Sports is full of streaks. Cal Ripkin Jr starting 2,632 straight games. Wayne Gretzky scoring in 51 straight games. Arsenal going 49 games undefeated. The Undertaker winning 21 Wrestlemania matches and then retiring and THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.
But on Sunday, Arsenal could see the end of one of their more heart warming streaks which is likely to end at some point this season anyway. No, not their Champions League qualification streak, although, it’s also seriously at risk. I am of course referring to St Totteringham’s Day.
For those uninitiated, St Tott’s is the lovely little banter day when it is mathematically impossible for Tottenham Hotpurs to finish ahead of Arsenal. We sing songs, hang news clippings of “Spurs have surpassed Arsenal” quotes, recount the great Spursings of old and decorate the house with a lot of downward spirals. It has been a wholesome tradition for roughly 15 years and a mainstay in the table for 21.
But there will be no joy in Goonerton this year. The decorations shall stay stowed and voices quiet. Barring the mother of all Spursings, Arsenal will finish behind Spurs in the table for the first time since 1995.
Back in 1994-95, Arsenal were sadly a midtable team. Despite winning the league four seasons prior, they were inconsistent, flipping up and down the standings in an age where fortunes weren’t so tied to how you were bankrolled. Arsene Wenger was still managing Monaco. Mauricio Pochettino had just signed for Espanyol as a brash central defender. Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi, Deli Alli and someone named Henry Winks weren’t even born.
Arsenal finished 12th; Tottenham 7th. That year, the North London Derby was all either team had. It was something to play for in the same vein as the 4th Place Trophy is now.
Few could have imagined what was to come next. Arsenal would sign a relative nobody in Wenger who’d target a few more unknowns and build teams that would win 3 League Titles, 6 FA Cups, go undefeated in a season, “enjoy” long European campaigns (including two heartbreak finals) and remake the club financially with a new stadium and a worldwide fanbase. Spurs would win two League Cups, eat some bad lasagna and inexplicably lose to Newcastle 5-1 on the final day of last season.
But as the saying goes, your little brother tends to grow up. Under Pochettino and the massive Bale Transfer Fee, Spurs have begun to remake themselves into one of the most entertaining young teams in Europe. They’re poised for their second straight Champions League spot, likely to finish second only to Chelsea... or if MoneyBags Blue falters... I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to feel. Coupled with a massive stadium build, they are moving from a team that is punching above their weight to one set to throw their weight around. The future of North London looks to be leveling out and be far more hotly contested amid two teams looking to win other things on the trot.
While this surely is not the end of St Totteringham’s day, its impact as something to hang over Spurs fans heads year after year while they continually try to tell you “it really doesn’t matter, it’s fine, let’s have a laugh” even though it burns them deep down to their very soul... well, that’s probably done.
Maybe they can come up with their own celebration day. Something like “We’re the Arseholes now” or something. It’ll come to them.
For Arsenal, they’re trudging towards the end of a dismal season. Top four is a long shot but that’s no reason not to try for it. And, amid all the power shift talk, Sunday is one last day to trip up their little brother team and remind them that the Gunners are not going away so meekly.
And who knows... Mother. Of. All. Spursings.