How This Weekend’s North London Derby Might’ve Played Out in an Alternate Universe

How This Weekend's North London Derby Might've Played Out in an Alternate Universe
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​It’s always a cracking affair, no matter where your allegiances lie. Across all the derby matches in the Premier League, the one you can be sure to offer up a healthy dose of entertainment is the north London derby.

There was meant to be one this Sunday. But there’s not. Boo.

Lockdown has meant we will miss out on the first ever clash between ​Arsenal and ​Tottenham at Spurs’ shiny new stadium – rightly so, obviously – but we’re all a bit miffed that one of the most exciting fixtures on the football calendar isn’t going ahead.


Let’s flip that on its head, shall we? Let’s pretend it did happen, and in the manner it almost certainly would’ve played out.

Of course, as the lineups are announced, ​Harry Kane has made a miraculous recovery from that hamstring strain to start up top. ​Dele Alli is in the hole, and Eric Dier partners Harry Winks in midfield. Tanguy Ndombele is warming up in the car park outside.

Mikel Arteta goes with the tried and trusted side who’d remained unbeaten in 2020 before lockdown; the only difference being that ​Alexandre Lacazette leads the line. 

A raucous backdrop to the on-field matters sets the tone, with one pocket of the stadium awash with red, the rest draped in white.

Arsenal FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

The match kicks off with excitement galore, and before a minute is on the clock, Granit Xhaka plays a hospital pass to Bernd Leno that has the German stretching to clear the ball out for a throw-in. Spurs fans are on their feet, the Gunners looked ragged already.

Pablo Mari – playing in his first NLD – is a bag of nerves, his attempted hoof out of the penalty box from said throw-in is desperation personified, but Gabriel Martinelli does his best to chase the punt down. Toby Alderweireld muscles him off the ball with consummate ease.

A similar pattern follows for the next 15 minutes, with Spurs camped inside the Arsenal half and Dani Ceballos’ insistence to chase his own tail whenever he’s got possession meaning Tottenham turn over the ball time and time again.

Somehow, Arsenal survive the onslaught and make ground further up the pitch. ​Mesut Özil does one neat flick in the final third and Twitter blows up, sending shockwaves across the pockets of all in attendance. It’s not without reason, though, as he sends Bukayo Saka down the left with a crossing opportunity.

​Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s attempted shot is blocked from Saka’s pass but Serge Aurier wildly attempts to hack the ball the clear, only for it to fall to an unguarded Lacazette. He taps home with just over 20 minutes on the clock, before peeling off down to the corner flag to celebrate.

Alexandre Lacazette

He does just that, before changing his mind and standing motionless as she stares into the eyes of the baying crowd. 1-0.

The game falls back into its previous model, as Spurs beat down hard on the Arsenal door. Finally, it pays off. Getting cocky in defence, the back four push up, allowing Winks to thread the simplest of passes through to ​Son Heung-min, who slots under Leno with half time approaching. The whole Spurs squad get a handshake.

Arteta gets stuck into his side during the interval, calling out their deficiencies in possession and crying out for more support to the totally ineffective Nicolas Pepe. It seemingly has the desired effect, and for the first six and a half minutes, Arsenal are the better side. With that, they go back in front.

Saka wins a soft free kick courtesy of Mike Dean, and the out-swinging delivery falls perfectly on the head of Sokratis to head home. The Greek defender rips his shirt off as the squad go nuts, with the resulting pile-on forcing Ceballos to come off with an injured index finger. On comes Mattéo Guendouzi.

FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-TOTTENHAM

As expected, the visitors’ inability to maintain any kind of lead persists, as niggling fouls are their only means to stop the Tottenham steam train. Yellow cards are picked up all over the pitch, Guendouzi taking just 43 seconds to earn his for chopping down Alli.

For all Spurs’ endeavour, it looks certain that Arsenal will hold on with seconds remaining. Leno makes a plethora of fine saves, but fear and doubt creep in. A hopeless cross into the box looks innocuous, but Guendouzi hauls down ​Erik Lamela thinking he’s prime Sébastien Chabal, and Tottenham get the penalty.

Reporters up and down the country, as well as those in the ground, have already completed their match reports. Why? Because Kane doesn’t miss these. And guess what? He didn’t.

Guendouzi remonstrates with Dean, who should’ve booked him for the initial foul, and gets his marching orders. Time is called on proceedings, and both sides are overtaken by Burnley in the ​Premier League table. 

Harry Kane

Well, something like that, probably. We don’t know. 


For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!  





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