And welcome to coverage of the North London derby or, as we’ve been cattle-prodded to call it by the witless, the NLD, which I always thought stood for the Non-League directory (booksellers’ joke there, for you – I ‘m here all week).
Watching Match of the Day, sorry MOTD, last night, I was struck by Martin Keown, and not for the first time. On this occasion, the raw-boned former Arsenal center-half called this match the most significant, substantial league game between the two for decades because both clubs had something riding on it rather than one going for the title and the other attempting to chuck a cockerel-shaped spanner in the works – citing 1971 and 2004 and casting Spurs as the wannabe saboteurs.
Seems to me, given what’s at stake – Arsenal in the last Champions League qualification spot, four points ahead of Tottenham with three games to play each – this is more like one of their great cup semis, the Allinson resurrection of 1987, Gazza Double wrecker of 1991, the peak Pires back-post D’Artagnan dart of 2004 and the 5-1 Miracle of White Hart Lane (sorry, WHL) in 2008. Each occasion fulfilled perfectly Gore Vidal’s dictum: It’s not enough to succeed, others must fail . And no failure is better than a neighbor’s.
Still, with the four point gap, a Spurs victory would still leave Arsenal favorites for fourth with Newcastle, who were terrible against City, away and Everton (who are just terrible away, Leicester notwithstanding) at home to come even though Tottenham should wreak their revenge over Burnley and send Norwich away for another season in the Championship with a trouncing. Arsenal’s fixtures are trickier, but not dauntingly so.
As for the treatment room dispatches, the Groin Strain Bugle, Tottenham, who have won five and drawn two of the last seven home league meetings, have three players ruled out for the season – Japhet Tanganga, Oliver Skipp and Matt Doherty – and Sergio Reguilon , who is in danger of joining them with his adductor injury. Everyone else is fit so we would expect them to be unchanged from Saturday’s excellent performance at Anfield.
Arsenal’s Ben White will undergo a test on his hamstring after missing the last two games, Bukayo Sako, who is being held together until the end of the season with tape, should be fit to start but they cannot call on Thomas Partey or Kieran Tierney until August.
Join us at 6.45pm for the full team news.