Tag Archives: Wenger

Are Spurs fans starting to hate Arsenal less?

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In Tuesday afternoon’s Football 365 mailbox, an anonymous Arsenal fan made an unusual confession:

“I’m one of at least twenty or so Arsenal fans I know personally who are genuinely happy for Spurs – a really good club, properly run/managed, good young players, great football and with a silent majority of good fans and some fantastic players.”

The letter continued in this vain, and as I read it, it struck a chord.

I wrote about the shifting North London rivalry before the derby in November, and it seemed this fan was expressing something I’ve been feeling for a while now. Simply put: I think I’m starting to hate Arsenal less.

I know this isn’t something we are supposed to ever admit to, but I’m genuinely curious to know if any other Spurs fans think the same way.

Of course, the reflex reaction to such a suggestion will be along the lines of “fuck no, you closet Gooner” — but read what I have to say. You don’t have to acknowledge it if you don’t want to, but be honest now, deep down, are you feeling something similar too?

Now, this sentiment is suspended around North London derbies. In the words of Namond from The Wire, all Spurs fans are ready to saddle up come with it.  But I’m talking about all those other weeks, all that time spent thinking way too much about football, all those hours spent on Twitter or Reddit or actually, what’s the expression, talking to people.

We still take joy in Arsenal losing. But there is less need for this schadenfreude with our results and performances so good. It hurts when we see Arsenal above us (OK, so they aren’t at this very moment) in the table or winning things, but just a little less now it finally appears we are going places. It should be depressing seeing Arsenal landing global megastars like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but it isn’t really as we know Arsenal fans would far rather have a Harry Kane of their own.

Part of this changing sentiment is due to our changing fortunes. But there is more to it than that. For starters, there is plenty of dislike to spread around in the Premier League as it stands today,

Take Manchester City, once a fellow traveller with an even stronger nihilistic streak than we ever had, now transformed into a vacuous global mega brand toadying to the whims of an Abu Dhabi sheikh with nothing better to occupy his money or time. Then there is Manchester United, flinging money about in grotesque fashion without an original thought in whoever is supposed to be running the club’s head.

Worse, though, are Chelsea and West Ham. Chelsea have long been odious — that dirty Russian money, Jose Mourinho setting the tone of the club either in body or in spirit, everything about John Terry. But West Ham, whose Olympic Stadium deal with the British taxpayer is the type of hardcore shafting normally reserved for Sullivan and Gold’s publishing days, are coming up hard on the rails.

The rivalries with Chelsea and West Ham have always been asymmetric — they’ve hated us more than we hate them, if only because we need to save something special for Arsenal. But now, I wonder if this is starting to change just a little.

At this point you may try to argue that part of the dynamic is that Arsenal fans lack passion — this is certainly a charge that gets leveled at them. I disagree with this assessment of Goonerism: they may lack songs, but there is still plenty of passion.

It is just that the passion is expressed in often hilarious ways. Arsenal Fan TV is unparalleled, despite the efforts of others to piggyback off it. Things like this happen when Arsenal fans appear on radio phone-in shows, repeatedly. This guy exists. Even Arsene Wenger has taken to mocking the fans over their obsession with online polls.

Can you imagine what it must be like supporting Arsenal with Piers Moron’s attention-seeking tweets reverberating around your timeline every match? You can mock Goonerism, but it is hard to hate it because it is just too funny. And it is far less offensive than what passes for banter elsewhere.

Much of the Arsenal outpourings are centered on Wenger, and as Spurs fans we can at least understand where these feelings are coming from. Where Arsenal have Wenger, we have Daniel Levy. There is something similar about these two men — such obsessives, and so blinkered, dominating their respective clubs for so long. We understand that internal conflict that Wenger creates — the frustration that he may be holding the club back, the fear of what may have happened without him. It’s a sort of footballing Stockholm Syndrome we know all too well as Spurs fans.

There are similarities between how the clubs are going about their business beyond these two individuals. Like Arsenal, Spurs are having to self-fund a vast stadium project — no taxpayer freebies for us, or vanity investment from our resident oligarch. We are both doing things the hard way off the pitch, and the right way on it with two of the most prolific academies (even if Arsenal have struggled to generate first-team calibre talent in recent years) and a commitment to attacking football. Compared to what is happening elsewhere, again it is hard to hate.

We need to start finishing above Arsenal, mind. On Tuesday night, while I understand the reflexive sentiment, there was something a little embarrassing about all those league tables being tweeted about showing Spurs ahead on goal difference. Like the Gooners can’t respond with any final table from the past 20 years and win that argument.

I’m not counting any chickens this season, especially with Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin returning soon. St Totteringham’s Day may well come again, but it won’t grate as much as it used to.

For me, the nadir will always be that moment Arsenal’s soon-to-be “Invincibles” celebrated winning the title at White Hart Lane in 2004. There will be never be a more sickening moment than that, and Arsenal fans will always have it over us. The only thing that will change it is Harry Kane and Co doing the same at The Emirates.

But memories fade. Thierry Henry is now an embarrassingly bad pundit on Sky Sports, Patrick Viera has taken Abu Dhabi City’s oil money, Sol Campbell is still Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole is still Ashley Cole. Twelve years on and Arsenal haven’t won a title since.

Arsenal and Spurs — we’re cats and dogs. We’ll always be mortal enemies, but that doesn’t mean we are constantly at each other’s throats, or that our interests don’t occasionally overlap.

The way things stand, I’m hating Arsenal less at the moment. Just a little, but nonetheless it is noticeable. There’s nothing to say it won’t come roaring back.

I know this is dangerous territory, even giving voice to it, but it’s something I’ve been feeling lately and this is my blog. Be honest now, isn’t there a little part of you that feels the same way?

Thanks for reading, I welcome any thoughts either below the comment line or through Twitter.

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For first time in Wenger era, Spurs have something that Arsenal lack

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Via Google Images

Spurs head to the Emptyrates on Sunday in buoyant mood after wins over Aston Villa and Anderlecht, and are hopeful of making it a hat-trick of victories in a week against teams beginning with the letter “A”.

It has been a rare old start to the season for Spurs, unbeaten in the league since the narrow opening-day defeat against Manchzzzzzzzzzzzzz United and with Mauricio Pochettino finally getting his young team playing like a Pochettino team should. There is a sense of calm and direction enveloping the club and fanbase, which is producing weird side effects such as a belief that we may actually beat the Gooners on Sunday.

Adding to the sense of giddiness, Arsenal are embarking on their annual injury crisis a touch earlier than normal, and endured an absolute walloping by Bayern Munich in midweek.

However, one look at the Premier League table can restore the equilibrium — Arsenal are joint top with Manchester City, and aside from a silly defeat by West Ham and Wenger’s annual debagging by Jose Mourinho, they are looking very good indeed. They may have been embarrassed by Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup, but, typically, they got there by beating us.

This is the way with Wenger. Regardless of what he achieved with the Invincibles, the sustained Champions League football, and whatever success he brings to the club in the final few years of his tenure, he will be ultimately be credited by Gooners fans with one thing above all: He has always ensured Arsenal finish above Tottenham.

It is now 19 seasons and counting, which is an awfully long time. It is longer than Joshua Onomah has been alive, for instance. Pochettino is the 10th Spurs manager to try and find a way to get ahead of Wenger, and despite us being on our longest unbeaten run since Gareth Bale and Luka Modric were running riot in the Harry Redknapp era, we are still below bloody Arsenal in the table.

This sustained success has added piquancy to the rivalry, making those (rare) wins against the Gooners even sweeter for Spurs fans. But if there is one thing worse than accepting that your fiercest rivals are better than you, it’s admitting that a small (and reptilian) part of you admires them for it.

It feels deeply illicit, dirty even, to say it out loud, but admit it: What Wenger has achieved has been incredible.

Just look at how hard it has been for Spurs to crack the Top Four, especially since Manchester City struck oil, yet every bloomin’ season Arsenal have found a way to do it. On top of that, they play highly attractive and technically excellent football. I need a shower, but I’ve said it. If Spurs had somehow appointed Wenger, rather than nobodies like Christian Gross, Jacques Santini and Andre Villas-Boas, would we be talking about St Woolwich’s Day, rather than St Totteringham’s Day? Like most Spurs fans, I’m firmly in the #WengerOut club — sacking him would be the craziest thing Arsenal could possibly do.

To add one further heretical thought to this: I’ve long felt Arsenal’s success has helped Spurs. While clubs like Villa, Newcastle and Leeds have stumbled, Spurs have doggedly hung in there and remained a strong Premier League club. The need to at least compete with Arsenal, even if we’ve never found a way to best them in the Wenger era, has helped drive Spurs on. We’ve repeatedly bounced back from terrible managerial appointments, constant shifts in strategy and huge transfer mistakes, desperate to make sure that Arsenal, while sometime out of reach, were never out of sight. We’ve almost always given them a hell of a game, even if we’ve lost more than we’ve won, which is why the North London derby is the fiercest derby in the Premier League.

A similar dynamic exists between Liverpool and Everton, with the blue half clinging on to the red half’s coat tails, just about. But Everton’s performances against Liverpool in derbies have always betrayed a sense of inferiority and disparity that has never existed in North London.

And so here’s the weird thing, which I think is at the heart of the buoyancy gripping Spurs fans at the moment, far more than merely the good league form. For the first time since Wenger took over, the dirty and heretical feelings of admiration may actually be flowing in the other direction.

Yes, Arsenal may have more money, a bigger stadium and Champions League football. But Spurs, with local boys coming through and the crowd singing “he’s one of our own” while Harry Kane bangs in the goals, have discovered an identity that Arsenal fans crave.

Over at The Fighting Cock, Bardi wrote wonderfully about how, while he hates Jack Wilshere, at least he understands who Wilshere is. I completely agree with his views on the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil — big, expensive names but with no connection to Arsenal aside from the turns of events at bigger European clubs that forced them there. These stars are as lacking in identity as the stadium they play in — the Emirates may be a giant, revenue-generating machine, but are the fans any happier there than they were at Highbury? It is an identikit stadium, watching an identikit team. No wonder it is so bloody quiet.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s production line of talent has ground to halt. For years, they have sought out exciting foreign teenagers as a workaround for homegrown registration rules. It looked smart with the likes of Fabregas coming through. I watched, chortling gently throughout, the shambles at Hillsborough when Sheffield Wednesday turned them over. Wenger even had the temerity to blame his young players for not being ready. But who where they? Of the four, only one, Alex Iwobi, could be considered homegrown. The other three, Glen Kamara, Ismael Bennacer and Krystian Bielik, were all talented teens snapped up from overseas.

Where is the emotional connection going to come from? It’s the same with Adnan Januzaj at Manchester United — these young imports never get the same patience and support as a truly local lad. Football is an emotional game, being a fan isn’t logical — most of us start young, hero-worshipping players while kicking a ball around in the garden, and never properly grow out of it. So when you see someone out there who, sorta kinda possibly, could have been you — a Harry Kane, a Ryan Mason — it fulfils something that is deep inside.

Arsenal are still better than us, on the field. I suspect they will win on Sunday, and I’m almost certain they will finish above us in the table. The bookies certainly think so. It will hurt like hell, as it always does.

But this derby comes at a fascinating moment. For the first time in a very long time, Arsenal fans are having to, grudgingly, admit to themselves that maybe Spurs fans have something that they don’t. It’s a weird feeling.

Please follow me on Twitter for more random musings on Spurs. My handle is @spurs_report.

Wenger is just trolling Spurs by refusing to buy

I enjoyed Sarah Winterburn’s piece on F365, and agree how mad it is that Arsenal don’t just go out and buy a top-class holding midfielder and challenge for the title.

There is only one explanation: He is trolling Spurs fans by giving us just enough hope that we can catch the Gooners this season to be disappointed when the inevitable St Totteringham’s Day comes.

I think Lloris is a better keeper than Cech, and Harry Kane is a better player than Giroud or Welbeck, but apart from that Arsenal are stronger in pretty much every other position, and have a far deeper and more experienced squad. But as long as we see either Coquelin or Arteta in the midfield, supposedly providing the cover, there is a weakness there, a soft centre that leads to hope.

Hope is the enemy for Spurs fans. How many seasons have we said, “This will be our year”? Next year, maybe.

Wenger knows, when his Arsenal story is written, that it won’t be the uninterrupted Top 4 finishes, the Invincibles or the recent FA Cup success that he’ll be remembered for by the fans. It’ll be that, for 20 seasons in a bloody row, Arsenal never finished below Tottenham. So, as he nears the end, he is rubbing it in, showboating, taunting us with a slight weakness that serves to mask the overall strength. Coquelin may not be a title-winning midfielder, but is he good enough, combined with the rest of this squad, to get the team into the Top 4? You bet.

I really am not sure if I want the season to start: thank god there is cricket on.