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24 November: Arsene Wenger’s first north London derby.

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And now, 24 November

Arsène Wenger’s record against Tottenham Hotspur reads played 52, won 23, drawn 20 lost nine.  It is a remarkable record, and I am not sure that any previous manager who ran Arsenal for more than a few years can match that.  The only league club I know that beat us more than we beat them during Mr Wenger’s reign was Manchester United: Played 60, won 19, drawn 13, lost 28.

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…

Date Game Res Score Competition
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.

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