24 November 1996

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 (as the press of the day relished in telling us) that Arsenal had not beaten Tottenham in over 3 years and Tottenham were unbeaten at Highbury since Sept 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 1996Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW3-1Premier League
15 Feb 1997Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD0-0Premier League
30 Aug 1997Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurD0-0Premier League
28 Dec 1997Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD1-1Premier League
14 Nov 1998Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurD0-0Premier League
05 May 1999Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalW1-3Premier League
07 Nov 1999Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalL2-1Premier League
19 Mar 2000Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-1Premier League
18 Dec 2000Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD1-1Premier League
31 Mar 2001Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-0Premier League
08 Apr 2001Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-1FA Cup
17 Nov 2001Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD1-1Premier League
06 Apr 2002Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-1Premier League
16 Nov 2002Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW3-0Premier League
15 Dec 2002Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD1-1Premier League
08 Nov 2003Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-1Premier League
25 Apr 2004Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD2-2Premier League
13 Nov 2004Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalW4-5Premier League
25 Apr 2005Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW1-0Premier League
29 Oct 2005Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD1-1Premier League
22 Apr 2006Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurD1-1Premier League
02 Dec 2006Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW3-0Premier League
24 Jan 2007Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD2-2League Cup
31 Jan 2007Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW3-1League Cup
21 Apr 2007Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalD2-2Premier League
15 Sep 2007Tottenham Hotspur v ArsenalW1-3Premier League
22 Dec 2007Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurW2-1Premier League
09 Jan 2008Arsenal v Tottenham HotspurD1-1League 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. 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.