One has a squad, a chairman and a set of supporters
expecting a Champions League spot for next season; the other is desperately
chasing his first piece of silverware since 2005.
One has to keep a group of highly-acclaimed,
coveted players happy at a club, he is trying to convince them, is capable of sustained
success; the other has to constantly justify his ethos and idealistic
methods in the face of elusive rewards.
One is Harry Redknapp, and one is Arsene Wenger: both
have an enormous amount to gain, and to lose, in this
evening's North London derby.
Redknapp knows that if he is to keep the likes of the
new PFA player of the year, Gareth Bale, who Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho deliberately sidled up next to at the end of their Champions League second leg at White Hart Lane, then he must secure
a top four place for his starlet.
Wenger, on the other hand, last gave his board of
directors and - more importantly - the ever expectant Arsenal faithful a piece of
silverware six years ago when his side prevailed in the FA Cup. No buzzwords such as 'transition' or 'evolution' can be used to defend his squad any longer.
The Gunners now find themselves seven points behind
leaders Manchester United, who drew 0-0 at Newcastle on Tuesday night, and with
no other potential triumphs in the offing, the Premier League title race is
Wenger's only chance of giving Cesc Fabregas et al something to celebrate.
clash at White Hart Lane this evening, where Arsenal won a Carling Cup tie
against a second-string Spurs side 4-1 after extra-time earlier this season, is
sure to be another high-octane affair.
doubt Heurelho Gomes will do something extreme (good or bad) and Wenger will
either be left acutely aware, or blissfully unaware, of a crucial refereeing decision.
time last season, Spurs won 2-1 following a thunderous 30-yard
volley from Danny Rose (remember him?), but someone in their ranks will have to emulate the winger if they are to challenge for fourth spot with trips to Chelsea and Liverpool to follow.
Spurs fans have enjoyed bragging rights after Redknapp's
men came back from 2-0 down to win at the Emirates Stadium in November, but
Wenger clearly still believes his side are invincible against their rivals.
"We always play good against Spurs, and played
very well in September in the Carling Cup," he said. "We will play
our game, don't worry - we will show our character and desire.
"It is absolutely important, absolutely
essential, that we give absolutely every drop of blood to do it!"
everyone is wrong about the French professor; maybe he actually does
enjoy painting the dressing room walls with his fury and chucking Emmanuel Eboue's
shinpads at his players' faces. Perhaps.
That's all well and good, Arsene, but another six
years of heartfelt promise and speculative vows and assurances of talent will
This is exactly the type of game that Arsenal need to
win, and it's exactly the type of game that they have not been able to come
through in steely fashion in order to arrest their present trophy drought.
Fabregas has done exactly what Wenger no doubt feared
he might do in the build-up to a game which was hardly lacking in pressure for
the Frenchman already: ramp up the stakes even higher.
Sounding like a Charlie Sheen-esque broken record,
Fabregas noted: "We're not winning... the team needs to win something...
you have to go and win... it was so important to win the Carling Cup... it's a
Then, as if Wenger didn't need further scrutiny over
his recent achievements (or lack thereof), Fabregas provided this perspective:
"It's clear that if you come to Spain and say to (Pep) Guardiola or (Jose)
Mourinho that they'll win nothing in the next three years, it's obvious they
wouldn't continue (in their jobs)... but here it's different."
How much more does a coach need undermining by his
For Spurs, it has been a year of European thrills,
gloating over hapless Internazionale full-backs as Bale obliterated opposing
defences with relish. But will the Welshman have to leave the Lane if Spurs
cannot secure their status as one of the Premier League's top four clubs this
If Tottenham seal a first league double over their
local rivals in tonight's clash, it will be the first time the feat has been
achieved in 18 years, and Redknapp will hope to have ensured an open game by
reminding his opposite number that "Arsenal have to win all their games
now". But equally, Spurs are three points off Manchester City with a game
in hand and fourth place at stake.
Redknapp will be in charge of his 100th league game at
the Tottenham helm this evening and, with such a lot to gain and such a lot to
lose from one match, both he and Wenger will be feeling the heat at the Lane.
Who do you think has more to lose - Wenger or
Redknapp? Who do you think will triumph in tonight's North London derby? Post
your views below...
'The ref held his nerve', or 'the ref lost his nerve'.
The age-old dichotomy between what the two managers think should have happened,
and what the referee deemed the appropriate decision.
Sir Alex Ferguson was left to bemoan - and boy did he
moan - the lack of a late penalty against Newcastle after referee Lee Probert
booked for Javier Hernandez for diving as he hit the deck with Danny Simpson in
"It's an insult! The referee let himself down.
There was contact, no doubt. It's an insult!" he raged.
Ferguson bawled out all the usual terminology as a
decision did not go his way, while Alan Pardew's views inevitably provided a
"The history of Manchester United - last-minute
goals, the club that they are, the manager that they have... my heart sank; the
referee got it right though."
So that's cleared that up then.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you lose a few
games some people call these silly phone-ins and say 'they were rubbish today.
They were absolutely useless' when they weren't even at the game, they were
listening to it on the radio or out shopping with the wife. I don't listen to
them. I turn the radio on and put Magic FM on instead. I don't want to listen
to a bunch of idiots. They must have sad lives." Redknapp has remarkably
strong feelings towards the phone-ins he 'doesn't listen to', and phones up a
journalist to tell them exactly that.
FOREIGN VIEW: It's the Copa del Rey final tonight between Real Madrid and
Barcelona in the second of a four-part series of 'El Clasico' and Mourinho
has been forced to defend his tactics in the wake of stinging Eric
Cantona-esque metaphors from honorary club president (i.e. he turns up to watch
'Clasicos') Alfredo Di Stefano. The club legend used the analogy of a lion
toying with a mouse to slam the Portugese's approach, saying Barca 'dance with
the ball, adore the ball, pamper the ball and respect the ball'. It's a
punditry cross between Alan Hansen and Michael Flatley, but it works.
COMING UP: What an evening of football lies in wait for the channel-hopping fan. Celtic travel to Kilmarnock (okay, maybe not), Tottenham and
Arsenal clash at White Hart Lane, and Barcelona and Real Madrid lock horns in
the 'Clasico' Copa final. What more could you ask for? Well, Chelsea
also host Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge.
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