an easier transition than Arsenal’s was from Highbury to the Emirates. We had a rich history in terms of trophies.
I didn’t play a huge amount at the Emirates due to injury but I do remember that when I did, I was a bit lost. I loved Highbury. It was the best stadium ever. My stadium. It was in my heart. I played in so many great grounds around the world but none came close to Highbury.
I just knew where I was on the field. Everything was familiar, the smell when I arrived, the dressing room. Something died in me when we left Highbury.
Spurs’ transition will certainly be easier if they win today.
But, as an Arsenal fan, I am not worried about the game so much. You never want to lose but my main worry is about the bigger picture, about where Tottenham are heading. They are finally getting it right.