It’s derby day again. That most special of dates in the football calendar is here once more and no matter what level the game is played at, Arsenal v Tottenham is a fixture to savour.
Considering what is happening in the Premier League, any showdown between the sides should be seen as a chance to strike a blow against your rivals. To add to the intrigue, Arsenal Under-21s are looking for revenge.
Almost two months ago to the day, Steve Gatting’s side were beaten 4-2 by Tottenham at Bull’s Cross. It was a terrific, full-blooded clash worthy of some of the classics we have seen at first-team level down the years, with Chuba Akpom delivering perhaps his stand-out performance of the season.
Not only did the 17-year-old score twice for the Gunners, but he hit the post and had one cleared off the line. It was a superlative display from a teenager who has caught the eye a number of times during the campaign, but it was not enough to stave off defeat.
“I thought at times we were very good and played some good attacking football, created numerous chances and the result was not what we wanted,” Gatting said. “We’re disappointed with the way the goals were conceded and we felt it was not a 4-2 game.
“On a good day if our finishing was more clinical, if our final ball in the attacking third had been more thoughtful, then we could have scored eight. If we had, it would not have been an injustice.
“And then at the other end, our decision-making was wrong, especially for the first and second goals, and you end up losing. At this level of football, you will get punished.”
That sense of injustice will no doubt be fresh in the minds of this talented young Arsenal squad when they run out at Underhill on Monday night. Their morale-boosting 3-2 win against Wolves last week has kept alive their slender hopes of reaching the end-of-season play-offs, but any derby game is about more than that: it is about local pride.
A bumper crowd is expected at Barnet and Gatting’s side will be determined to make amends for their earlier defeat to their rivals. As Serge Gnabry, one of the star performers at Bull’s Cross, says: “Every win can push us on, but especially against Tottenham. I think everyone has that little bit more motivation.”
- We will have live tweets from Underhill on the @ArsenalLive account from 6.55pm (UK time)