The North London Derby highlights what is wrong with Arsenal’s mentality

The North London Derby has thrown up some great matches in recent years, and with both Arsenal and Spurs in good form, this season promises to be another blockbuster season of fixtures between the pair.

The amount of importance each set of fans, and teams, place on beating each other – particularly those of a red persuasion – in recent years, has tragically seen them prioritise beating (and finishing above) their local rivals over genuine success.

Arsenal fans rejoiced when they managed to finish above Spurs on the final day of the season, when it had been accepted a while before that it was a two-horse race for the title. North London was red once again, #HappyStTotteringhamsDay trended and all was well at Arsenal. It is this attitude that highlights exactly what is wrong with Arsenal’s mentality these days.

Historically, Arsenal have been the better team, but Spurs have been steadily improving in the same period that Arsenal have remained stagnant, and as a result Arsenal have decided that beating Spurs is better than winning even the Champions League.

Arsenal finishing second last season overshadowed what was actually a complete failure of a season for them. It was their best opportunity in years to win the league, but they had not even been in contention for a long, long time. They only finished second once the race was already over, and Spurs had not only fallen at the final fence but seemed to try and continue running with a few broken legs, at which point Arsenal overtook them – but Leicester had already won.

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This didn’t matter to Arsenal fans, as at least they finished above Spurs. Their bang average season was made successful by the fact they managed to finish above a club they consider so far below them. Is this a mentality that they would have accepted in the days of Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp and co.? Absolutely not, but it’s a mentality that some players are allowing to grow nowadays.

Take the celebrations after Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2014, their first trophy in 10 years. The bus parade should have been about them finally ending their drought, but instead a certain Jack Wilshere made it all about Spurs, with that incredibly witty chant that must have taken years to come up with. You know the one, ‘What do we think of Wilshere?! Embarrassing! Who do we think’s embarrassing?! Wilshere!’ Something like that anyway.

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Why, when you’ve finally won a trophy, would you bother making it about your rivals? It’s not like they beat Spurs in the final. Actually, they struggled to do away with a Hull side who nearly got relegated that year. It was a moment that highlighted just how low Arsenal had sunk, that they had to feel good about themselves by rubbing their victory in Tottenham’s face; and Gunners’ fans loved it.

The North London Derby does throw up a lot of good games, and now that Tottenham have become genuine title contenders under Mauricio Pochettino, the match offers plenty for the neutral. Take last season’s game at White Hart Lane as an example. It had a genuine bearing on the title race, and the match had everything from a Harry Kane goal that left us more open-mouthed than Kane himself, to a sending off and a late equaliser. That day, it ended Arsenal’s hopes of remaining in the title race, but it also made it much harder for Tottenham to win it, which was good enough.

Sunday’s match comes too early for it to have any real meaning in the title race, but it will still attract a lot of interest. However, if Arsenal win, you can bet your house they’ll act like May has come early.

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