Going into the final match of last season Tottenham Hotspur were in prime position to finish the campaign as league runners-up behind champions Leicester City, but perhaps more importantly to top North London rivals Arsenal for the first time in 21 years.
However, a 5-1 mauling by already-relegated Newcastle at St. James’ Park put paid to that long-awaited dream as the Gunners pipped them to clinch a second-placed finish at the death. Gooners fans got to celebrate their so-called St. Totteringham’s Day once again to the despair of Spurs supporters the world over.
Almost 12 months on, however, and with Spurs still challenging for the title, the chances of Arsenal supporters being able to laud it over their fierce rivals once again are almost certainly dead in the water; Arsène Wenger’s men are currently trailing Mauricio Pochettino’s by a massive 14 points with just a handful of matches left to play.
This coming Sunday marks a huge day for both clubs. Spurs, currently trailing league leaders Chelsea by just four points, will welcome Arsenal to White Hart Lane, who for the first time in Wenger’s tenure look increasingly likely to miss out on a top-four finish and with it Champions League qualification. A win for both teams is vital.
It is the business end of the season without doubt, and Spurs will enter the match as hot favourites to continue their title challenge. However, derby day didn’t always represent such gleeful anticipation for fans of Tottenham. Indeed, after goals from Steffen Iversen and Tim Sherwood sealed a first derby defeat for Wenger at White Hart Lane back in November 1999, the Lilywhites faithful would have to wait more than a decade and no less than 20 derbies to savour the sweet taste of victory once again when Danny Rose and Gareth Bale ended the hapless run at the Lane in April 2010.
During that decade of torture, Spurs supporters witnessed the comings and goings of no less than six permanent managers with just the 2008 League Cup to show for their team’s efforts. Across the North London divide, however, Wenger together with his Invincibles, added two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League runners-up medal to the league and cup double the team won in 1997-98 during Tottenham’s impasse in victories between George Graham’s team of 1999 and Harry Redknapp’s class of 2010.
How times have changed though. Although the Gooners have continued to qualify for the Champions League every season since and have added a further two FA Cups to increase their record to 12, Spurs have finally started to achieve consistently in the league and last season’s ultimately disappointing third-place finish was the first time the club finished a campaign in the top-three since the 1989-90 season under Terry Venables.
Since ending their derby-day hoodoo in 2010, Spurs have gone on to record four further victories against the old enemy, three of them coming at White Hart Lane, while five draws have been shared and four losses encountered with only one occurring at the Lane back in March 2014.
While Spurs are on an undeniable upward trajectory with the manager’s, players and supporters eyes fixed firmly upon ending their 57-year wait for the top prize (the club are now a very tempting 5/1 looking at the latest Premier League betting odds), the poor Gooners look to be on the slide with Wenger’s future coming under increasing scrutiny from the club’s unhappy supporters and numerous members of the media world.
Wenger may have bought himself time with a semi-final win over Manchester City at Wembley last weekend to setup an FA Cup final with Chelsea, but for the first time since arriving 21 years ago, Arsenal look set to miss out on a top-four finish, and with it Champions League football next term.
Comparing the two teams, it’s difficult to pick an Arsenal player who would currently make a combined XI of the two teams. Tottenham’s fluidity in attack and steeliness in defence offers few cracks requiring surgery. The one player you could argue would make it into the Spurs line-up would be Alexis Sánchez but other possibles like Héctor Bellerín and Petr Čech are certainly no stronger than their Tottenham counterparts Kyle Walker and Hugo Lloris. Even an on-song Mesut Özil would struggle to oust in-form duo Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen on current form.
Spurs fans will love nothing more than dining at European football’s top table next season while their biggest rivals may have to make do with trips to the back of beyond in UEFA’s bridesmaid competition, the Europa League. Usurping their rivals has been a long time coming and Spurs fans will understandably milk every drop, especially if they can defy the odds to emulate the class of 1961 in winning the title. And at the rate at which they are improving they may even need to devise a name of their own to replace St. Totteringham’s Day in the near future. Wouldn’t that add insult to injury? Not half!