Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are more than local rivals, as two clubs who despise one another. They stand face-to-face, not shoulder-to-shoulder in the capital city and love little more than putting the other in their place.
Little has come closer to showing this deep-rooted hatred since the final day of the 2012-13 Premier League season, as the two did battle at opposite ends of the country with one thing in mind – the Champions League.
It’s the epitome of footballing competition in Europe and something to truly behold, but only one side of north London could clinch the Play-Off round spot. Arsenal, away to Newcastle United and favourites to eclipse their Lilywhites neighbours, or Spurs, who welcomed the Toon’s rivals Sunderland to White Hart Lane.
Just one point separated the two sides as whistles blew around the country to mark the final day, with the red half on 70 points to the whites’ 69. Even if the Gunners dropped the ball and let the Magpies run them ragged, Spurs had to win with their goal difference no match for the unbeaten-in-nine neighbours.
North London Derby success for Tottenham in March could have been the turning point in 2013, when Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon opened the scoring before Per Mertesacker later pulled one back.
Instead, it sparked Arsenal’s unbeaten streak – only failing to secure every point at home to Everton and Manchester United – whereas Andre Villas-Boas’ men instantly let results go away to Liverpool and Fulham.
All in all, the ball was firmly in Arsenal’s court on Sunday, May 19 2013. And when Laurent Koscielny tapped home Theo Walcott’s free-kick on the 52nd minute, via Lukas Podolski’s header, it looked like Tottenham were dead and buried with their future firmly in the Europa League.
At that stage, Spurs were still in a deadlock with the Black Cats, leaving fans anxiously awaiting a breakthrough and news from the northeast.
Those packing the White Hart Lane grandstands were soon left regretting checking their phones, as roars of delight broke out around the stadium in belief Newcastle had equalised. It turned out to be a hoax, and gradually those up in arms in sheer satisfaction were suddenly hit with the daunting realisation they had been duped.
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Not even a stoppage-time wonder goal by Welsh sensation Bale could rally the troops as Champions League qualification went begging. Tottenham had lost the war by a point and made a mockery of themselves.
Similar scenes may be on the cards come Sunday, May 12 2019, when the Gunners travel to Burnley and Spurs welcome Everton to, potentially, the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (should it not face any further delays).
The north London outfits are closely matched, with Mauricio Pochettino showing Spurs can take apart anyone’s game plan, and Unai Emery instilling a belief in Arsenal that they can grind results when not playing well.
After back-to-back defeats in his first competitive games in charge, the former-PSG boss has overseen Arsenal extending their unbeaten streak to 21 – including 11 consecutive wins – and his side came out fighting in the most recent North London Derby to dismantle the visitors.
Eric Dier’s celebration and the touchline scenes that followed showed the players know just how important the clubs are to the fans, and how much casting a shadow over their rivals carries.
Results will eventually catch up with both Arsenal and Tottenham, but when they are this closely matched, a dramatic final day where fourth place is on the line is not far from the imagination.