It perhaps said all you needed to know about how utterly befuddling this Premier League season has been when none of the four teams supposedly in the title race won on Match Day 28. In fact, the last time Leicester, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester City all won on the same weekend was way back in October. Due to the fixture list, that sequence is set to continue this weekend when Spurs host Arsenal at White Hart Lane in the North London Derby.
Each time Spurs has gone into the Derby ahead of Arsenal on the table since the Premier League was constituted, they finished the season behind them. But the result against West Ham aside, this Spurs team, though comparatively younger, have shown more drive and desire to be champions than their more illustrious neighbours. If you take Swansea as the barometer to test where both teams are in terms of readiness and confidence, then there is no way Arsenal are going to be edging the stakes.
A goal down to the Swans, Spurs fought back to win. In sharp contrast, a goal up against a weakened Swansea team two days later, and Arsenal still contrived to lose. If football was logical, Arsenal shouldn’t even turn up at White Hart Lane, but then football isn’t logical, so they will turn up and probably get beat again. Not as a result of Spurs having the better manager, the better goalkeeper, or the better squad of players, but rather as a direct consequence of having a better sense of what’s expected of a team looking to win the title.
Four defeats in 28 games justifies this assumptions especially in comparison to Arsenal’s seven in the same number of games. The narratives going into the game also suggests Spurs are the more improved team. This time last year, Spurs were in Europa League places competing for the top four. This season, however, they are in Champions League places competing for the title.
Arsenal on the other hand were in the top three and were supposedly competing for the title. Not much has changed at the Emirates because the situation is basically just as it was last season. If Arsenal finish third, not many would be surprised because that’s were most punters and pundits probably expected them to finish come the end of the season. Spurs’ objective this season was to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, and with 10 games to go and a place above where most people thought they would be at the beginning of this season, the initial objective as been more than surpassed.
All this doesn’t give credence to the argument that there’s now a power shift in North London because if we are being real, the tendency for Arsenal to be third this time next season (especially if Wenger stays), is relatively higher than that of Spurs even being in the top four. This season has been a crazy one, Spurs and Leicester have just been the clubs benefiting most from the madness. Like Leicester, the aim for Spurs is to make the most of the opportunity; if this opportunity means wining the League, then so be it. Of course, it would feel like a slap in the face for Arsenal if Spurs beat them to the title, but even bigger could be the repercussions.
Arsene Wenger, seen by most match-going Arsenal fans as a guy that can do no wrong, is perhaps under the kind of pressure defeat to Spurs this weekend would only make worse. We know Arsenal fans like screaming for the manager to be sacked once the team loses a game or are on the kind of losing streak the team is battling with now, but you do feel a lot of questions would be asked of him by the board if Spurs go on to be the team to take advantage of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool’s faltering.
Arsenal for years have been supposedly competing for the title, yet in the year that the clubs that have denied them the opportunity were rubbish, they allowed for Spurs to skip past them and claim the title. That doesn’t make for good reading, and if the board decides to cut ties with Wenger on this basis, then you can bet most Arsenal fans wouldn’t only understand the decision. In the mean time, Wenger has the chance to get the club’s title ambitions back on track, while derailing those of the eternal enemy this weekend. The hope is that his players don’t get run out too easy.
Follow Dhee Sylvester on Twitter @DheeGenius