Arsenal versus Tottenham is one of those few rivalries that rarely disappoint and that was the case at the Emirates on Sunday. This North London derby had everything, goals, a comeback, an imminent boil-over, quality, mistakes and theatre. In the end, nobody will grudge the Gunners their 4–2 win. The game also highlighted that while one team is on the ascendancy, the other is at a risk of stagnating.
Arsenal on the Up
The noise at the Emirates is regularly reaching decibel levels rarely achieved in the later years of the Wenger era. The Frenchman will forever remain an icon, notwithstanding his inglorious last few seasons with the club. However, Unai Emery brings with him a freshness and chutzpah that the club badly needed. His passion reflects in the style of his team’s play. This was most visible in the first 20 minutes of the derby when Tottenham weren’t allowed to breathe.
The same passion is embodied in the field by the little Uruguayan, Lucas Torreira, who once again had a terrific outing. It also helps that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in a rich vein of form. The team looks hungry and committed. They are unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions. While Arsenal had not won anything against the top six or top-level European opposition in this run prior to the North London derby, it is hard to discount such consistency. Manchester City and, to a lesser extent, Liverpool still look a bridge too far this year but the signs are good for the future.
Tottenham Not Going Anywhere
In the last match day of the 2016 season, Tottenham inexplicably surrendered second place to Arsenal. Still, their future looked much brighter than the Gunners. This, despite the latter finishing above them for an embarrassing 21st consecutive time. Spurs had a new stadium on the horizon, a bright young manager, some of the finest young English talent and a high tempo and attractive game that made them a favourite among neutrals. The next two seasons, they predictably broke the Arsenal hoodoo and finished above their bitter rivals in the league.
Alas, they won nothing in those years and may not in the coming few. The problems are manifest, in and beyond the pitch. The teams above them currently, especially City and Liverpool, have better squads and greater belief and talent. Further, the debt accrued from constructing the new stadium could force them to part with some of their prized assets. Pochettino has been committed to the project so far but he is also a young manager. If the barren run continues, he may just decide to try his luck somewhere else, like Spain. You wouldn’t blame him if he does.
Even the most optimistic Spurs fan knows that, barring a miracle, they are not going to win the league this year. And hope can turn to disenchantment pretty quickly for supporters who have not seen their team win anything worthwhile since the turn of the millennium, save for a League Cup in 2008.
It all seemed rosy just a couple of years ago but, as Sir Alex Ferguson so aptly put, “Football, bloody hell!”