Top five North London derbies (in my lifetime)
5. Spurs 2-2 Arsenal, 2004
In football, as in all sport, fate and destiny seem to combine more often than is logical to provide opportunities for nirvana, chances to make history. Sport’s unique brilliance is that at the same time as allowing one to make history, it allows another the chance to stop it from being made. And this was Spurs’ chance.
Arsene Wenger and his Invincibles had gone the whole season unbeaten, when on April 25th 2004 he took his boys to White Hart Lane, knowing that a draw would be good enough to win the title in their neighbours’ back yard. Goals from Frenchmen Vieira and Pires were good enough. Spurs got back to 2-2, but never will a draw have tasted more like defeat.
4. Spurs 2-3 Arsenal, 1988
Crazy goals in a crazy fifteen minutes of football. Both teams sacrificed defence for a period of the first half where goals were scored by Marwood, Waddle and Smith. The two others deserve special mention.
Firstly, Paul Gascoigne managed to finish beautifully, despite his boot having come off earlier in the move. But even this was beaten by Nigel Winterburn. Tony Adams had one of those times in sport where everything just slows down, and you act not willfully but on a fantastic autopilot, and after a 40-yard run slipped the ball through to the left back, who slipped it past the keeper.
3. Arsenal 2-1 Spurs, 2001
On the face of it, this wasn’t that significant a game. Spurs dominated this FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford but lost out to a Robert Pires winner.
However, one man was the back story. Sol Campbell ad announced that he would almost certainly stay if Tottenham won the game. After having lost, he made his move. And we all know where he went. There has not been a more contraversial and provoking move in the Premier League era.
2. Spurs 3-1 Arsenal, 1991
By hook or by crook, 1991 was Gazza’s Wembey year. A few weeks before crippling himself under the sheer weight of his challenge on Forest’s Gary Charles, he had altogether more happy memories of the semi-final visit, as his wonderful free kick arrowed past David Seaman to set Spurs on their way.
Tottenham were a club in financial turmoil, but two goals from Gary Lineker confirmed the victory.
Spurs went on to win the Cup, and Arsenal wrapped up the league title.
1. Arsenal 4-4 Spurs, 2008
It would be fair to say that 2008 was a vintage North London year for Spurs. Nine months after thrashing Arsenal 5-1 at the Lane, they produced a stunning comeback at the Emirates to pull themselves back from the dead.
A wonder strike from David Bentley started the proceedings, but the game soon found its way into Arsenal hands when 4-2 going into the last few minutes.
The rest, as Spurs fans will say, is history, and goals from Jermaine Jenas and Aaron Lennon sent the Yid Army wild. The only sour note: I know at leats three Spurs fans who left before the end.
Tonight’s game will probably not be a classic, but hey, here’s hoping.