With Sunday’s game fast approaching there seems to be a lot going on surrounding both North London clubs. Arsenal looking to kick on in their race for top four, whether fans are ‘Wenger in’ or ‘Wenger out’ and if the club can add a 13th F.A. Cup to their trophy cabinet. Tottenham, on the other hand, are looking to rain on Chelsea’s title parade staying on the leader’s tails for as long as possible.
However, as it looks like Spurs will be moving to Wembley next season, this could be the last North London Derby at White Hart Lane for a while. So why not look at quite a historical Derby day at White Hart Lane. But, there are so many White Hart Lane memories to choose from… There’s the game which gifted us our invincible title in 2004 which ended 2-2, that nine-goal thriller which saw Arsenal come on top 5-4 later that year, or should I go even further back to Arsenal’s first time winning the league at the Lane in 1971.
I think I’ll go for the 5-4 victory in the 2004-2005 season. Unlike this season’s noon kick off which seemed deprived of life, the noon kick-off in the November of 2004 saw an action packed 90 minutes unfold afterwards, in what was Spurs manager Martin Jol’s first game in charge. If you want to be reminded of the teams that day then here you go, and yes that is the one and only Pascal Cygan lining up for Arsenal.
Anyway enough with the Arsenal legends, let’s get into the game which burst into life nearing the half time whistle. In a quite uneventful half compared to the second, a young Michael Carrick saw his wide free kick swing through to the back post only to be met by a Noureddine Naybet volley to make it 1-0, which wouldn’t have been encouraging as Arsenal had gone 4 league games without a win before this game.
But then on the stroke of half-time, it was time to cue the trademark Thierry Henry knee slide. A smartly timed run from Henry saw him beat the Tottenham offside trap only to expertly bring down Lauren’s through ball before levelling the score, moments before heading back to the White Hart Lane changing rooms.
So, we’re at the halfway point of a game which, to be honest, hasn’t been living up to other North London Derbies. Only 2 goals so far, waiting 37 minutes for the first. But maybe that Henry goal on half time can put some life into such a highly anticipated game.
And it did just that. Even before a ball had hit the back of a net after the break there was a talking point. As we saw a glimpse of what Reyes could’ve become it was only seconds later that he was squaring up with Tottenham’s Noé Pamarot to add fuel to the fire moments before Pamarot would
then gift Arsenal a penalty by bringing down Freddie Ljungberg in the box. But to everybody’s surprise, it wasn’t Thierry Henry to step up for the spot kick, or Patrick Vieira, not even Dennis Bergkamp. It was Lauren who calmly stuck away the penalty to put Arsenal in the lead for the first time in the game.
On the hour mark Arsenal were at it again, after a number of errors in midfield the ball finally fell to Vieira who in true Vieira fashion strode through to the Spurs penalty area and neatly put the ball over a diving Paul Robinson. Cue another classic celebration from the archives.
But wait, even though these were times when football as an Arsenal fan were a bit more bearable there were still moments that were very questionable. After beating three Arsenal players on his way into the box a young Jermain Defoe lit up the stadium with an unsavable strike only a minute later to cut the gap back to one goal.
But the chaos wasn’t over there. All over the place in defence again Spurs gifted the ball to one of the hottest prospects in England at the time in Cesc Fabregas who remarkably found Ljungberg with a reverse pass which only left the Swede to finish the chance, making it 4-2 after 69 minutes.
However, Arsenal’s two-goal cushion lasted only four minutes longer than their first. Another Michael Carrick free kick was swept into the box which was attacked by Spurs legend Ledley King whose header flew past Jens Lehmann who was now wearing a cap to keep the sun out of his eyes… unfortunately, the cap didn’t make much of a difference.
But then, coming towards the end of such a classic game everybody was frozen after a moment of brilliance from substitute Robert Pires, who always loves a goal against Spurs. After Henry managed to squeeze the ball out wide to his fellow Frenchman the number 7 showed some of the silkiest footwork I personally have seen in a North London Derby to find some space before making it 5 for Arsenal with a very classy finish.
Surely that was it, 5-3 game finished, somehow Tottenham didn’t get the message. After picking up on a loose pass from Henry an 18 year old Reto Ziegler found Frédéric Kanouté with a lifted pass who brought the score count up to a total of 9 just two minutes from time.
But luckily the game was ended after a now capless Lehmann smashed the ball up the pitch in a game which still stands as the highest scoring NLD to date as well as having nine different scorers too.
Looking back on such an electric derby like that one I know what kind of send-off I’m hoping Arsenal can give White Hart Lane come 4:30 on Sunday but like most North London Derbies, who knows what to expect.