Make the North London Derby Great Again
Der Klassiker, IL Classico, the Merseyside Derby – meh all small pittance if you ask me. For any real football fan, it has to be the North London Derby. The class and elegance of the club of my heart Arsenal vs the plucky small upstarts from Middlesex. The North London Derby is here.
The media are full of their predictions and idiotic Combined Starting XI (why is this even a thing?) and as per usual the general thought is “there’s been a power shift” and we’ll generally be lucky to get anything from this match.
But let’s be honest for a moment – the Derby hasn’t felt like a true North London Derby for a while. People were sharing videos of Cesc’s goal after a kick off and it made me wonder was that the last time you really felt that the North London was meaningful to the players?
In this era of players who move and move and move, can they possibly know what these derbies mean to the fans? There was a glint of it in the first 5-2 with Sagna’s header when he absolutely turned the game on its head and the passion overflowed, but really, with players generally buddy these days does it mean the same?
There was a great piece in the Telegraph this morning about Unai Emery taking a page from Arsene Wenger and gaining a full understanding of the importance of this match.
As the article goes, it was Ian Wright who imparted the importance of this match on Wenger and it seems took it to heart when for 20 years straight our noisy neighbors finished below him every time. Only when the game seemed to have gotten away from Wenger did they stand a chance of catching up.
But even then, even before the last few years, I’ve always had this lingering feeling that the blood and guts efforts of our past generations are lost on the modern player. These aren’t players who for the most part are reared through the club or local lads who’ve come good.
These players come and go now, some only here for an average of 3 years and while they “play” to the fans the reality is they aren’t connected to us or the club as much as we’d like.
We’ve all marveled at how Unai Emery has really turned things around at Arsenal. 18 in a row unbeaten. Its an impressive feat. But will it mean much if he doesn’t beat Tottenham on Sunday? In the larger scheme of the season, probably not. There is still plenty of time for the club to achieve its minimum target of Champion’s League qualification.
However, losing to Tottenham or pulling off a lackluster performance will only continue to play on our psyche that we still aren’t good enough yet. Heading into the Liverpool much and into this one, a lot of social media and punditry are all doom and gloom.
The use of phrases like, getting schalacked, or thumped or beat down, permeate throughout Arsenal supporters online. It’s an understandable reaction as we watched the decline of our playing form and saw Middlesex enjoy the last two years finishing above us.
If Unai wants to really make change – then he’ll get us all caring about this match in a way that we haven’t in a while. He’ll get his players in line with the mantra – we don’t lose to Tottenham. And he’ll insure the right level of fire and brimstone to get his players hyped up for it.
Energy from the team will in turn spill over to the supporters who will carry them through the gauntlet of the 90-minute match.
Derbies matter. They have to matter to the players as well. And yes, its hard to impart that on players that are only here nowadays for a short period of time. The reason the likes of Adams, Wrighty and others got it is because they were here for so long and in a lot of cases they were from here – they knew.
Frankly, if Emery wanted to really light a fire under his team – he’d do what the US Naval Academy does every year with the Army Navy Game – honestly the closes thing we have to a true derby in the US. Every year, Academy graduates of note return to impart on the Midshipmen that we simply do not lose to Army and what winning that one match means. Hell, they could lose all other matches but Navy simply did not lose to Army.
Emery should call in the likes of Adams, Keown, Dixon, Wright and even some of the older players and have them tell the stories that made the North London Derby what it was to them and how much it means to the fans.
Yes, the 18 unbeaten is a great feat and we all feel good about the direction of the club. However, there is still the normal trepidation given the last few years. If Emery wants to lock in the feel good feeling around the Emirates, he will make us all (fans AND players) care about the North London Derby again.
And for you Middlesex fans who happen to pop in to here – there is no power shift. Not until you’ve managed 13 league titles, 13 FA Cups and 20 consecutive years of finishing above Arsenal. Until then know your role!
Up the Arsenal!