Some thoughts on Sunday.
'If we don't beat them, we'll never be destined to beat them'. Someone said to me this week.
The seasoned script would have Arsenal 'turn up' for this game because it's what they do quite well and for the most part any given North London derby usually dismisses form out of hand. Or at least that is the expected prerequisite for such occasions. It's not always been the case. It was always a miracle if we got something out of the games during the late 90s and early 00s mainly thanks to the gulf in class between us and any given top four side.
These days, its been on a far more even footing. Pound for pound, there's not that much of a difference between both teams (although the capitulations still need to be avoided). Both can lay claim to exceptional talent. Although we've still managed to trip over that other much maligned cutting edge necessity; mental strength. An important factor in any seasons final ten games. Another factor worth citing is that we rarely lose at home in the league to them (one in last seven).
Considering the history that is now the all consuming narrative (top four chase, will we / can we finish above them?) we're facing yet another pivotal moment as both sides look to live up to the hype.
Both (sets of supporters) will continue to argue about which side possess the more refined quality and end product. I'd still take Spurs players over the ones from down the road. For the most part of the season, we have been the better side. That's my personal (biased) opinion and I retain the belief that we are the ones with momentum on our side. What pains me is my statement remains clouded thanks to the blip experienced away from home (not too dissimilar to that other identical numerical blip from last season). They always find a way to shift past and above us. Yet it always feels like we're lending them a hand.
The narrative between both sides is in dire need for a refresh, a re-draft. We hold the pen in our hand. The creative drive is there. We keep running out of ink and that same dark and twisted end chapter always plays out. Writers block is an ugly reality. Drinking to forget, a lonely aftermath.
Last season it cost us dearly. That defeat away from home. It amplified truths that we ignored and pretended never existed. Truths that took centre stage and dominated until it was too late to over-come them.
This season, it was a blip. New coach, tactical teething problems, a red card and failure to contain. We've improved since then. We haven't done badly at all (WWWLWDWWDDDWWW). Arsenal can claim the same confidence, be it more low-key due to the continued irrelevant comparisons made with their past. Can you really compare the intensity and quality of a side now to one that played their football almost ten years ago? They've been erratic across all competitions and occasionally brilliant, but their league form, not as detrimental to their season as some would have you believe.
You can't quite work out how exaggerated their alleged crisis actually is. It feels a lot more like a self-fulfilling prophecy, where they collectively expect themselves to fail. Then when they don't, they proclaim all is well and that seasoned spirit is still evident. Then they repeat the same the following season. Their crisis is a failure to adjust to a reality that isn't half as harsh as the tears would suggest. However, as an outsider looking in, their existence and acceptance to simply facilitate Champions League qualification as a tangible success is depressing. That's if I was an inside looking out. I'm not. Thankfully. So I don't really care.
There might still be enough there for Wenger to allow his players to feed from the adversity. It only takes one win. As witnessed when this game played out last season down the road.
This time it's on our patch.
It's screaming out for that re-draft. A new vibrancy of unwritten words yet to be spoken and penned. The beginnings of a new story.
It remains a risk for Wenger and his side to always have to dig so deep. When will their luck run out? If luck is something you make yourself, when will they stop believing they can? Can we force that forever in waiting shift of power?
And here we are again, in a match up that is meant to tell us everything, a game that is meant to give us all the answers. But it's just one game. Isn't it? This won't be defining, will it? It won't break either side's resolve if defeated. Right?
I'm sure with the hype surrounding Gareth Bale and the criticism of Arsenal's organisation at the back, we're going to be cast as favourites for this encounter (more so because the bigger we are perceived the harder we'll fall). I'm not sure we're the favourites. I guess without the constraints of history we should be, simply on form and home advantage. But I'm yet to be convinced that the footballing Gods will deviate from their usual story arc where red overcomes white.
Screw the Gods. They've never looked out for us. If there was ever a time to make a stand and truly influence and change that story arc, this is it. Based on the fixture lists of both sides, we have the more difficult one. Arsenal could get away with retaining their current form in their remaining fixtures and pick up the points to catch up and over-take (if we falter). But then if we beat them convincingly (or even sneak it) their belief might be distinguished once and for all.
Is the game important? Of course. Aren't they always important? It's us versus them. If you want to obsess about the impact the result will have, remember there are still many points to be won between now and May.
Will it go the full distance? Or will someone deliver a knock-out punch?
We won't know how it might or might not define the rest of the season when the 90 minutes are up. It might be the catalyst. We could go seven points clear of them if we win. It might not be a catalyst. We have a buffer of four points currently so purely with mathematics at stake, we could recover from defeat, much like we did last time. It might end up all square and give us no indication of what will transpire in the coming weeks.
Ifs and buts and what ifs. Commodities of the weak.
For now, it's solely about this game, in isolation. Us and them. Blood, thunder and glory. We can concern ourselves with the politics of statue once the season is truly done and dusted.
But I'd be telling a white lie if I wasn't thinking about 2006. Mind the gap. For everything the 90s and 00s gave us by not giving anything to us. The semi-finals included. I'm equally fed up of that helping hand we keep offering them. It's time we owned our destiny and sent them to the only fate they deserve.
If we beat them, we'll always be destined to beat them.
If you don't believe, it will never happen. If you believe, you still have to make it happen. Perpetually stuck on the edge and never daring to jump isn't an option. Who's to say we'll fall? We might fly.
So here we go again. And all of the above are just words, wrapped up in sentiment and hope, a frequent place of solitude as I ready myself for the mental and physical drain that is the North London Derby. A cluster of emotions clashing, it's hardly a game that is enjoyed, but rather endured. And as this reoccurring battle cry once more echoes around us, my words are meaningless without the spirited desire and action of the players that wear our shirt.
We've been here before. We've been here for a while now. We've outstayed our welcome. It's time to move on.
The pen is now back in the hand of Tottenham. Time to strikeout the past and script the future.
Come on you Spurs.