The year was 2006 and Tottenham Hotspurs were flying high in the English Premier League. Until the last game of the season, Martin Jol’s men were in control of the much coveted forth place and were surely heading to the Champions League, ahead of archrivals Arsenal for the first time.
That was however bound to change mysteriously by the last blow of the whistle, which twisted like a knife in the hearts of Spurs players and fans.
That was a remarkable year for both Spurs and Arsenal. It was Arsenal’s last season at the Highbury stadium, which had become a fortress and so, they wanted to move to the new Emirates ground on a high note.
With players like Freddie Ljumberg, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, Highbury had been armored with sleek football, similar to the type Barcelona plays now, and few opponents survived a massacre there.
But in that year, the Gunners were depleted; Wenger had managed to see his star players like Vieira leave without credible replacement. This was also Thierry’s second last year at Arsenal- he had broken all goal scoring records and without him, Arsenal was going to spend a trophy-less decade.
Tottenham is the club that vividly turned up with enormous interest in replacing Arsenal amongst the top four clubs. The plan seemed to be going well for most of the season with Arsenal underperforming and Spurs building impetus.
However, like it has become norm, the Gunners closed up the gap and before we knew it, they were only one point behind Spurs with just a game left to play. Basically, Arsenal had to win their last game, but so did Spurs.
By the end of the evening, Spurs players’ couldn’t even master a draw against West Ham, while Thierry Henry’s hat-trick in his final game at Highbury proved the difference against the resilient Wigan Athletic.
Thierry was later pictured kissing the tuff, in what has become an immortal portrait at the London club. On the other hand, Spurs talisman, Robbie Keane, could only afford to swathe his hands on his head in total frustration.
Seven years down the road and it’s like a replay. With only three points remaining to play for, the two London sides find themselves separated by a paltry point.
And like in 2006, neither club can afford a slip up as it will prove fatal to the players’ aspirations to play in the biggest club football tournament, as well as make the club lose surmountable profits.
Both also face a great challenge to keep hold of key players like Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott.
Whereas an Arsenal win might render any Spurs result useless, both clubs know from their history that anything is possible in football.
Arsenal has indeed mastered the forth position, and for Spurs to exact meaningful revenge for the pain they suffered seven years ago, they must win and hope that Newcastle shows up against the Gunners.
The title has been decided, but the battle for the final Champions League spot is as mouthwatering as the title itself. Whatever the outcome, this is bound to be a blissful weekend.