Before Saturday, let’s take a look at the Tottenham-Arsenal games that stick in the memory…
Tottenham 2-3 Arsenal, September 1988
There is something deeply wonderful about a match in which several goals are scored in a short period of time. It is as if something has borked within the game’s inner workings, with defenders releasing their shackles in favour of a glorious period of no rules, no strategies football. Each time another goal goes in you become a little more giddy, having persuaded yourself that the madness was over.
The north London derby of September 1988 is a wonderful example, with the five goals all scored in the space of 12 first-half minutes. As is so often the case on such occasions, the second half was scoreless.
The two most memorable goals from the game came from Nigel Winterburn and Paul Gascoigne. Winterburn’s was a unlikely tribute to Total Football from George Graham’s Arsenal, with Tony Adams marauding up the pitch and skinning a Spurs midfielder before a delicious reverse pass found his defensive colleague. Winterburn’s shot with the outside of his boot just held its line enough to find the bottom corner.
Gascoigne’s was altogether more bizarre, his first for Tottenham having moved from Newcastle. He was sent through on John Lukic, but lost his right boot in a tangle with a defender. Having had his first shot saved, Gascoigne finished the rebound with his bootless foot.
Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal, April 1991
‘Is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is, you know…Oh, I say. Brilliant. That…is…Schoolboys’ Own stuff.’
If you were going to choose an English player and a voice to epitomise the new dawn of English football after the darkness of the 1980s, Gascoigne and Barry Davies would be your fantasy pairing. In the FA Cup semi-final of 1991, they combined to perfection.
It was Gazza’s semi-final redemption, nine months after Italia ‘90 and the tears. More would follow in the final, with Gascoigne causing self-inflicted damage through an awful tackle on Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles. But, for now, there was only joy.
“Wasn’t bad, was it?” was Gascoigne’s take on his free-kick, hit with all his might into the very top corner of David Seaman’s goal. No, not bad at all.
Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal, November 2004
There is an obvious hypothesis for why defenders and goalkeepers are rarely recognised with individual awards such as the PFA Player of the Year or Ballon D’Or. As children, few of us dream of saving or stopping goals, only scoring them. It is hardwired into our footballing psyches to see those who score goals as the good guys, and those who stop them as the baddies.
When you watch games such as the north London derby in November 2004, it all starts to make sense. With both sides apparently agreeing a ceasefire on the use of defending, what followed was a bonkers 90 minutes during which Tottenham thrice managed to halve Arsenal’s two-goal lead. Spurs were culpable for at least four of the five goals they conceded.
Nourredine Naybet opened the scoring, only for Arsenal to equalise on the stroke of half-time through Thierry Henry. A penalty from Lauren – the indirect result of some abhorrent Paul Robinson goalkeeping – and Patrick Vieira goal looked to have ended the game as a contest on the hour mark, but Jermain Defoe and Ledley King pegged Arsenal back, with Freddie Ljungberg scoring in between. Robert Pires made in 5-3 with ten minutes remaining, before Frederic Kanoute gave Arsene Wenger a nervous last four minutes.
Look through some of the names on Martin Jol’s teamsheet for his first match in permanent charge: Naybet, Noe Pamarot, Reto Ziegler, Erik Edman, Michael Brown. Things really have improved immeasurably.
Tottenham 4-4 Arsenal, October 2008
There is a theory that the true strength of a team can be defined by the aptitude of its goalkeeper. While 2016 Arsenal and Tottenham have Petr Cech and Hugo Lloris, the 2008 versions had Heurelho Gomes and Manuel Almunia. It showed during a frantic encounter at the Emirates that was shortlisted for the best match of the Premier League’s first 20 years. When David Bentley scores the first goal from 35 yards and Mikael Silvestre equalises, you know you’re in for a treat.
Gomes was marginally more at fault than his counterpart, left in no man’s land for Arsenal’s first and third goals and getting a hand to William Gallas’ goal to make it 2-1. Almunia was guilty of allowing Bentley’s shot to catch him off guard and spilling Tom Huddlestone’s shot to Darren Bent to give Tottenham a sniff of the late equaliser.
Aaron Lennon was the fourth Englishman to score for Spurs with his late, late goal. Cue jubilation in the away end and a pile-on involving a rogue supporter. Lovely.
Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal, May 1971
Arsenal may have won the Premier League title at White Hart Lane in 2004, but I have only five slots. For league-winning drama, only May 3, 1971 can be victorious. The equation was simple: Arsenal needed to win or draw 0-0 to win the League Championship, while any other scoreline would see Leeds lift the trophy.
Arsenal dominated the match, but with two minutes to go the game was still goalless. Arsenal had one hand on the title, but a Spurs goal would ruin their hopes. Then Pat Jennings parried away John Radford’s shot following a pitiful clearance, and the ball fell to George Armstrong. His cross into the box found Ray Kennedy, whose header was perfectly placed above the defender on the line.
Kennedy was 19, only a regular in the side since the beginning of the season. He would move to Liverpool, win another five league titles and three European Cups and play 17 times for England.