I have seen many North London derbies in my time, and many have turned into a battle on the pitch, but Saturday’s exhibition by the Arsenal players was the worst I have ever seen. We were totally dominated by Tottenham, and they bullied our ineffectual players right through the match. Jack Wilshere was the only one who looked prepared to fight for the shirt but he wasn’t big enough or strong enough to do it on his own.
As Pat Rice said before the game: “When you play against your fiercest rivals, as much as Tottenham want to win, we want to win even more,” he said. “We should want to win even more.
“For me, it wasn’t about the winning of the game, it was bragging rights. Having been brought up around Highbury, I know what it was like when Tottenham had a great side in the 1960s with Bobby Smith and John White. I know how much stick we took as Arsenal supporters, and quite rightly too.
“You come up through that and you want [the players] to know that because some of them are from abroad and they haven’t sampled it. You tell them that sometimes it’s more than winning a game, it’s the bragging rights.
“Nine times out of 10, you go out and you’re fighting for the supporters. You know that if we lose – and please God we don’t – for that 24 hours or so, or until we play them next time, you’re going to get hammered.
“The thing about it is if you win it, everything that’s gone before it passes to one side – it’s not as important as winning the derby. The big thing is that whenever people seeing you trying and fighting for the cause – at least with Arsenal fans – sometimes you may win or lose, but as long as you try and they can see that fight, you can hold your hands up. That’s all people can ask of you.”
He is right. At least if we could see that they were prepared to do anything to win the game, you could forgive them, but I didn’t see any of that on Saturday. They were like sheep to the slaughter and when we got to half-time without a shot on target, we knew it was just a matter of time until Tottenham won the game. It was absolutely vital to our season that we got the points from this game, but not at any time did we look like we could do it. We were severely embarrassed and there was no-one on the pitch (or the dugout) to get them to raise their game.
It was a sad day in the history of Arsenal Football Club.