Arsenal fans have always been able to take some solace from the fact that, no matter how bad it got, they would still finish above local rivals Tottenham in the Premier League table.
Dubbed “St. Totteringham’s Day” since 2002 the point in the season where Spurs could no longer finish above the Gunners was cause for celebration — especially last season when it happened on the final day of the campaign.
But this year things have changed. This year, Tottenham can ensure their place above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years. And this year, that can happen at White Hart Lane on April 30.
We asked Tottenham correspondent Dan Kilpatrick and Arsenal correspondent Mattias Karen to predict when the end of “St. Totteringham’s Day” will occur.
Tottenham (85 points)
Currently: 2nd, 68 points (Games left: 7).
Wins: Bournemouth, West Ham, Arsenal, Manchester United, Hull City
Draws: Crystal Palace, Leicester City.
When will it happen? April 30.
Tottenham fans have learned the hard way — there is no braying about “mind the gap” this year — and they’re hoping their team has done the same after last season’s debacle. Only the least traumatised Spurs supporters have declared already, but the abolition of St. Totteringham’s Day is inching closer following Arsenal’s latest embarrassment at Crystal Palace.
If Spurs can maintain their 14-point lead over the next two rounds of fixtures, victory in the North London derby — likely to be the last at White Hart Lane — would guaranteed a first finish above their rivals in 22 years.
At the moment, it is impossible to predict any other result. Arsenal have lost their last four away games, shipping three goals in each, while Spurs are unbeaten and unstoppable at home this season, scoring 39 goals in 16 matches at the Lane. It is often said that form is irrelevant in derby matches but Spurs have better players in every position, not to mention the contrasting moods at the clubs.
The Gunners’ best hope of avoiding that special humiliation lies with their most recent oppressors. After Saturday’s home match against Bournemouth, Spurs face a trip to Selhurst Park four days before Arsenal’s visit, and Sam Allardyce’s team will give anyone a game. But even if Spurs are held to draw by Palace, as predicted, the rudderless Gunners are unlikely to take six points from their next two games, even against a Middlesbrough side sinking without trace and Leicester City, who have an eye on Europe.
Arsenal (67 points)
Currently: 6th (54 points, 8 games left)
Wins: Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Southampton
Draws: Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester United, Everton.
When will it happen? April 30.
One of the high points of Arsene Wenger’s career came when Arsenal clinched the league title at White Hart Lane in 2004. Perhaps the lowest point of his career will come in his last-ever trip to Tottenham’s stadium.
Given that the Gunners’ two unscheduled fixtures against Sunderland Southampton will come in May, anything but a win at the Lane will likely guarantee that the annual St. Totteringham’s Day celebrations are cancelled, and at this point there is nothing to suggest that Arsenal will emerge victorious. Even if they do, they are only postponing the inevitable as Wenger’s 21-year streak of always finishing above Spurs will come to an end. Let’s face it, not even Tottenham could manage to blow a lead this big.
But beyond that, a loss for Arsenal could also seal Wenger’s fate once and for all. His position is already close to untenable, and Tottenham could well end any hope he has of staying on for another two years. Especially if Arsenal also lose their FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City the previous weekend.
Wenger’s reign has been marked by two decades of dominance over Arsenal’s North London rivals. But this could be the year when Spurs deliver the ultimate payback on home soil.