Derby Days

Derby Days

Nowadays a derby can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and has become as common as one of Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson’s routinely poor jokes. Partly due to the ever-growing fixture congestion and partly down to the increasing importance of dropping as fewer points as possible, one club can accumulate a frankly ridiculous amount of rivals. Arsenal are certainly no exception to the rule, and it seems a derby day has become an extremely regular occurrence throughout the season.

Of course the matches with the rest of the ‘Big Four’ (or the more modern term of ‘Platinum Four’) are most certainly considered derbies, with Man United being the pick of the bunch. Over the years this fixture has become so hotly contested that until the recent rise of Spurs and simultaneous demise of Arsenal one could have been forgiven for considering this the biggest derby of them all. Pizza gate certainly attributed to this, as did Martin Keown et al’s assault of Ruud ‘The Horse’ Van Nistelrooy, Vieira and Keane’s ongoing fracas and the two gaffers’ manipulative ‘mind-games’. Now, due to our continuous trophy drought and rapid slide away from the summit of the Premier League, the two granddads of the Big Four have suddenly, unsurprisingly, become all lovey dovey and are now the best of friends. This blossoming relationship has taken away some of the snap when it comes to matches against our northern enemy, and last season’s semi-final capitulation reiterated this, yet the crackle and pop are still standing firm.

As for Chelsea and Liverpool, these matches will always be exciting and bitterly contested. Liverpool have never quite got over the gloriousness that was May 26th 1989 and Chelsea are our closest rivals to the ‘Pride of London’ thrown. Granted I was two years away from being born that night in 1989, but I have seen enough videos and nostalgic interviews to feel like I was Michael Thomas himself. As for Chelsea, their sudden cash-propelled leap to the top of the table has intensified these particular matches, although they never seem to have quite the same passion as other London Derbies.

This brings me nicely onto the London derby, usually a wonderful day out. These matches are labelled as derbies merely due to a certain geographical influence, and due to London’s ability in breading mediocre clubs,  Arsenal normally emerge victorious. In recent times, matches against West-Ham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Fulham, QPR and even the annual curtain-raiser against Barnet have been classified as derbies, thus reducing some of the excitement surrounding this specific bread of derby match. Nevertheless, London derbies are usually heated affairs, just as the game at Upton Park showed us on Sunday, and these matches are always pinpointed following the release of the fixture list.

The third and final group of derby matches are those involving a club’s ‘Bogey Team’. Although these particular encounters aren’t always referred to as derby days by the press, in the eyes of the fans, they most certainly are. However, ‘Bogey Teams’ aren’t always the same from one season to the next, and this naturally increases the amount of rivals one club has. The basic definition of a Bogey Team is a team which, in general, your club are absolutely rubbish against. Inevitably therefore this team turns into a rival, and these matches become highly anticipated. For me, Arsenal’s number one bogey team is Bolton Wanderers, and the annual match at the Reebok is definitely near the top of my favourites list. One season I even had the pleasure of attending this game, and the fact that it ended in a 3-1 defeat in the depths of winter with Nicholas Anelka grabbing a brace only made me love this fixture even more.

Now with that out of the way, I can at last get onto the subject of Saturday and the crème de la crème of Arsenal derbies against Tottenham. Although this match is not as loved by the nation as perhaps Villa v Birmingham, City v United or Liverpool v Everton, it is definitely the highlight of a North-Londoner’s year. It may be the fear of losing, it may be the excitement of winning or it may be the fiery atmosphere, but this game really sets the stomach butterflies a-whirling. Another 4-4 draw is unforeseeable, a loss is unimaginable, but a mouth watering encounter is certainly on the cards and I for one am raring to go.

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