The north London derby is like that last piece of Christmas chocolate when you’re already fit-to-burst; it’s either the perfect end to a delicious meal or the thing that sends you running for the toilet.
Over the years, us Arsenal fans have had a few more perfect ends than we’ve had vomit-covered disasters but, in more recent times, the balance between the two has become uncomfortably unpredictable. The line between total bliss and toilet bowl is too fine.
Sure, part of the joy of being a football fine is in that feeling of unpredictability, of never really knowing whether disaster or ecstasy lie ahead but, when it comes to the derby, I’d take a dose of crushing predictability any day.
Tomorrow’s trip along the Seven Sisters Road finds Arsenal in decidedly indifferent form – excellent in European competition but abject in the Premier League – and that fact alone fills me with unusual levels of worry.
Our state of constipation in midfield and attack remains unfixed while Tottenham continue to score goals at will. We currently languish in the lower reaches of the league while Tottenham remain near its summit. None of what’s on paper fills me with confidence.
But, as ever, on the day of the north London derby, it seldom matters what’s written on paper. The running is made on the pitch and this fixture has had a strange leveling effect on both teams down the years.
If we’re to take anything from this fixture, we will need every ounce of the derby day inspiration available. Whichever XI takes to the field will need to be two or three gears higher than the teams that have struggled badly in matches against Aston Villa, Leeds and Wolves, and they will need to find within themselves the sort of desire and fight that has been sorely missed.
The comprehensive win we saw against Rapid Vienna in the week should provide the perfect blueprint for Mikel Arteta’s men to follow. It was a match that showed it can be done, that the pace and movement do exist and can cause problems, but it requires energy and willingness to make it happen for 90 minutes.
It really is as stark as this: If the Premier League Arsenal of recent weeks shows up, we’ll lose and lose badly. If the Europa League Arsenal shows up, with all its vigour and confidence, we’ll have a fighting chance.
Gooners, it’s time to reach for the chocolate – victory or vomit awaits.