Nightmare for Arsenal as Tottenham could cancel St. Totteringham's Day
Arsenal are in crisis. With six defeats in their past nine, including a 10-2 aggregate hammering against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Arsene Wenger has faced large scale supporter unrest in recent weeks.
And that's not all -- for the first time in his 21 years as Arsenal manager, there's the real prospect that St. Totteringham's Day won't go ahead this season.
St. Totteringham's Day, a concept created by cheeky Arsenal fans, celebrates the day in the Premier League calendar when Tottenham are unable to finish ahead of their arch rivals in North London.
But this time, with Spurs nine points clear with 10 games remaining, they could finally finish above Arsenal for the first time in Wenger's tenure. It's a nightmare scenario for Arsenal fans.
Arsenal blogger Tom Adams and Tottenham correspondent Dan Kilpatrick discuss whether a power shift is looming in north London.
What does St. Totteringham's Day mean to you?
Tom Adams: This question is like asking what Christmas means. It's a family tradition, observed every single year, when your biggest wishes come true and the man in red and white has a blast. OK, that might be slightly over-egging it. St. Totteringham's Day is celebrated with a certain irony but at the heart of it, it's about rejoicing in supremacy over your fiercest local rivals. If you can't enjoy that in football, what can you enjoy?
Dan Kilpatrick: On one hand, it is childish, pathetic and reflects worse on Arsenal fans than it does Spurs. On the other, it is impossible for Spurs fans to point this out without appearing flustered. It's therefore an oddly effective weapon of offence, which has become more irritating with every passing year. It used to be just another depressing reminder of Arsenal's superiority but in the past few seasons it's tended to happen on the final day, leaving Spurs fans reeling at their own team's stupidity rather than jibes from Arsenal.
How important is it to finish ahead of each other?
DK: The monkey has been on Tottenham's back for too long and it is tremendously important they shake it off this season. Mauricio Pochettino will, quite rightly, say he wants to finish above everyone, but it has reached the point where it's hard to imagine Spurs taking "the next step" -- something he alludes to regularly -- until they have finished above their rivals. It feels like the two clubs have been on opposing trajectories for almost a decade now, with Arsenal in "perma-crisis" and Spurs on the up. That makes the final league tables even more depressing.
TA: A long and distinguished tradition is at stake. Finishing ahead of Tottenham has become central to Arsenal's identity under Wenger, and it has withstood the decade of "perma-crisis" that Dan talks about, while other aspects of that identity have been eroded away. It matters. As Dan says, it's been getting closer and closer for years, with St. Totteringham's Day only being celebrated on the final day of the season in three of the past five years. If Arsenal do succumb this year it will be a big blow to their esteem -- even though Spurs would have to have two decades of finishing above their rivals to balance things out.
Is that it for Wenger, if Spurs finish above Arsenal? Would Spurs count it as an achievement?
DK: Just imagine if they beat Arsenal in the last North London derby at White Hart Lane, confirming a finish above them and -- the way things are going -- ending their Champions League qualification hopes ... Not to mention there's a possible FA Cup final meeting, in what could still be Wenger's final match. If Spurs completed that "treble" it would almost make up for all the years of hurt Wenger has dished out. There is a bigger picture, though, and if they finish above Arsenal, they won't be finished with them. Pochettino wants to establish the club as one of the biggest in Europe, regularly winning trophies, and that means finishing above everyone.
TA: This should be it for Wenger wherever Arsenal finish in the league, but the reality is that even if the apocalyptic scenario laid out by Dan does transpire -- and it's far from impossible -- Wenger has amassed such power that he will still decide his own future. Having said that, abolishing St. Totteringham's Day would undoubtedly make life incredibly difficult for him. The fan protests he has acknowledged will be a factor and his position could almost be made untenable.
You can only pick one: Win the FA Cup or finish above your rivals?
TA: Winning the FA Cup would be preferable as it represents tangible success, rather than a local talking point. A 13th win for Arsenal would be an English record, and a seventh for Wenger would also put him clear of anyone else, so a win at Wembley would be historically significant as well as delivering silverware. Beating Spurs in the final would be a good way to do it ...
DK: It has to be winning the FA Cup -- they haven't won it since 1991. Arguably that's the last major trophy they have won, depending on how you regard the League Cup. That's far too long, and there's a feeling at Tottenham this talented squad needs to win something soon to give them a taste for it and install an elite mentality in the players. And if Spurs beat Arsenal in the final, even another finish below them would be forgiven.
And finally ... who finishes higher? Will St Totteringham's Day continue this season?
DK: I've said this every season for at least decade, but I can't see past Tottenham this time. They have a nine-point gap, albeit having played a game more, a better squad, better form, easier-looking fixtures and a thread of unity running through the club from the boardroom to fans. It could hardly be more contrasting to the current divisions at Arsenal.
TA: As much as it pains me to say it ... I agree with Dan. By all rights it should have happened last season, and Arsenal somehow finishing second glossed over some big problems at the club. Those issues have been brutally exposed in 2016-17 and with the club's league form in an absolute trough, they surely can't repeat the trick. Tottenham are simply a better team, with better players and a better manager. It's taken 20 years but the balance of power is tipping back; this time it cannot be stopped. St. Totteringham's Day will be cancelled.