On the face of it, the answer to the question ‘is this the most important north London derby in living memory?' should prompt a split response; for Arsenal it is, for Tottenham, not so much.
After all, Tottenham sit ten points clear of fourth placed Arsenal and while a loss for Tottenham would be embarrassing, manager Harry Redknapp would not face a backlash any where near the size of the one that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would have to confront if his side lost.
But scratch away at the surface and you will find that this game represents a crossroads for both clubs that could go someway to defining the final positions come May, as well as having a huge say in just who is the dominant club in north London for the foreseeable future.
Tottenham have finished above their rivals in the final league table in the Premier League era just twice and haven’t achieved that feat in over 15 years.
While the gap they currently enjoy from Arsenal is a large one there is a world of difference between seven and 13 points – the possible gap after the game at the Emirates Stadium.
A defeat and Arsenal will be given a lifeline and give them hope of overhauling their rivals, who still have Manchester United and Chelsea to play, while if 13 points become the difference then third place, the extra riches that come with that, and bragging rights for finishing above Arsenal are all but confirmed.
But more importantly than that for Tottenham they are looking for confirmation for what most believe but have yet to be shown hard proof of; that the tide has fully turned and that Tottenham are now the dominant team in north London.
If that does happen, then the Gunners will likely sacrifice their fourth place with rivals Chelsea and Newcastle facing relegation threatened opposition over the weekend, putting them on the back foot in the race for a Champions League spot which, if they miss out on, would have monumental effects on the club’s future.
The signs have been there for some time. Arsenal have won only one of their last eight Premier League games against Harry Redknapp's Tottenham having previously dominated the fixture.
So far this season, Spurs have impressed all comers with their attractive brand of football, but have spurned chances to announce their arrival as a main player in the Premier League with a significant win over a big club.
Wins in the first north London derby and against Liverpool (both at White Hart Lane) early on in the season were early indicators that this Tottenham team have something special about them.
But since speculation mounted that they could challenge for the title they have spurned chances against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City to rubber stamp their credentials and remove them from the limbo between a title tilt and a top four spot. Sunday’s encounter not only gives them the chance to not only secure their first double over since the inaugural Premier League season but show that they are now a team to be taken deadly seriously.
Across the divide, the knives are out for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side staring down the barrel of a seventh trophy-less season.
Rising discontent from fans losing faith in Wenger’s philosophy can only be remedied by one thing, and that is a win over their rivals.
While not the panacea to the Gunners many problems a win would at least give them momentum and open and keep them in the driving seat for the top four, while also gifting Wenger and his recently derided approach some breathing space.
Former player Emmanuel Pettit recently laid into the recent slump that Arsenal have entered as they lost out in the F.A Cup and the Champions League, describing their recent woes as ‘the chronicle of a death foretold’.
Wenger will hope that he can begin to right a new chapter in his Arsenal legacy before his story is cut short, starting with the most important north London derby for some time.
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