By Andrew Leci
There were plenty of candidates for the ‘Game of the Season' in the 2010-11 edition of the Barclays Premier League.
It's interesting to note that two of the nominees came from the same fixture.
In November 2010, Tottenham went to the Emirates Stadium and came away with all 3 points on Arsenal soil for the first time in 17 years.
In April, the two sides met at White Hart Lane, and served up a frenzied feast of frantic feisty football, the game ending in a 3-3 draw.
They were two remarkable matches, made all the more extraordinary by the fact that Arsenal were 2 goals to the good in both of them, and were ultimately pegged back.
Statistically, you could say that Arsene Wenger's side squandered 5 points over the two encounters from eminently winnable positions, and while defeat at The Emirates must have been galling for the Gunners (especially bearing in mind the fact that they were comfortably in front at the break and cruising) the 2 points dropped at The Lane proved to be even more significant. They effectively put paid to any hopes Arsenal had of challenging for the title.
More often than not in the Premier League era, Tottenham have resembled lambs to the slaughter in meetings with their North London neighbours. Last season appeared to witness a change in the tectonic foundations of one of the bitterest and most long standing rivalries in English football.
It all started in 1913, and got particularly fractious in 1919, when Tottenham were convinced that Arsenal had taken their place in the old First Division by nefarious means - it's a long story.
The fact that Arsenal started life as a football club in South London and then moved to become Tottenham's closest neighbours exacerbated the situation (too close for comfort, clearly).
In the early days, such was the extent of the acrimony, that matches often descended into the kind of near-violence that would have produced a rash of red cards today.
In the Premier League era though, it's fair to say that Arsenal have had Spurs' number - even introducing a ‘St Totteringham's Day' - the point in the season at which Tottenham, mathematically, couldn't possibly finish above Arsenal in the league. This was indicative of the confidence level in the Arsenal camp, that they would better, and continue to exceed, their rivals' achievements.
As I mentioned earlier though, the situation has changed of late, and perhaps for the first time in many a season, Tottenham will go into Sunday's North London derby as marginal favourites.
Arsenal's problematic start to this campaign has been well documented, as they continue to come to terms with the departure of their two best players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. It reflects the fact that Arsenal have become what is termed a ‘selling club', with top players electing to pursue honours elsewhere - presumably on the basis that they don't expect The Emirates' trophy cabinet to be replenished any time soon.
There is no doubt that Arsenal, as a team, has been a joy to watch, and plays the kind of football that delights purists, even throughout the course of the last 6 unsuccessful (in terms of picking up silverware) seasons.
With new players beginning to bed in though, there are encouraging signs for the Gunners, especially after last weekend's comfortable win against Bolton. Tottenham for their part, endured a difficult start to the season, suffering heavy defeats against the two Manchester clubs, while the Luka Modric saga took twists, turns and its toll on the club.
Significantly though, after personnel issues were sorted out, Spurs have kicked on well, and can cite two decent away maximums in a recent 3-game winning streak that also includes a 4-0 thumping of Liverpool.
The context for this Sunday's North London derby could hardly be more fascinating, despite the fact that we're not even 1/6 of the way into the season.
It's a fixture that always captures the imagination, and invariably provides plenty of goals and excitement. Passions will be at fever pitch (allusion intended) for the partisans this weekend, while the neutrals will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy one of the most compelling fixtures the Barclays Premier League has to offer.