Arsenal v Tottenham: this one is about a lot more than just local pride

07:00 17 November 2012

Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur manager

Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur manager

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Premier League: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur, Emirates Stadium, 12.45pm

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICSArsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS

It may be almost nine months ago, but in the blue and white half of north London the last derby showdown is still something of a sensitive subject.

Spurs arrived at the Emirates 10 points clear of Arsenal on February 26, and the prospect of finishing above their most bitter rivals for the first time in 17 years dominated the pre-match build-up. The balance of power, it seemed, was about to shift.

When Harry Redknapp’s side stormed into a 2-0 lead in the first half, it looked a foregone conclusion, but we all know what happened next.

Arsenal scored five times in 28 minutes either side of half-time to record a famous win that gave the Gunners the momentum to finish the season strongly, while simultaneously puncturing the morale of their neighbours. Arsenal finished third, Spurs fourth, and when Chelsea won the European Cup in Munich, the Champions League and soon Redknapp himself were history for Tottenham.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates after scoring first of his two goals in last season's 5-2 win over Tottenham. Photo: Tony Marshall/EMPICSArsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates after scoring first of his two goals in last season's 5-2 win over Tottenham. Photo: Tony Marshall/EMPICS

Wind the clock forward to the present and on Saturday Andre Villas-Boas is the man at the helm, a 10th different opposition manager for Arsene Wenger in the north London derby.

Ever since he first locked horns with Gerry Francis in 1996, Wenger has held the upper hand in these clashes, but Redknapp came closer than anybody to breaking that stranglehold.

The epic 4-4 draw in October 2008 was Redknapp’s second match in charge of Spurs and his derby record in eight games against Wenger’s side saw three wins apiece and two draws.

However, it was February’s game that was to prove the defining moment and, ultimately, be the beginning of the end of Redknapp’s White Hart Lane reign.

Villas-Boas would have sympathy, because it wasn’t Arsenal’s only five-goal derby demolition last season. Last October’s 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge was also to prove a defining moment for Chelsea. By the time the sides met again in April at the Emirates, Villas-Boas was gone.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy saw his chance to snap up a manager who had cost Chelsea vast sums to tempt from Porto the previous year, and in June Villas-Boas was confirmed as Redknapp’s successor.

It is a second chance for the 35-year-old, and Levy knows he has taken a gamble on a man whose tenure at Stamford Bridge was a spectacular failure that was made even more glaring by Chelsea going on to attain unlikely Champions League glory under Roberto Di Matteo.

Everton’s David Moyes, Wigan’s Roberto Martinez and (at the time) Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers were all considered, while there was – and still is –a sizeable contingent at the club who didn’t believe Redknapp should have been relieved of his duties in the first place.

Villas-Boas has been placed under immediate pressure to succeed, with the added pressure of a new stadium project bubbling away in the background.

Spurs have started patchily, with the highlight of a first win at Old Trafford for 23 years in September receding after three defeats in their last four games.

The knives were out for Villas-Boas this time last year after Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal, and they are being sharpened again.

Expectations are high at Tottenham given that Redknapp finished fourth, fifth, and fourth in his three full seasons in charge.

The same pressure of course applies to Wenger, who has never finished outside the top four in his 16-year Arsenal reign.

Given the form of the current top three it is already looking like fourth place is the summit of Arsenal and Tottenham’s ambitions and the present incumbents, an impressive Everton side, look like they will provide stiff competition and last the distance.

Saturday’s game will not decide who finishes where, but it will be a barometer. The derby, more than ever, appears to be one neither manager can afford to lose.


Latest Sport Stories

Yesterday, 18:09
Mesut Ozil puts Arsenal in front at Norwich

Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1

Friday, November 27, 2015
Arsenal fans show their colours and support in the stands. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti suggests the sanctity of match-going is being replaced by passionate fan communities online.

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Surrey winners of the Division 2 LV County Championship  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

English cricket will break with tradition in 2016 after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a new rule which will see the forsaking of the toss.

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Michael Peart (yellow/black shorts) defeated Kristian Laight at York Hall. Pic: Philip Sharkey/TGS Photo

Islington lightweight ‘Mustard’ Mike Peart made a successful step up to six rounds as he comfortably outpointed Kristian Laight on Saturday at York Hall.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Islington BC's Simon Collins

Islington BC’s Simon Collins recovered from a difficult start to clinch victory against home boxer Joe Dennison on a Banbury ABC show on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Hanover Primary School's successful squad at the Islington Schools swimming gala

Four Hanover Primary School students secured gold medals as their girls’ team finished triumphant at the Islington Schools swimming gala finals.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Bethune (blue) beat Young London Meteors 2-1 in the Dickie Davies Cup. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Hackney & Leyton League Premier Division leaders Mile End are through to the next round of the Dickie Davies Cup after their impressive 9-2 win over Riviera.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Left to right: Luca, Liam and Luan Veras with their medals at the Belgium Open Kumite Championships. Back: their father and coach, Sensei Raphael Veras

Brothers Luan and Luca Veras both overcame strong competition to pick up gold medals at the International Belgium Open Kumite Championships in Leuven.

Most read sport


MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!


You are never far from an Argos, wherever in the country you may be. They are like a magical cavern where whatever you need they seem to have it out the back behind the counter. So why not put them to the test with this great MyOffers competition to win £1000 to spend in-store.

Digital Edition

Read the Islington Gazette e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder