Tottenham v Arsenal - More than a derby
The North London derby, London's most bitterly-fought local encounter. It is remembered for when Arsenal's Invincibles clinched the title at White Hart Lane in 2004. Remembered for Ray Kennedy's title-winning header in 1971 and the extraordinary 4-4 draw in 2008. Sunday promises to be fondly recalled also. This weekend presents the most significant North London derby for some time, its implications of the ripple effect sort. Arsenal are serious genuine title challengers in March and the Champions League looks a viable prospect for Tottenham. The derby will still hold onto its ardent vibe of bragging rights, but there is more at stake than just it's tradition.
Arsenal duly bowed out of the Champions League on Tuesday evening, succumbing to the detrimental away goals registered by Bayern Munich in the first-leg. Heads turned to the FA Cup as the solution to Arsene Wenger's alarming nine year-wait for silverware, but the Premier League remains a rational proposal for the Frenchman.
While Wenger's place in the Emirates Stadium dugout is secure, whether he not he is able to secure the club's first title triumph since 2004, the same cannot be said of Tim Sherwood's future. Following a chastening experience at Stamford Bridge last Saturday sparking public criticism from the former Blackburn midfielder, his side were comfortably outclassed by Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday.
Sherwood cited the North London derby as the most preferable fixture in which to have the opportunity to bounce back from a dismal week, rallying his wounded troops as they prepare to face title-chasing Arsenal.
The former Premier League champion is a fighter, not one to accept cowardly performances, to crumble under scrutiny and mask his emotions, as proven by his post-match outburst of derision at the Bridge and dispute with Benfica manager Jorge Jesus on Thursday evening. If the North London derby ever required a battle cry, Sherwood would be more than capable of fulfilling the ask. Quite comfortably too.
His side's embarrassing showing at Chelsea last Saturday, described as "gutless" by the Spurs' inexperienced manager, will be amended for with a "blood and thunder" derby performance.
"I don't think there is much blood and thunder these days - I want it to be more of that," said Sherwood.
"I think that gives us the edge. We are more functional than they are."
In these difficult days, Tottenham are in dire need of a spirited show of character. Or they will crack, and miss out on the Champions League.
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