This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Paul Merson has claimed that the north London derby does not contain the same spice that it used to.
Speaking on The Debate, via HITC, while claiming that Arsenal should hire former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, he said: “If you ask the Arsenal players and the Tottenham players, I think they would rather beat Chelsea or Man United. You ask the foreign players [of Arsenal and Tottenham] they have grown up watching Man United, and teams like that. They want to beat Man United.
“Tottenham and Arsenal isn’t the biggest game anymore. For the fans it is, but it’s not for the players. If I was Arsenal, I would get Pochettino. Would he go? I don’t know.”
Not only is the 51-year-old wrong here, he’s done both clubs a massive disservice.
Tottenham versus Arsenal is a derby enshrined in history and enshrined in the Premier League; there hasn’t been a single season without it thus far.
And when one examines the results, you can see the animosity and the will to win as well as the thrilling nature of the derby. It is routinely one of the best games of the season.
Just this term, Spurs took a 2-0 lead at the Emirates but Arsenal fought back to claim a 2-2 draw. Last season, the Gunners won 4-2 in a see-saw game that ebbed and flowed and had fans and neutrals alike on the edge of their seats. The last derby at White Hart Lane, which Spurs won 2-0, was a firecracker of a game, with both clubs desperate to put their stamp on the famous old stadium.
Now, admittedly, it isn’t quite as hate-fuelled as it used to be. We don’t often see players having their bones crunched in reckless slide tackles but that isn’t down to a lack of passion, more an increase in the stringency of refereeing.
Every single season, Arsenal want to beat Spurs and vice versa. There is a reason that St Totteringham’s Day, the date when Spurs could no longer mathematically overhaul their rivals in the league, was so vociferously celebrated every year.
And perhaps that’s what this comes down to.
In each of the last three full seasons, Spurs have finished above Arsenal and there is more than just a hint of bitterness about Merson’s sentiments.
One can bet that if his old club were routinely battering Tottenham on the pitch and in the standings, he’d big it up as a massive game for both clubs.
But because they aren’t, he’s belittling it.
It is unbecoming and wrong and Merson has let his bias get in the way.
Meanwhile, Spurs fans have reacted to one man’s superb moment.