A Tottenham Hotspur Fan's Love Letter To Arsenal
Football rivalries, when embraced by the wrong people, can be one of the world’s most depressing sights. I’m as big a Tottenham Hotspur fan as you’ll meet, but when I was at Wembley last year and sat behind four coked up-up, middle-aged, Stone Island clad monkeys who spent the entire game screaming at the Chelsea fans sitting 500 off metres away, punctuating every other sentence with a ‘f***ing blue c**t’, despite the presence of kids all around, I was embarrassed to say they supported the same team as me. This wasn’t because I’m a prude, or a fair weather supporter, but because no amount of footballing rivalry justifies being an awful, xenophobic human being.
Whether or not this makes me well placed to writing a guide to Arsenal I’m not sure, but I am sure of one thing that has made many Spurs fans crow in anger.
I like Arsenal.
I like the football they play, I like the way they do their business, I like (most of) the players they buy, I like their fans more than most teams fans. I even quite like Wenger. This isn’t to say that I don’t get an extra buzz out of beating them on derby day, but that’s more because of the atmosphere at those games than any heightened personal antagonism towards them as a club. In real terms, it’s now much more exciting to beat a City or a Chelsea than an Arsenal. These are the real glorious wins- David, Goliath and all that- not beating a club who, in essence, encapsulate everything we aspire to be.
Despite operating well within their relatively-paltry means, there is a large contingent of Arsenal supporter who go up in arms and demand a new striker every time one of their strikers misses a couple of chances and that’s not to say their point of view is not understandable, especially when you consider that the most expensive low cost season ticket, priced at £1,014, but this price is surely reflective of a couple of major factors: not least that they’ve got a massive great stadium to pay off. Other than that there’s also Arsenal’s geographical location to take into account, and the profile of their average supporter; Islington is just down the road, they’re a stone’s throw from Finsbury Park and King’s Cross. These are affluent areas full of (reasonably) comfortable people.
As a Spurs fan who sweated through the grey 90s, I’ve started to come to think of us Spurs fans as being spoilt. In recent years I came to expect glorious comebacks and Gareth Bale hat-tricks. Therefore, it’s understandable that when you are an Arsenal supporter who experienced the Invincibles, it must be hard to recalibrate your expectations, especially when you know you have money on the bank. But what Arsenal are doing is behaving the way that the rest of the world should. And with even more financial fair play regulations about to come in, it seems that eventually the rest of the world will catch up with them, except by then Arsenal will be two steps ahead.
Whether or not Wenger will still be at the helm them is another question altogether. In real terms the man should have enough credit in the bank to stay for as long as he can walk, especially with the future looking promising and the potential levelling of the financial playing field. But are they happy to put up with perhaps yet another yet without a trophy? It seems nonsensical to talk about getting rid of someone when all they’ve done is continue to make you competitive in a world that is doing everything in its power to make you uncompetitive, but you sense it might be one season too far.
Regardless, I gave up the ghost on hating Wenger years ago. Without him the Premier League would have been a much sadder place, and United would have had a lot more titles: His three title winning teams, unbeaten seasons, the development of Thierry Henry and later Robin Van Persie into possibly the two best (certainly the classiest) strikers the Premier League has seen, the continual (occasionally misplaced) dedication to youth, the refusal to compromise principles of football as entertainment, the 40 odd minutes in the Stade de France where it looked like Lehmann might somehow emerge forgiven and victorious, that Adams goal. These are all moments and instances that any fan of football should revel in, regardless of geographical rivalry.
One final note: The chants of ‘stand up if you hate Arsenal’ are now much less regular at Spurs and this has been in direct correlation with us (almost) catching them up. I always thought it was a inane one at the best of times, but when it used to get chanted at teams other than Arsenal it was another time that I felt Spurs fans didn’t do themselves justice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to get myself a ticket at Ashburton Grove any time soon, but I can’t help but think that if you hate Arsenal then you don’t really like football.