Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The newest edition of the North London Derby

The following are some positive words about tomorrow’s opponents:

Who am I kidding? I have nothing positive to say about Arsenal’s neighbours.

The numbers game, 12, then 21...

In the 12+ years that Arsene Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal, Spurs have had 12 managerial changes, with Harry Redknapp being the 12th. Although, they have not had 12 unique people in charge as David Pleat took over the club on three occasions. Here is a good link to the dozen managerial changes at Spurs. This statistic does tell something about the nature of Spurs over the last decade as they have struggled to find any consistent management of the team, while spending lavishly year after year in the hopes of achieving success.

No Arsenal fan needs to be reminded of the last game between these two. Arsenal held a 21 game unbeaten record against Spurs when the two last met appropriately on Jan 22 when Arsenal were crudely denied a chance to make it 22 games unbeaten and gain a place in the Carling Cup Final.

Thy shall try to emulate thy neighbour

I am sure Spurs have their own history and tradition but it seems the clock for their uniqueness stopped in 1919 when due to some handshakes, they were relegated at the expense of Arsenal. Since then, Spurs have had multiple chances to etch out their own identity but no matter what happens, their fan’s hatred for Arsenal takes centre stage. And with each passing year and subsequent failure to match Arsenal’s glory, Spurs have been more and more desperate.

In the last decade or so, their managerial hirings do indicate an attempt to replicate Arsenal’s glory. First they hired George Graham, the man responsible for dragging Arsenal from the shadows into the limelight and whose solid defense paved the way for Arsene Wenger’s success. Then Spurs hired their own French manager, Jacques Santini, in the hopes of glory but Santini left in mysterious circumstances citing "personal reasons". Then came Martin Jol and while Jol may have endeared himself to Spurs cause by being the only manager to physically confront Wenger, he too left in failure to finish above Arsenal. The hiring of Juande Ramos was meant to usher in a reign of sexy football at White Hart lane and in the initial days, there was plenty of speculation about big name players wanting to move to Tottenham. But nothing came of that and Ramos left Spurs in worse shape than before.

But the biggest attempt to steal a page out of Arsenal’s book had to be in the hiring of Damien Comolli. Spurs believed they had a man who could find them the precious talent that Arsenal were able to discover. This article explains the extent of that misbelief. As per chief Arsenal scout Steve Rowley, the only player Comolli found for Arsenal was Clichy. ”I always thought he [Comolli] was very ambitious. He was a hard-working member of my staff for about seven or eight years and the player he found for us was Gaël Clichy. He was enthusiastic and ambitious and now he's got a different role at Spurs."

The article does not mince words when it comes to Comolli: In fact, the man who did not discover Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby or Philippe Senderos and had bugger all to do with uncovering the talent of Denilson, Johan Djourou, Nicklas Bendtner, Armand Traoré or Emmanuel Eboué got more than a different role. He got a job at Tottenham that made him even more powerful than the manager.

And the timing of Harry Redknapp’s hiring does indicate that Spurs wanted a change before they met Arsenal. Why was Ramos not fired after the league defeat to Stoke? Why not on Friday after Udinese beat them in the UEFA Cup? Could Ramos not have been left in charge until the Arsenal game? It would have quite an occasion for Arsenal to have taken on a Spurs side lacking confidence. But that was not too be. Spurs turned on the bat signal and Harry has come to save the day. His presence apparently helped Spurs on Sunday but the real litmus test will be against Arsenal.

Cycle of Hatred..

Having followed Arsenal outside of England, I didn’t despise Spurs to begin with. But having met Spurs fans “born and bred” into hatred for Arsenal, I could not remain neutral. And it seems that the hatred is not only limited to fans as quite a few players have experienced how passionate this derby can get. Thierry Henry understood this hatred and made sure he rubbed salt into Spurs always open wounds. Even though Henry is at Barca, you can be sure he will be keeping an eye on this game.

Adebayor has established himself as a derby day man with 7 goals against Spurs in the last two seasons.

Arsenal need to win on wednesday to climb further up the table but more importantly they have to win this game to ensure that Spurs stay rooted at the bottom of the league.

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