Arsene Wenger, for all his faults, is a man who Gets It. He gets the whole rivalry concept, and how that idea of a fierce local rivalry makes soccer what it is. He understands that Arsenal have a rivalry with their neighbors immediately north of them, and have done for generations - despite the fact that said neighbors have mostly been a pesky inconvenience, competition-wise, for a very long time. The last time Tottenham won the league was 1960-61, the last time they finished above Arsenal in the league was 1994/95, and the last time they won a trophy was the 2007/08 League Cup.
So, in terms of rivalry, Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t really provided much of substance until the last two seasons. And it’s safe to say that in all those prior seasons, Spurs have had their ups and downs, but, like all big teams, they have a very loyal, very passionate, very connected fanbase who care a lot about the fate and destiny of their club.
It’s this aspect of Tottenham that Arsene spoke about today, when asked about the rest of the season, and about unsettled fans, given Arsenal’s recent form:
‘Our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation as I do but I don’t feel you can be a fan until last Tuesday and then not be behind the team any more – it doesn’t make sense.
Which, sure, I get that. If you’re a committed Arsenal fan, you’re there for the ups and the downs, no matter what. I’m with you there, Arsene. What else do you say, particularly about the fans and their support?
We are in a fight and we have to be united or we have no chance....you have Tottenham as well and everyone is behind their team and we have to do the same. Even if we have had two disappointed results I want the fans to be behind the team. Focus on what we do well. They were great players last Tuesday and they are still great players.’
Oooooooh, now you gone and done it, Arsene. He’s a long way from calling Arsenal supporters “spineless”, as whatshisname did yesterday, but he did appear to say that Tottenham’s supporters are all “behind their team”. As banter goes, that’s as spicy as your average jar of mayonnaise, but his comment is still seen by a lot of people (and content-desperate news outlets) as #BANTER, because ZOMG HE MENTIONED TOTTENHAM IN A COMPLIMENTARY WAY.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter what Tottenham’s fans are like. It doesn’t ultimately matter what Arsenal’s fans are like. What matters is what the teams are like.
This may well be the season that Tottenham finish above Arsenal in the table. And if that happens, you will see celebrations and banter from the blue half of north London the likes of which we’ve probably never seen. They’ll probably have a parade. You’ll probably want to ignore social media for a couple days.
But remember: what they’re celebrating is not winning the league. It’s not winning the Champions League. It’s finishing higher than their rival in the table - something that happens, at current rates, once every 22 years. If they finish above us, it won’t be great, but from an Arsenal perspective, it’s a blip, and not something that I expect to repeat itself often.
I’ll just leave you with this: Form is temporary; class is permanent.