And I mention this today because 24 November 1996 was Mr Wenger’s first north London derby.
The press were full of put-downs of course, primarily suggesting that being French Mr Wenger would not understand the importance of the match to Arsenal fans, and wondering if anyone in the club would have informed him.
What the dodos in the media didn’t know that not only did Mr Wenger speak better English than any of them did, he also knew more English football history than they did.
He also undoubtedly already knew the one thing the press of the day seemed to know, which was that Arsenal had not beaten Tottenham in over 3 years and Tottenham were unbeaten at Highbury since September 1991.
In fact from October 1989 to April 1996 Arsenal had won four derby games, drawn seven, and lost six – the sort of run no one was used to and Mr Wenger was determined to set this aright, as he did in no uncertain fashion. In fact Tottenham only won one of the next 28 north London derbies.
And I promise that is not a misprint. Here are the details…
|4 Nov 1996||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||3-1||Premier League|
|15 Feb 1997||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||0-0||Premier League|
|30 Aug 1997||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||D||0-0||Premier League|
|28 Dec 1997||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|14 Nov 1998||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||D||0-0||Premier League|
|05 May 1999||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||W||1-3||Premier League|
|07 Nov 1999||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|19 Mar 2000||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-1||Premier League|
|18 Dec 2000||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|31 Mar 2001||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-0||Premier League|
|08 Apr 2001||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-1||FA Cup|
|17 Nov 2001||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|06 Apr 2002||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-1||Premier League|
|16 Nov 2002||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||3-0||Premier League|
|15 Dec 2002||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|08 Nov 2003||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-1||Premier League|
|25 Apr 2004||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||2-2||Premier League|
|13 Nov 2004||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||W||4-5||Premier League|
|25 Apr 2005||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||1-0||Premier League|
|29 Oct 2005||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|22 Apr 2006||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||D||1-1||Premier League|
|02 Dec 2006||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||3-0||Premier League|
|24 Jan 2007||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||2-2||League Cup|
|31 Jan 2007||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||3-1||League Cup|
|21 Apr 2007||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||D||2-2||Premier League|
|15 Sep 2007||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||W||1-3||Premier League|
|22 Dec 2007||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||2-1||Premier League|
|09 Jan 2008||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||D||1-1||League Cup|
What Mr Wenger, and indeed the Arsenal players, was probably not ready for on 24 November 1996 was the fact that when John Lukic threw the ball out after an injury, Tottenham failed to return it and scored, as Arsenal looked on in bemusement and annoyance.
That annoyance however re-motivated the team and Wright, Adams and Bergkamp set things right.
Actually I think Mr Wenger knew before the match what playing Tottenham was all about, but even if he did not, that one simple incident of not giving the ball back was enough to let him know about Tottenham H.