When the fixture calendar for every Premier league season is released, four match-days stand out as the most anticipated for all Gooners – Spurs home, Spurs away, St. Totterington’s and the day we win the League. Nowadays, that fourth fixture is has dipped to the day we clinch the fourth place trophy, but the prestige of the other three still stands. While St. Tee, more often than not, comes up against another side, the first two fixtures which constitute the ‘North Loondun Darby’ is surely the peak of the pack.
Goals, Emotions, Banter. Never has it failed to disappoint.
Sweeter, still, is the fact that we mostly always have the upper hand.
Having won the League twice on WhiteHeart Lane, our away derbies of 1971 and 2004 surely stand out as the most painful for the Spurs to have witnessed. But as this weekend’s clash will be at the Emirates, just as it has been for the past 2 years, the focus here will be on the eventful clashes that have taken place from Highbury to Ashburton grove.
Between 1999 and 2008, Tottenham never managed a single victory against us, home or away, League or Cup. And it was not until 2011 that they managed to beat us in the League. From the period stated above, you surely can guess which players faced Tottenham and never managed to lose. That stunning solo goal by ‘him’ in 2002 is surely one of the greatest Premier League goals of all time. Picking up the ball from a Spurs corner just outside the Arsenal box, Henry brought it down with his chest, and the rest was history. The celebration for the goal was as brilliant as the goal itself, running down the whole length of the pitch to the away end and stopping on his knee after a long screeching slide. It was the classic derby goal, the greatest of the North London derby.
Henry was very much the King, not just at Arsenal, but had all of North London under his command. In the 05/06 season, we finally seemed we would relinquish the crown to the Spurs having finished above them in every season of the Premier League. Worse still, we were losing by one goal in the home derby in April and with less than 10 minutes to go, we looked destined to be further away from closing up the gap. Up step va va voom, and from one Adebayor flick, boom! Via Lasagne-gate and a Henry hat-trick on the final day of Highbury, the reign continued unhindered.
Like many fairytales, a defeat at home finally had to come, and it came in the most agonizing way for us, in 2011. Having taken a comfortable two-goal lead before half-time via Chamakh and Nasri, we were headed for another superlative victory in the derby, aiming to match the previous season’s 3-0 thrashing. The complacency, which was later to be a plague costing us at vital moments that season (including the League Cup final), crept in and when Gareth Bale was allowed to get unto a long punt from the back, things started to get tetchy. Van der Vaart converted what was the softest handball penalties ever given, and when his free-kick hit present day Spurs captain, Younes Kaboul, it was gameover. Fabregas attempted to repeat his mazy solo of the previous season but Gomes was wide and awake. It was a bitter day to be a Gooner (though I calmed when Lee Bowyer’s goal helped Birmingham defeat Chelsea later in the evening to ensure we stayed top).
Two consecutive 5-2 victories have followed since, having been behind to Adebayor’s goals in both games. Out of 5 of the most recent derbies, we’ve won all but one, winning all three in League and cup last season without conceding a single goal. It is a fixture that usually abounds in goals, only League games between Liverpool and Newcastle have seen more goals than this century-old festival, and if we beat them 4-0 or 3-1 on Saturday, it will hit the 130 mark, becoming the game with the most-goals. November 1998 was the last time we failed to score at home in this derby, and on the evidence of current events, that run will surely not come to an end anytime soon.
It is the greatest derby in English football, one we as Gooners always can’t wait to watch.
Come, O’ Derby day, Come!
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