Any excuse. - Claudio Villa
TSF takes a look at five of the greatest game in North London Derby history. Your mileage may vary if not an Arsenal fan.
I don't know if you've heard, but there's a neighborhood kickabout this weekend. It hasn't gotten much press because it's being held on a condemned building site, but it's still happening - Arsenal take on their neighbors for the 174th time (in the league), in search of their 74th win (against 47 draws and 53 losses). As with most games this season, though, it's also more than that - this is a great chance for Arsenal to gain ground on their stroppy neighbors and remind them of the natural order of things.
In service of that goal, I now present to you my five favorite North London derby games, in no particular order - and a special treat at the end!
1. 5-4, November 2004: Not yet the Invincibles, Arsenal nevertheless got off to a strong start in 2004, and traveled to WHL in an attempt to extend their winning streak in the derby to six seasons. Arsenal went a goal down, but then France took over - Henry, Lauren, and Patrick Vieira brought the score to 3-1. Four alternating goals later, it was 5-4 Arsenal in a scintillating, crazy, up-and-down contest that probably served as a great advertisement for the Premier League for neutrals. It was a ridiculous game, and I remember mostly being relieved when it was over.
2. 3-1, May 1999: This wasn't the most exciting or incident-filled game on the list, in fact it was a relatively comfortable win featuring goals from Petit, Anelka, and Kanu. It did, however, put Arsenal in pole position to win the league, a position that they relinquished a week later with a loss to stupid Leeds. But still, it was a great effort, and a fun game to watch, and for a week or so I thought that Arsenal had done enough to win the title. Stupid Leeds.
3. 5-0, December 1978: Arsenal reminded a freshly re-promoted neighbor how the big boys do it. Gareth Bale? Bah. I give you Liam Brady.
4. 5-2, February 2012: Arsenal were given up for dead after playing a first half-hour that, if it had an odor, would have smelled like a dead fish in a dirty ashtray. They gave up two goals in that first 30 minutes and never really looked like they were in it. But then they woke up, realized they were Arsenal, and scored five goals in quick succession, which kickstarted their drive to overtake their neighbors for a 15th consecutive Champions League place. Sound familiar?
5. 2-2, April 2004: Probably the sweetest draw I have ever seen in my life. Arsenal needed only one point in order to clinch the Premier League title; the fact that they got it at WHL is probably the most awesomest thing about this game, which otherwise saw Arsenal puke up a 2-0 lead to goals from Jamie Redknapp and future LA Galaxian Robbie Keane. But, no matter, Arsenal got to lift the Premiership trophy at WHL, and that was a beautiful thing indeed.
And just for funsies, here's some dessert - Arsenal win the FA Cup semifinal in 2001 after going 1-0 down, which is probably my favorite Arsenal derby win of all time ever.
So, there you have it - a little amuse-bouche, if you will, before the weekend. Enjoy.