Friday, February 9, 2018

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: The Defining Moments, Part V: 2004-2018

Forever in our Shadow

November 23, 2004: Arsenal and Tottenham meet for the 1st time since Arsenal's clincher the previous April, and it is the highest-scoring game in North London Derby history. Or, to put it another way: Tottenham scored 4 goals, at home, against Arsenal... and lost. Arsenal won, 5-4. Pires scored again, his 5th goal at White Hart Lane -- and he didn't even start!
Pires scoring the 5th goal

May 21, 2005: After a horrible game in which Man United pressed them all day long, but they held on, Arsenal beat United on penalty kicks, 5-4, to win the FA Cup in Cardiff. Jens Lehmann made a stop on Paul Scholes to make the difference. The final kick, which won the Cup for Arsenal, was made by Captain Patrick Vieira. It was his last act on the pitch for Arsenal, as his contract ran out and he left the club.

For 9 years, this was the last time Arsenal had won a trophy -- as nearly everyone else, especially Tottenham fans, liked to remind Gooners.

September 9, 2005: The film Green Street premieres. Elijah Wood stars as Matt Buckner, a student expelled from Harvard after being framed for drug possession. So he flies off to London to spend a semester with his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani) and her British husband Steve Dunham (Marc Warren).

His brother-in-law was once "the Major," the top boy (leader) of the Green Street Elite, a hooligan firm associated with East London club West Ham United, based on the real-life Inter-City Firm (whose real-life former top boy, Cass Pennant, is now an actor and a film producer, and has a cameo, as, ironically, a police officer).

Steve's younger brother Pete is the current top boy, and is played by Charlie Hunnam -- in real life, a Newcastle native who later starred on Sons of Anarchy, where, as Jax Teller, a leader in a motorcycle, gang, he had much longer hair than a traditionally close-cropped football hooligan. (He'd previously played Nathan Maloney in the original British version of Queer As Folk.)

The film opens with the GSE in a tube station, across the tracks from a united of Tottenham's Y-- Army, which should not be in the East End. Pete yells across, "Mate, Tottenham's due north. Are you lost? Or just fucking stupid?" They're Tottenham fans, so either is possible. They run upstairs to fight each other, and the Hammers fans live up to their name, and nail the Spuds.

Later, after Pete takes Matt to West Ham's match against Birmingham City (the Hammers win, and Pete is swept up in the atmosphere of the match), a fight breaks out between the GSE and the Brummies' Zulu Army (so named because they were the 1st English firm to be racially integrated), and the GSE barely saves Matt's life. Pete explains firms to Matt, and delivers the greatest line in the history of movies. No, not this...

Matt: What are you talkin' about, "Baseball is a girl's game"? The Red Sox have a guy that pitches the ball over 90 miles per hour!

Pete: Who cares? All that means is that he can have a wank faster than you.

As good as that is. This is the greatest line in the history of movies, delivered by Pete:

Every football team in Europe's got a firm. Some have two. (Matt gives him a blank look) Christ, I forgot how clueless you Yanks are. All you've seen of us is the stadium riots on TV, innit? Come on.

See, West Ham football is mediocre. But our firm is top-notch, and everyone knows it. The GSE: Green Street Elite. Arsenal? Great football, shit firm. The Gooners. Tottenham? Shit football, AND a shit firm! The Yids, they're called. I actually put their main lad through a phone box window the other day.

Tell it like it is, mate.
Dennis Bergkamp, left, and Thierry Henry.
Even opposing fans had to admit it: "Great football."

Then Pete tells Matt about West Ham's arch-rivals, Southeast London club Millwall, with their firm, known in real life as the Bushwhackers. "Where to even fucking begin with Millwall?"

Matt: So, it's like the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Pete: More like the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And he wasn't kidding. Those 2 firms have killed each other's members in the past. It's not as bad as it was, with all the measures the police and the government have taken to identify and arrest hooligans. But as recently as a League Cup match in 2010, they went at it again.

May 7, 2006: One does not simply discuss the history of the Arsenal-Tottenham rivalry without talking about this day. It is folly.

Arsenal had their best European Cup/Champions League campaign ever, reaching the Final. That Final, still the closest Arsenal have ever come to winning the European Cup (the Champions League format kept the name for the trophy), was the last appearance in Arsenal's colours for Campbell, Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, and, controversially, for left back Ashley Cole, who had grown up as an Arsenal fan and in Arsenal's youth system, but had been "tapped up" by London rivals Chelsea, and went to them due to new owner Roman Abramovich's spending spree, which had gotten Chelsea the 2005 and '06 Premiership titles. Cole has been known as "Cashley" (and worse) ever since.

But the 2005-06 season was the end of an era for another reason: It was the last season for the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury. The new Emirates Stadium -- some call it The Emirates, some by the area's former name Ashburton Grove, some cheekily call it New Highbury -- was going up, 500 yards away, and would open in the Summer. Arsenal wanted very badly to end the last game at Highbury with a win.

But it wasn't just sentiment: Arsenal went into the season's League finale in 5th place, with Tottenham in 4th. All Spurs had to do in their game, away to West Ham (whose fans also don't like Spurs), was match Arsenal's performance at home to Wigan Athletic, on that final day of the Premiership season, and it would be Spurs in the 2006-07 Champions League, with Arsenal "relegated" to the UEFA Cup -- unless, of course, Arsenal could win the CL Final.

The night before, Tottenham manager Martin Jol had secluded his players at a hotel, the Marriott Canary Wharf, in London's financial district, a.k.a. The City. (The hotel is now named the Marriott West India Quay.) This is not unusual: Many managers do things like this, even before home games. American football head coaches, in both the professional and the collegiate ranks, also do this. The players would have a nice dinner the night before the game, and get a good night's sleep, and would have a nice short bus ride to the stadium, all away from the prying of fans and the media.

What did Scottish poet Robert Burns say? Translated into modern common English, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray." (Somewhat appropriate, since, early in the film version of Fever Pitch, Colin Firth's character is shown teaching John Steinbeck's novel that takes its name from that quote, Of Mice and Men.)

In the middle of the night, 10 Spurs players woke up, vomiting, and/or having diarrhea (or "diarrhoea"): Keane, Edgar Davids, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Lee Barnard, Calum Davenport, Teemu Tainio, Lee Young-Pyo and Radek Cerny.

(Lennon was the last one to leave Tottenham, in 2015, going to Everton. Tainio would later play for the New York Red Bulls of MLS, including in a summer 2010 friendly with Spurs as the visiting team.)

Someone decided to blame the lasagne they'd eaten for dinner that night, and, after the whole thing was over, some Spurs fans started a conspiracy theory (shades of their delusions about 1919) that the Marriott chef was an Arsenal fan and had purposely poisoned the Spurs players! It became known as Lasagne-gate.

In the morning, several Spurs players were still, uh, indisposed. So club chairman Daniel Levy called the League office, and asked League chairman Richard Scudamore to postpone the game. Nothing doing: With 1 League game to go, all teams were to kick their games off at the same time, 3:00 PM. (This was a change from past policy, to avoid teams whose League place had already been decided from laying down on the job, thus giving gamblers some easy pickings and paying customers a less than honest performance.)

Levy protested: They had sick players. Can't the game be postponed until tomorrow? Or even until tonight, just to give us a few more hours to recover? Scudamore asked if Spurs had 11 players who could play. Well, yes, but... Then the game would go on. If Spurs wanted to postpone, they could refuse to play, but an inquiry would be held, and Spurs would likely lose that appeal, and the penalty for refusing to play would be a deduction of points, which would make a win in the rescheduled match meaningless.

For the record, West Ham officials said they were willing to accept a postponement, so long as the rescheduled match wasn't too close to the following Saturday, when they were to play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final (which Liverpool went on to win). Unlike Spurs, West Ham were not threatened with a points deduction for going along with the postponement (which makes sense, since it wasn't their idea).

But the police were afraid of what extra time to drink that day would do, considering the reputation that both Spurs' and the Hammers' fans had for hooliganism, including against each other. (As I said, a fictionalized fight between West Ham and Spurs firms opened Green Street.) So they said they would allow the game to start no later than 5:00 -- an extra 2 hours, not much of a help for the last 2 players who still needed rehydration, Carrick and Lennon.

In the end, the game kicked off on time, at 3:00, and only 1 of the affected players, backup goalkeeper Cerny, did not make it into the game, although Carrick had to be subbed off after 63 minutes, Lee (for fellow affectee Barnard) in the 78th, and Tainio (for fellow affectee Davenport) in the 87th.

That season was Wigan's first-ever season in the Premiership, and they had achieved midtable respectability, finishing 10th. An Arsenal win shouldn't have been assumed, but it was certainly possible. West Ham were about Wigan's equal, finishing 9th, and were hosting Spurs -- hence the Canary Wharf hotel, not far from the Hammers' Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park.

Pires scored the Highbury opener, and, for the last time at that ground, the song "One-nil to The Arsenal" was sung -- by both Arsenal fans at Highbury and West Ham fans, learning by radio and text message, at Upton Park.

But Wigan struck back, and led 2-1. Spurs fans, getting calls and messages on their mobile phones, found out, and were ecstatic: Had Wigan held that lead, it wouldn't have mattered what Spurs did. And when Jermaine Defoe scored in the 35th to match Darren Fletcher's goal for the Hammers in the 10th, meaning Spurs were looking at a draw while Arsenal were losing, it looked like it would be Spurs' day.
Trying to stay hydrated during The Lasagne Game

It wasn't. Henry scored a hat trick, tallying in the 35th, the 56th, and in the 76th with a penalty that was the last goal ever scored in the ground's 93-year history. Feeling the history, after putting the ball in the net, instead of launching a ghastly celebration, he bent down and kissed the grass. (In a weird coincidence, the 1st hat trick at Highbury, in 1914, was scored by an Arsenal player named Harry King, and the last by Thierry Henry -- Henry King, and a man called "King Henry.")

And West Ham came from behind, and won 2-1 on a goal in the 80th minute by Yossi Benayoun, a midfielder from Israel. That's right, on this day, the Jews were against Tottenham! (Benayoun, the greatest player his country has yet produced, would later join Arsenal. More about that later.)

Arsenal finished 4th, 2 points ahead of Tottenham, and qualified for the Champions League; Tottenham, finishing 5th, went to the UEFA Cup.

The supposedly offending lasagne was sent to a laboratory, and tested. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it, at least not medically. The virus that spread among the Spurs players was real, but it had nothing to do with food.

Still, Spurs fans blame that lasagne, and the chef that served it. Just like the Yankees-Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino," the lasagne contagion never really existed, but it has taken on a life of its own, because the afflicted team's fans believed it. And so, to spite them, ever since, Arsenal fans have sung, to "Volare":

Lasagne, whoa!
Lasagne, whoa!
We laughed ourselves to bits

when Tottenham got the shits!

Which matches another Arsenal chant. I don't know how far back it goes, but it was already in place in early 2007:

Q: What do you think of Tottenham?
A: Shit!
Q: What do you think of shit?
A: Tottenham!
Q: Thank you!
A: That's all right! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham! We are the Tottenham haters! (Usually followed by a variation on the Y-word.)

May 17, 2006: At the Stade de France outside Paris, Arsenal lose the Champions League Final to Barcelona, 2-1. Sol Campbell became the 1st player ever to score in a Champions League Final for a London team, but goalie Jens Lehmann was sent off for a risky challenge. Wenger sent the shaky Manuel Almunia (later to be mocked by Gooners as "The Clown") into goal, and, having to take off an outfield player, removed Pires at a time when goals would seem to be at a premium.

Sol's goal gave Arsenal a 2nd-half lead, but it didn't last, with Samuel Eto'o (clearly offside, but such calls do not go against Barcelona) and Juliano Belletti scoring on the backup Almunia to give Barcelona the title.

As I said, this was the last game in Arsenal's colours for Bergkamp, Pires, Campbell and Cole. (Although Campbell did briefly return.) And, with the club moving into the Emirates at the same time, it's also seen by many as the day the great Arsenal team of the last few years went off the rails.

Between this date and May 17, 2014, Arsenal reached the Semifinals of the CL once, the Quarterfinals twice, the FA Cup Semifinals once, and 2 League Cup Finals, but didn't win any of them, and did not finish higher than 3rd in the League. The vast sums of money spent by Chelsea and the Manchester teams had not been matched by Wenger, and as the number of "years since Arsenal won a trophy" mounted, some Gooners demanded that Wenger "Spend some fucking money!" Or that the club fire him -- "Wenger Out" -- and hire a manager who would.

They don't get it: As Tottenham have proven, it's not how much you spend, it's how wisely.

December 2, 2006: The teams meet at the Emirates for the 1st time. Arsenal win, 3-0.
Highbury, at left; Emirates Stadium, at right.
The London skyline, including the Shard, in the background.

January 24, 2007: The teams meet at White Hart Lane in a League Cup Semifinal 1st leg. Spurs take a 2-0 lead, partly thanks to an own goal by Julio Baptista, a Brazilian forward on loan from Real Madrid. But "the Beast" redeems himself, scoring twice, and the Arsenal fans sing, to the tune of "Go West" (the same song used for "One-nil to The Arsenal" and "Stand up, if you hate Tottnum"), "Two-nil, and you fucked it up!"

The score is 2-2, and that's how it ends. The tie goes to the Emirates with Arsenal needing only to have a 1-0 net win on the night to advance to the Final.

January 31, 2007: With "The Lasagne Song" and "Two-nil, and you fucked it up" ringing down from the brand-new stands at the Emirates, the 2nd leg ends 1-1, 3-3 on aggregate, and extra time is required. But Arsenal win it 3-1, making it 5-3 on aggregate, and advance to the Final. Had Tottenham merely won their home leg 2-1, they would have advanced to the Final.

But Chelsea beat Arsenal in the Final -- despite Abou Diaby accidentally kicking Chelsea's despicable centreback and Captain John Terry in the face and knocking him out -- and, following Arsenal doing it in 1993 and Liverpool in 2001, win the Cup Double. The main reason Chelsea won the Final is that their manager, Jose Mourinho, had started his usual starting XI, while Wenger had started mainly his younger players, to give them experience in a knockout competition, thinking this would "blood" them for stronger competitions like the Premiership and the Champions League.

January 22, 2008: With Wenger again starting "the kids," following a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg at the Emirates, again the League Cup Semifinal comes to White Hart Lane. This one, though, is no contest, as Tottenham, mainly starting their starters against "Arsène Wenger High School," win 5-1.

Spurs would soon release a DVD of this game, titled The Perfect Game. A, It was starters against reserves. Big deal. B, How can it be "perfect" if you let in a goal? Morons.

February 24, 2008: Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the League Cup at the new Wembley Stadium. Although Didier Drogba, a.k.a. "Dogbreath," another of the most hated opponents Arsenal have ever had due to his goals against them and his obvious and unrepentant diving, opens the scoring, Tottenham get a penalty that is buried by Dimitar Berbatov, the Vulgarian Bulgarian, and the game goes to extra time. Jonathan Woodgate, a defender, scores the winner in the 94th minute.

This is the last trophy that Tottenham have won. Arsenal would lose the League Cup Final in 2011, and Spurs fans didn't let us forget it, bringing up the Arsenal trophy drought again. Of course, if Arsenal had won that game, Spurs fans would remind us that we haven't won a major trophy since 2005 -- but that would mean that Spurs haven't won a major trophy since 1991.

Moral of the story: If you care that much about the League Cup, then you don't support a big club -- or, at the least, you are not a fan worthy of a big club. In an age when the top 4 teams in England get to the Champions League, it's fine for that trophy to be celebrated by teams like Leicester City (2000), Blackburn Rovers (2002), Middlesbrough (2004), Birmingham City (2011) and Swansea City (2013) -- and Tottenham (1999 and 2008).

But did Manchester City make a big deal out of it when they won it in 2014 and 2016? Did Chelsea, when they won it in 2005, '07 and '15? Did Man United, when they won it in 2006, '09, '10 and '17? Did Liverpool, when they won it in 2001, '03 and '12? (Well, the last one, they did, kind of.)

Also, now that Arsenal have won trophies again,  and Tottenham still haven't won one since the 2008 League Cup, have the English media, who took a pernicious glee in pointing out Arsenal's trophy drought, gone out of their way to say that Tottenham have not won a trophy in 10 years, as they did for Arsenal after 6 years, following the 2011 League Cup Final disaster? And then when the drought was extended to 7, 8 and 9 years? Not a bloody chance.

October 29, 2008: Tottenham take early leads of 1-0 and 2-1 at the Emirates, but Arsenal lead 4-2 in the 88th minute. And blow it. Jermaine Jenas scores in the 88th, and, with more stoppage time given than necessary, Aaron Lennon scores in the 94th. It's a 4-4 draw.

Within 12 hours, before the last chorus of "Four-two, and you fucked it up!" can stop ringing around North London, Tottenham release a DVD of this match. That's right, they released a video of a draw. True, Arsenal celebrated a draw at White Hart Lane in 2004, but that was for winning the League. What did Spurs get out of this draw? Not bragging rights: They still hadn't won a League game against Arsenal in 9 years.

Because they're both young black Englishmen who play on the right wing, Lennon (from Leeds in West Yorkshire) and Arsenal's Theo Walcott (from the Stanmore section of Northwest London) often get compared. Tottenham fans call Walcott "a shit Aaron Lennon." No, Aaron Lennon is a shit Aaron Lennon.

February 8, 2009: How many Tottenham players does it take to beat 10 Arsenal players at White Hart Lane? Apparently, more than 12.

Emmanuel Eboue gets sent off with a 2nd yellow card in the 37th minute -- admittedly, for a bad challenge, but his 1st yellow was bogus -- and referee Mike Dean, not for the 1st time and certainly not for the last, continues the game with the apparent purpose of screwing Arsenal over. But the game ends 0-0, and even with 12 vs. 10 and home-field advantage, Tottenham couldn't win -- or even score.

October 31, 2009: It's Halloween, and this game scared the shit out of Tottenham fans. And that takes a lot of scaring, because Tottenham fans are full of shit.

The game is scoreless until the 43rd minute, when Robin van Persie scores for Arsenal. It takes about 40 seconds to restart the game, and almost immediately, Cesc Fàbregas takes the kickoff, goes through Spurs' defense like a hot knife through butter, and scores. 45 seconds of hell!

Spurs have nothing for the rest of the game, and Arsenal win, 3-0. This game is treasured by Gooners, even though both Fàbregas (in August 2011) and van Persie (in July 2012) would whine their way off the team: The former to his former club Barcelona, the latter to Man United.

Cesc was largely forgiven for his treachery by Gooners, until Barcelona no longer wanted him, and he begged Wenger to take him back. Wenger refused, because treason is forever. Then Cesc signed with Chelsea, and Arsenal fans finally woke up to his treachery, and began calling him "the Snake." RVP, or "the Dutch skunk" as the author of Arseblog has dubbed him, has never been forgiven. (Like Ashley Cole, he also gets called "Judas.")
Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas, Halloween 2009.
As was once said to another player
who left a great club for its greatest rivals,
"We hate you so much, because we loved you so much!"

April 11, 2010: Tottenham are in the FA Cup Semifinal, at the new Wembley Stadium, across London, where they lose 2-0 in extra time. This is their best performance in the tournament in 9 years -- when you consider that it went to extra time, it's their best in the last 19 years, since they won the Final in 1991.

But this becomes less of an accomplishment when you discover that the team they lost to was Portsmouth. Big deal, you say? Portsmouth won the Cup just 2 years earlier, in 2008? Yes, they did. Their manager was Harry Redknapp, now managing Tottenham. But "Pompey" had gone into administration, and were docked points for this, due to a financial meltdown. They were assured of relegation, and would be relegated in each of the next 2 seasons, crashing to the 4th division (now called League Two). Twice, in 2010 and 2012, they came within hours of going out of business.

Spurs, playing in their "hometown" (if not at their home ground -- not yet, anyway), had gotten beat by a team that would be in the 4th division in a little over 2 years. (As of this weekend's games, they are back up to the 3rd, in 9th place in League One, only 5 points out of 6th, meaning they have a shot at the playoffs for promotion to the 2nd division.)

Why had Pompey fallen so far, so fast? Because Redknapp had so badly mismanaged their finances, worse than he'd done while managing Bournemouth, West Ham, and Portsmouth's arch-rivals, Southampton. Since then, he's also managed Queens Park Rangers, which currently has enough bankroll to avoid the same kind of meltdown, but they, too, were relegated. This was mainly due to the man Redknapp succeeded there, Mark Hughes. And he also managed Birmingham City, failing to get them promoted. Still, he has gotten 5 clubs relegated, and caused them to be relegated a grand total of 8 divisions (although also gaining 2 promotions).

And how many trophies has this much-loved English manager Harry Redknapp won? In 30 seasons of English football club management, he has won exactly one major trophy, the 2008 FA Cup. And he nearly destroyed the club to do it.
Former Spurs manager Martin Jol, managing Fulham,
and Harry Redknapp, 2010

April 14, 2010: All good things must come to an end, and, on this day, 2 good things do: Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League (which will be compounded soon by a game remembered as "The Wigan Capitulation") and Arsenal's 22-game League unbeaten streak against The Scum. Goals by diving Welsh ape Gareth Bale and substitute Danny Rose (not to be confused with the Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose -- that film is good) give Spurs a 2-1 win at The Lane.

Redknapp had restored Spurs to something resembling glory. Arsenal would finish 3rd in this season, Tottenham 4th -- meaning Spurs qualified for the European Cup/Champions League for the 1st time since they last won the League... 49 years earlier.

July 22, 2010: Tottenham make an off-season tour of North America. Included in this was the New York Football Challenge, a series of games played at the brand-new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, home of the New York Red Bulls, who had recently signed former Arsenal superstar Thierry Henry. Also invited were Manchester City and, due to the strong Portuguese influence in the Newark/Harrison/Kearny area, Sporting Clube de Portugal, a.k.a. Sporting Lisbon.

Naturally, Henry scores for the Red Bulls against Tottenham. He is proud of saying he never played in a losing game for Arsenal against Tottenham. But Hans Backe, then the Red Bulls' manager, replaces Henry and some other starters for the 2nd half, and Tottenham win, 2-1.
Tom Huddlestone of Tottenham, Thierry Henry of New York

July 25, 2010: Three days later, the event concludes with a doubleheader, and I was at this one -- meaning I saw Tottenham play live before I ever saw Arsenal play live. And let me tell you, until you have seen Harry Redknapp wearing shorts, you have never truly suffered.

In the 1st game, Tottenham blow 1-0 and 2-1 leads, and Sporting, who had beaten Man City 2 days earlier, forge a 2-2 draw. In the 2nd game, the Red Bulls beat Man City, 2-1.

I sat in the South Ward, on the lower level. Wearing a red 1970s replica Arsenal shirt amid a sea of Red Bulls home whites and road blues, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Adebayor was with Man City at the time, and, remembering how he'd whined his way out of Arsenal a year earlier, and how he'd treated Arsenal and its fans since, I really gave him what-for. After a missed City shot, we were perhaps 50 feet apart, and he had this look on his face, as if to say, "What the hell? Who knows me here?" Then he saw my shirt, and the look changed to one that said, "Fucking Gooners, I can't get away from them anywhere!"

The Sporting fans, in the upper deck behind me, were fantastic. The City fans, across the stadium in the northeast corner of the upper deck, also behaved themselves. The Spurs fans were another matter. They were in the upper deck of the southeast corner, practically on top of me. And it was on this day that, no longer having to take London-born Gooners' words for it, I saw just what a bunch of cunts they truly are.

It's not that, first verrrry slowly, they sang, "Oh... when... the... Spurrrrrrrrs... go marching in... " and then sped it up like they had injected speed. But they used the Y-word for themselves over and over again, apparently oblivious to the fact that American Jews (including, by 1/4 ancestry, yours truly) consider that to be the anti-Semitic equivalent of the N-word.

It got worse. Arsenal fans like to sing, to the tune of "Winter Wonderland," about "walking in a Wenger Wonderland." Because of Wenger's penchant for signing and playing very young players, including teenagers who are not yet ready, Tottenham fans have rewritten that song, and they sang it that day:

There's only one Arsène Wenger
There's only one Arsène Wenger
With a packet of sweets
and a cheeky little smile
Arsène Wenger is a paedophile!

This has been adopted elsewhere: Man United fans, to "La Donna e Mobile" from Rigoletto, have sung at Arsène, "Sit down, you paedophile!" (The English not only spell "pedophile" differently, but pronounce it "PEE-doh," instead of "PEH-doh.")

The charge, of course, has absolutely no evidence. Besides, it was Tottenham who had a manager who was then under indictment for a felony! Redknapp had been charged with tax evasion. One of the things I yelled at Spurs that day was, "Hey Harry: The Queen wants her money!" That got a laugh from the Red Bulls fans, who are pretty savvy and knew of the situation. (I'll mention the verdict later.)

Of course, the Spurs sang, to "Go West," "Stand up, if you hate Arsenal!" Even though Arsenal weren't in the stadium. At another point, they sang, "Who's that wanker over there?" I looked up, pointed to myself -- the closest fan to them wearing Arsenal gear -- and said, "Me?" It was only later, on the bus heading home, that I realized they were singing about Henry. Had they known I was singing the song about "the wanky Tottenham Hotspur" going to Rome to see the Pope, they might have meant me.

(Another thing I realized on the bus ride home was that I forgot to sing "The Lasagne Song." But I unleashed pretty much every other anti-Spurs song in my, uh, arsenal.)

Anyway, Sporting won the Challenge trophy, edging Tottenham on a tiebreaker. Two years later, Tottenham would come to North America again, and again I would be in the South Ward hoping to see the Red Bulls beat them. And, again, Backe would pull his starters at the half (this time not including Henry, who he didn't even start). And, again, the Red Bulls blew a 1-0 halftime lead to lose to The Scum, 2-1.

I have been in Shea Stadium, surrounded by 50,000 New York Met fans. I have been in Fenway Park, surrounded by 30,000 Boston Red Sox fans. I have been in Madison Square Garden, surrounded by 15,000 New York Ranger fans. I have been in the Philadelphia Flyers' new arena (whatever the hell it's named this season), surrounded by 18,000 of them. Never have I been so sickened by opposing fans as I was upon hearing 2,000 Tottenham fans. "Scum," indeed.

(To their credit, though, on neither occasion, 2010 or 2012, did I see them start a fight. While the Red Bulls fans sang, "You're goin' home in a Jersey ambulance," I guess they didn't want to go to an American ambulance or an American jail.)

September 21, 2010: It's only the 3rd Round, but another League Cup match is a North London Derby, at White Hart Lane. It goes to extra time, in which Spurs' defense collapses, and Arsenal win, 4-1. Remembering the 5-1 match 2 1/2 years earlier, the visiting Gooners sing, to the tune of "Bread of Heaven":

Shall we make
Shall we make
Shall we make a DVD?

Shall we make a DVD?

A lot of Tottenham fans left early, and, to the tune of "La Donne e Mobile," Arsenal fans brought up the old standby, "Is there a fire drill?" (Tottenham fans are so dumb! How dumb are they? They're so dumb, they think Rigoletto is the manager of Inter Milan.)

This game was also the birth of the meme of the "Crying Spurs Kid."
November 20, 2010: For the first time since May '93, Spurs win away to Arsenal, 3-2, on goals by Bale, Younes Kaboul, and a dubious penalty taken by their Dutch midfielder, Rafael van der Vaart.

April 13, 2011: Once again, ignoring the fact that they won nothing -- or "won fuck-all," as would be said in England -- in 2001, Spurs fans brought up the "Year ends in one" bullshit, thinking that they might actually win the Premier League and the Champions League under Redknapp.

This year ending in one ended with no glory for the club whose greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, liked to say, "This game is about glory." They finish 5th in the League, and do not qualify for the CL again. And, on this date, in the 2nd leg of the CL Quarterfinal, at home, Tottenham are beaten 1-0 by Real Madrid, which had beaten them 4-0 in the 1st leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Spurs fans relished the fact that, this season, they had gotten further in the CL than Arsenal had gotten. But whereas Arsenal had won 1-0 at Madrid in the Round of 16 in 2006 (the 1st English team ever to win there), Tottenham lost 1-0 to Madrid at home. No shame in that, but since Spurs fans measure themselves against Arsenal, their aggregate performance against Madrid (0-5) pales in comparison to Arsenal's 5 years earlier (1-0).

Late in the game, the Tottenham fans, knowing that the jig was up, started singing to the Madrid fans, to the tune of "Guantanamera," "Shit Barcelona, you're just a shit Barcelona!" Did the Madridistas get offended? Probably, but, showing that they'd done their homework, they came right back, singing in better English than the average Tottenham fan is capable of speaking, "Shit club near Arsenal, you're just a shit club near Arsenal!"

August 6, 2011: Riots break out all over England. The first of them, and, in terms of property damage, the worst of them, was in Tottenham. While White Hart Lane itself had been spared any damage, the surrounding area had not. As a result, when the League season began 2 weeks later, the Premier League postponed Spurs' season opener. This would have consequences later, as the fixture list piled up (partly due to a bad winter postponing some games).
Tottenham Hale shopping center

Arsenal fans -- and fans of a few others teams, too -- would sing to the Spurs fans, to the tune of "Sloop John B":

You burned your own town.
You burned your own town!
You Tottenham bastards!
You burned your own town!

Tottenham isn't a town, it's a neighborhood (neighbourhood). But, yes, they burned their own town.

October 4, 2011: For the 3rd League game in a row, VDV scores for Spurs against Arsenal. This time, however, he blatantly cheats, deflecting the ball with his left arm, letting it drop to his feet, and scoring. Spurs take a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane, and Rafael becomes known in Arsenal lore as "Hand der Vaart."
February 26, 2012: Tottenham are 10 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and Spurs fans have spent weeks reminding Gooners, in the words of message on the trains of the London Underground, to "Mind the gap." (In America, it's usually "Please watch the gap.") Arsenal need to win this Derby. They need a win. Real bad.

They fall behind 2-0, including a goal by Adebayor, who had whined his way out of Arsenal 3 years earlier and had been picked up by Spurs. This makes him only the 2nd player ever to score for both sides of this rivalry, following Jimmy Robertson in 1970. It looks really bad for Arsenal.

And the rout was on. Bacary Sagna, the braided right back who almost never scored, does so in the 40th. van Persie equalises in the 43rd. In the 2nd half, oft-injured midfielder Tomáš Rosický, a.k.a. "Little Mozart" (Mozart was Austrian, not Czech) gives Arsenal the lead in the 51st. And Walcott, showing he's not "a shit Aaron Lennon," scores in the 65th and the 68th, providing the final score of 5-2. Tottenham are shellshocked, and the Emirates parties like never before in, well, its brief 6-year history.
Emirates Stadium

It is a win that, uh, spurs the Gunners on to make a great run-in, and Tottenham never recover.

May 13, 2012: In a reverse of 2006, Arsenal need to match Tottenham's performance on the final day of the League season to guarantee 4th place and a CL place for next season, but are away, while Tottenham are home. And, sure enough, Tottenham beat fellow London club Fulham, 1-0. But, thanks to a goal by 2006 Spurs tormentor Yossi Benayoun, and a great late clearance by left back Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal beat Wigan, 3-2, and clinch 4th.

The game is best remembered by Gooners for a moment in the dying minutes where Wenger, knowing the Gunners would not be in the 2012-13 CL with a draw, grimaced and dropped his head into the lap of his assistant manager, former Arsenal Captain Pat Rice, who was in his last game before retirement from an active role with the club. (He was replaced by 1990s Arsenal centreback Steve Bould.) Wenger did, of course, rejoice at the final whistle, and Gooners with him.
Pat Rice and Arsène Wenger

Spurs fans, yet again, got their hearts broken. 2012 was the year singer Adele, a Tottenham native, would break out as a major star. She is known for singing songs of heartbreak, and she is a Spurs fan. Gee, do you think there's a connection?

Of course, this latest Spurs disaster wouldn't have happened if their fixture list hadn't been so congested, wearing their players down over the late winter and the spring. And that might not have happened if their 1st League game of the season hadn't had to be rescheduled. And that wouldn't have happened if the Tottenham bastards hadn't "burned their own town." They screwed themselves, and they screwed their club.

This was like the Chicago Cubs losing a Pennant because of Steve Bartman -- except Bartman was just one man doing something he was legally entitled to do. The rioters were hundreds of people committing actual crimes.

As the song went, to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" (previously adapted for the England national side as "Ten German Bombers")...

There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points in the gap.
There were 10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points
10 Tottenham points in the gap.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal took one down.
And the boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal
boys from The Arsenal took one down.

Until "There were no Tottenham points in the gap," concluding with...

Tottenham! Mind the gap!
Tottenham, Tottenham, mind the gap!
Tottenham! Mind the gap!
Tottenham, Tottenham, mind the gap!

A couple of minutes after this game ended, Man City came from 2-1 down in stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2, and win the Premier League title, beating Man United on goal difference. Sergio Agüero scored the winner, doing for Man City what Michael Thomas had done for Arsenal in 1989 -- the only 2 times the League title has swung from one team to another in the apparent last minute of the last game of the season. (Ray Kennedy's goal in 1971 was very late, but in regular time.)

Even people who don't like Man City were cheering this result, as it meant a trophyless season for Man U. It was also Man City's 1st League title in 43 years -- not as long as Tottenham, but pretty bad, and now done with.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, Redknapp resigned as Tottenham manager, later taking the job at QPR. He had recently been acquitted in his trial for tax evasion, his defense (defence) being that he couldn't read very well and didn't understand the documents with which he was presented. In other words, Tottenham's manager was functionally illiterate.

Which brings up the point that Tottenham fans, criticizing the home game atmosphere at Arsenal, used to call Highbury "the Library" (it does rhyme, sort of), and have given the nickname to the Emirates as well. Well, how the fuck would a Tottenham fan know what the inside of a library sounds like?

October 7, 2012: Tottenham, now managed by Andre Villas-Boas, who had managed FC Porto to the Portuguese league title in 2011, beat Aston Villa 2-0. But the visiting Villa fans sang, to the tune of "Sloop John B":

Let me go home!
I wanna go home!
Tottenham's a shithole!
I wanna go home!

Aston Villa is located in Birmingham, in England's West Midlands. The old steel city, which gave its name to a steel city in Alabama (as did Sheffield and Leeds), is often regarded as a city beyond help, as England's answer to Detroit. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which it is.

November 17, 2012: As the American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Adebayor opens the scoring at the Emirates, but then gets a straight red card for a monumentally stupid tackle on Santi Cazorla. Why is a forward making tackles anyway?

Arsenal pound away at 10-man Spurs, and Per Mertesacker (a 6-foot-6 centreback known to Arsenal fans as "the Big Fucking German," or the BFG for short), Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Cazorla make it 4-1, before a consolation goal from Bale makes it 4-2.

Remembering the 2008 game that went from 4-2 to 4-4 after the 88th minute, some Gooners get nervous, but they hold on, and a stoppage time goal from Walcott makes it, once again, 5-2. Some fans call it "Groundhog Day," in reference to the Bill Murray film comedy.
March 3, 2013: Thanks to a Bale goal that was obviously offside, and a Lennon goal that occurred 10 seconds after a challenge that should have been a yellow card to Tottenham, Tottenham beat Arsenal at White Hart Lane, 2-1.

After the game, Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas says that Arsenal are "in a downward spiral." Actually, no, that's how it's remembered, but here's what he really said about the 2 teams:

We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence, and they are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.

Summing up, as a studio guest on American network Fox Soccer Channel (now Fox Sports 1), Piers Morgan, an Englishman who hosted a nighttime show on CNN and claims to be an Arsenal fan, pointed out that Wenger has let many good players go in order to save money, and that Spurs are now 7 points ahead of Arsenal in the League, and says, "If Arsène Wenger has one ounce of honour left in him, he will resign immediately."
Wenger did not resign.

May 19, 2013: Arsenal had not lost since that match at The Lane, and, in another "Groundhog Day," simply had to match Tottenham's performance on the final day to ensure that they finish 4th and Tottenham 5th. Arsenal are away to Newcastle United, while Spurs are home to, oddly enough, Newcastle's arch-rivals, Sunderland.

Defender Laurent Koscielny scores in the 52nd minute, and it's One-nil to The Arsenal. Somehow, fans at The Lane get the message that Newcastle have equalised, and are convinced that all Spurs have to do now is get one goal, and they will finish 4th. And they get that goal, from Bale -- who had essentially carried them that season, as they'd gotten few goals from their other players. They beat Sunderland, 1-0.

But Newcastle have not equalised, and Arsenal win, 1-0. "Have Newcastle equalized yet?" has become a Gooner catchphrase.

Again, to the tune of "Sloop John B"...

It's happened again.
It's happened again!
Tottenham Hotspur
It's happened again!

In addition, the Sunderland fans, as did the Aston Villa fans earlier in the season, sing, "Tottenham's a shithole, I wanna go home!" Sunderland, in England's North-East, is generally considered to be a very dreary place. And yet, these people were saying that Tottenham is a shithole. Which, as we've discussed, it is.

September 1, 2013: An unusually early in the season North London Derby. Going into the game, there was 1 day left in the Summer transfer window, and Arsenal had spent nothing, only bringing back former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini and bringing in French prospect Yaya Sanogo -- both of them on free transfers. Wenger's bargain-basement hunts were going along as usual, while the "Spend some fucking money!" crowd was having strokes.

Meanwhile, after selling Bale to Real Madrid for a world record £85 million, Spurs spent, depending on whose figures you believe, anywhere from £100 million to £110 million on 7 new players, all of them supposedly "world-class." Spurs fans, yet again, were talking about a "power shift in North London." After all, every season, they got closer and closer to it, and this time, Arsenal, and Arsenal fans, were scared of them. This was going to be their derby, this was going to be their coming-out party, this was going to be when the power shift finally happened.

The game ends One-nil to The Arsenal. Olivier Giroud scores, Flamini and the defenders shut Spurs down, and, once again, Spurs and their fans look like bloody fools.

The next day, Arsenal spend £42.5 million to get Mesut Özil from Real Madrid -- allowing Los Blancos to get back exactly half what they had spent on Bale. As the song goes:

How does it feel to be Tottenham?
How does it feel to be small?
You sold Bale
and we bought Mesut Özil!

December 17, 2013: Spurs sack Villas-Boas. For all he had spent, Spurs are in 7th place, and had lost several games badly. His last game was a 5-0 loss to Liverpool. Meanwhile, Arsenal had lost just 1 League game since their March 3 meeting. Hard to get out of a negative spiral, you say? Right idea, wrong team.

AVB is replaced with Tim Sherwood -- a former Spurs player who had grown up as an Arsenal fan.

January 4, 2014: The rivals are paired in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, at Highbury. Arsenal are top of the League, and Tottenham are struggling simply to score goals from open play: Most of their wins had included penalties, countering their complaints that they hadn't gotten one the entire previous season. (Maybe they would have, if Bale wasn't such a diver. Maybe now they were getting them because Bale wasn't around to dive anymore.)

To the tune of "Seven Nation Army," Arsenal fans sing, "Tim Sherwood's a Gooner!"

Arsenal win, 2-0, with Walcott scoring the 2nd goal. But, with Arsenal having made all 3 substitutions, Walcott is hacked down by Danny Rose (still "nicking a living" based on a goal he'd scored against Arsenal nearly 4 years earlier), wrecking his knee. Does Rose get a straight red card? No, not even a booking. Although going down to 10 men didn't hurt Arsenal in this game, losing Walcott for the 2nd half of the season really hurt, and they finished 4th again.

Meanwhile, he was getting stretchered off, right in front of the visiting Tottenham fans. They throw things at him, including coins. That was how Tottenham responded to a problem that season: They threw money at it, and got little in return. What they got in return was Walcott holding up 2 fingers in his right hand, and making an O with his left, to signal the 2-0 score. Spurs fans were furious, and wanted him suspended and fined. He wasn't.
"Theo! What's the score? Theo, Theo, what's the score?"

March 16, 2014: The teams play at White Hart Lane. Both teams need a win: Arsenal to stop another downward spiral, and Spurs just to retain hope of qualifying for the Champions League. Rosický scores in the 2nd minute, and Arsenal hold on for 93 nerve-twisting, gut-wrenching minutes, and it ends One-nil to The Arsenal.
Olivier Giroud, Tomáš Rosický and Santi Cazorla

For all that Tottenham had spent, they had played 3 games against Arsenal in the season, and not only didn't they win any games, or take any points, they didn't even score any goals. (They also lost to West Ham 3 times, twice in the League and once in the League Cup.)

At the end of the season, Arsenal once again finished 4th, and Tottenham dropped one place to 6th, although still qualified for the Europa League. "Thursday is Spursday," as the saying goes. Sherwood was fired, and Southampton boss Mario Pochettino was hired.

May 17, 2014: Arsenal come from 2-0 down early to beat Hull City 3-2 on an extra time goal by Aaron Ramsey, and win the FA Cup at the new Wembley Stadium.
Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil after the 2014 FA Cup Final

The "years since Arsenal won a trophy" counter reverts to 0. Only 2 English clubs won trophies that season: Arsenal, the FA Cup; and Manchester City, the League and the League Cup. Manchester United collapsed. Like Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were both top of the League late in the season. But, between them, they, and Tottenam, won nothing.
Wenger at the 2014 FA Cup celebration

At the celebration at the end of the parade, Wilshere, apparently having had a drink, grabbed the microphone, and asked, "What do we think of Tottenham?" He got his answer. "And what do we think of shit?" He got his answer again, and said, "Thank you!" and the routine went to its completion.

He did that again during the 2015 FA Cup Final celebration, and the English media -- who treat every Spurs player as "English," no matter where they're from, and every Arsenal player as "foreign," even the English ones like Wilshere -- acted as though Wilshere had slapped the Queen. Who, as has been publicly revealed, is an Arsenal fan.

July 26, 2014: Arsenal finally return to America. They come to New York, and New Jersey, playing the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. I had to jump through some very sophisticated hoops to get a ticket -- then again, so did any other American Arsenal fan who wanted a ticket -- but I had to do it, because The Arsenal were playing "on my manor." It cost me $60, but I got it.

The game was actually terrible. The Red Bulls won 1-0. Ironically, the closest Arsenal came to scoring was by Abou Diaby. Due to injuries, he so rarely played. And, as Yogi Berra might have put it, "Even when he could play, he couldn't play." Arsenal fans kept expecting him to be the next Patrick Vieira, but he never grasped the concept of passing the ball to the guys in the same color shirts. He put the ball past Luis Robles, right under the North Ward where I was sitting, but it was ruled out for offside.
Tim Cahill and Gedion Zelalem. Jack Wilshere looks on.

The biggest cheers were given to Rosický; Wilshere, as much for his hatred of Tottenham as for anything he'd done for Arsenal; Ethiopian-descended, German-born and Maryland-raised Gedion Zelalem; and, especially, for Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla.

May 30, 2015: Following a 1-1 draw at the Emirates and a 2-1 Tottenham win at White Hart Lane, Arsenal win the FA Cup again, defeating Aston Villa in the Final. Walcott, who missed most of the previous season's run with that injury, scored the go-ahead goal. His joy over so doing was completely understandable.
Villa were managed by Tim Sherwood. He had gotten Villa into the Final, an achievement Spurs hadn't had in 24 years.

September 23, 2015: The North London teams are paired in the 3rd Round of the League Cup at The Lane. Flamini, once a promising defensive midfielder but now a liability because of his propensity for bad tackles, always took pleasure in messing things up for Spurs, and does so again. He bookends a Calum Chambers own goal off a Nacer Chadli cross with goals in each half, and Arsenal win 2-1, to knock Spurs out.

March 5, 2016: After a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in November, once again, Tottenham are rolling and Arsenal are struggling. For the 1st time since 1987, Spurs enter March with a legitimate chance to win the League title. Arsenal are, once again, appearing to settle for 4th place and CL qualification. And The Lane is jammed with fans hoping to see Spurs put the Gunners to the sword.

Aaron Ramsey scores in the 39th, and the visiting Gooners are ecstatic. But a pair of dumb mistakes earns Francis Coquelin a 2nd yellow and a sendoff in the 55th, and, within 7 minutes, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane have scored stunners to put Spurs 2-1 up on the 10-man Gunners.

It seems hopeless for Arsenal, who now look doomed to finish behind Spurs for the 1st time since 1995. But Alexis Sánchez, who'd been an invisible man in his 1st 4 North London Derbies (injured for 1, awful in the others), scores in the 76th to tie it up, and it ends 2-2.

Spurs never recover, and Leicester City, a 5,000-to-1 shot when the season began, win their 1st League title. Spurs do clinch only their 3rd-ever Champions League berth. Arsenal don't win anything, either: They lose to Sheffield Wednesday in the next round of the League Cup, fall to Watford in the Quarterfinal of the FA Cup, and are again beaten by Barcelona in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

May 15, 2016: On the final day of the regular season, Arsenal thrash Villa 4-0 at the Emirates, while already-relegated Newcastle leave it all out on the field, and beat Spurs 5-1 at St. James' Park. Soon, it is being said that Spurs "finished 3rd in a 2-team race." More importantly, for the 21st season in a row, there was a St. Totteringham's Day.

April 30, 2017: It had to happen eventually, I suppose. After a season that began with another preseason trip to the U.S., beating the MLS All-Stars in San Jose and Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara in the Los Angeles suburbs in July, and a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in November, Arsenal fall 2-0 to Spurs in the last North London Derby ever to be played at White Hart Lane.
The end of White Hart Lane, the beginning of a new stadium.
In other words, Same shit, different hole.

The match clinches Spurs' 1st finish above Arsenal in 22 years: Spurs finish 2nd, their best finish since 1962; Arsenal 5th, their worst finish since 1996, and their lowest finish ever under Wenger. For the 1st time since 1995, a season will not have a St. Totteringham's Day.

But Spurs still end the season humiliated. After challenging Chelsea all season long, "putting the pressure on," as was said, they finished 7 points back. They failed to win any of the 3 cup competitions they were in. And Arsenal still managed to win a trophy:

May 27, 2017: Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley Stadium to win the FA Cup for the 3rd time in 4 seasons. As he did in 2014, Ramsey scores a late goal to win it, this time in the 79th minute, right after Chelsea had equalized.
Ramsey gets a celebratory hug from Hector Bellerin

Spurs had closed White Hart Lane, with their new stadium being built just to the north. They would spend the 2017-18 season playing "home games" at Wembley. This win meant that Arsenal had now won both the League and the FA Cup at "Spurs' home ground."

November 18, 2017: In the most recent Derby, Arsenal beat Spurs 2-0 at the Emirates. The goals were scored by centreback Shkodran Mustafi and the now-departed Alexis Sánchez.

February 10, 2018: Going into tomorrow's North London Derby at the new Wembley Stadium, Arsenal have won 81 competitive matches between the teams, Tottenham 62, with 51 draws.
Kickoff is at 12:30 PM London time, 7:30 AM U.S. Eastern Time. Given the 90,000 capacity of the new Wembley, it could have the largest crowd in the history of English league football.

Come On You Gunners! Beat The Scum!

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