I always look forward to North London derbies, but there is no doubt that these days they are completely different to the ones I played in in the 1970s and 80s.
Back then the teams would be full of players who knew each other from youth and reserve levels, so I’d be up against the likes of Graham Rix, David O’Leary and Frank Stapleton who I’d known for years and would want to beat. There was so much at stake and the matches often weren’t enjoyable.
In the Merseyside derby you always saw the pictures of the Liverpool and Everton fans sitting together, but you couldn’t do that at Arsenal-Tottenham. I remember going to the games as a fan and there was a real venom there, it was ferocious and often not the best technically – which certainly won’t be the case on Sunday.
Remembering Sol’s Return
More recently, one of my main memories of the derby came when I was Tottenham manager in 2001 – the infamous derby when Sol Campbell came back to White Hart Lane playing for Arsenal.
I understood exactly how the Spurs fans felt, and in my heart I knew he was going to get a tough time, I was just hopeful that there would be nothing physical or over the top. I’ve had abuse from the crowd before and it’s not nice, so I tried to diffuse it and just focus on our performance.
In the end Gus Poyet got a late equaliser and we drew 1-1.
As for Sunday, a lot might depend on how Arsenal react to their heavy loss in midweek.
Before that they were in great form. They beat Bayern Munich at home, which was a massive boost, and they were proving that they’ve got a good squad, with Olivier Giroud coming in and scoring goals, Mesut Ozil playing better and better, and the defence looking stronger.
Behind them, Petr Cech was making a difference just by making saves. People were a little critical of him at the start of the season, but that was more down to the players in front not protecting him. There was that goal against West Ham which no-one defended properly and he wrongly got the blame for it.
They are still as good as anyone going forward, and they’ll be eager to prove that Wednesday’s result was a blip.
Spurs have definitely got enough to test the Arsenal defence, but this is their third game in six days after Aston Villa on Monday and Anderlecht on Thursday, and that is a real disadvantage for them. I don’t think that’s fair on them at all.
The players will be tired, and the fact that this third game in a week is a derby match makes it really tough.
Giroud To Nick It
Unfortunately for me, then, I think Arsenal are going to nick it.
Giroud managed to get another goal in midweek and I think he’ll be crucial here against a tired Spurs side.
I’d say that he’s a ‘one in three’ man, as in he might need three chances to score a goal, but he does a lot of good things. He’s good enough to get an impressive goals return in this Arsenal side, which is crucial for them as I still think they could do with more players getting their shooting boots on.
Friends always say to me that they are frustrated that Arsenal don’t have more shots from distance, as they might be missing out on eight or nine goals a season, but I think just one could be needed here.
It’s a tough one, but I’ll take Arsenal and Giroud to just shade it.
Arsenal to win – 1.65
Arsenal to win with Olivier Giroud scoring at any time – 2.90