Whisper it, but could Tottenham actually finish above Arsenal this year?
St Totteringham’s Day is the time in each season when it becomes mathematically impossible for Tottenham to overtake Arsenal. The last time it didn’t occur was in 1995, but could this be another year when Spurs fans are spared the day?
St Totteringham’s Day is the time in each season when it becomes mathematically impossible for Tottenham to overtake Arsenal in the league.
Similar to Shrove Tuesday, Ramadan and Diwali, it is a movable feast, and usually falls in March, April or May. It is also the day for bets made by over-optimistic Spurs fans at the start of the season who foolishly (again) thought that “this is the year”, to be settled.
The celebration was conceived at the turn of the century by Arsenal fans seeking news ways to gloat over and goad their rivals around the pubs, clubs, workplaces, schoolyards and streets of north London.
Not since 1995 have Tottenham finished ahead of Arsenal, allowing a whole generation of Gunners fans to rely upon the arrival of St Totteringham’s Day just as they would unmovable events such as Christmas, spring and dawn following dusk.
Sure, Spurs might surge a head for a month or two, and of course, Arsenal would display their signature fragility of mind during the campaign’s last furlong.
But come what may – all the twists and turns, jumps and fall – by season’s end the natural order of things would have been restored, and Tottenham supporters would find themselves in their default berth: beneath and lorded over by their hated superior.
Supremacy was at one time so predictable, St Totteringham’s Day was in danger of attracting only perfunctory acknowledgments by Gooners because a walk down White Hart Lane no longer brought the same level of guffaws and schadenfreude.
Instead, new monied Chelsea were seen as Arsenal’s closest rivals, offering a formidable formation of stars, hunger and lofty ideals.
For Spurs fans, the curse of this niche saints day and its maddening mathematical fact was an affliction managed by deep sighs, surrender to the inevitable and a resolution to outlaw hope.
Tottenham have been ahead of Arsenal at this point of the season three times in the past decade only to be overhauled, often at the death.
They were a point ahead going into the final weekend of the 2005-06 season with a Champions League qualification beckoning. But they lost their final game at West Ham 2-1 in a match dubbed ‘lasagne-gate’ after several Spurs players took to the field suffering from food poisoning.
The curse of St Totteringham appeared to have been lifted in 2012 when Arsenal were 10 points behind going into the north London derby in late February.
Harry Redknapp’s battling Spurs were two nil up at the Emirates, with the demon saint near exorcised.
Then Tottenham capitulated and St Totteringham’s twisted ways saw the Gunners’ bounce back in emphatic style, winning 5-2.
There was a repeat of the horror show the following season when Arsenal came from seven points behind with 10 games remaining – only to pip Tottenham once more to a Champions League berth.
Arsenal might have struggled to win the Premier League title season after season, but their continued preeminence locally plus a European berth was compensation enough for the Emirates faithful clutching their talismans bearing their martyr’s name.
But now Arsenal fans are reliving nightmare memories long thought to be buried deep in their medial temporal lobe.
Going on recent performances, there is every prospect of their dreams being once more crushed because their team will blow their best chance of claiming the title for a decade – and, unthinkably, hand the crown to Tottenham in the process.
The only thing preventing mass panic breaking out on the red and white streets of the UK capital is that Tottenham also lost on whacky Wednesday, bungling their own attempted leap frog of Leicester to the top.
Little wonder that ahead of the most excruciatingly tense north London derbies on Saturday at White Hart Lane, many Gooners fear St Totteringham might morph into a turncoat, a treacherous, deceitful disciple.
Leicester, Manchester City, Manchester United, West Ham, Stoke – even a resurgent Liverpool – still have the mathematical chance of finishing in the top four at the expense of Arsene Wenger’s and Mauricio Pochettino’s unpredictable teams.
Wenger stands the most to lose. A loss on Saturday will see the calls for his resignation make The Emirates quake on its foundations.
For neutrals, it is a dream derby in a sensational season, a campaign where title challengers are gauged more by their ability to bottle it rather than by their strength and courage.
And it seems that like everyone not aligned to a team from Manchester, Liverpool or north London, St Totteringham might be gunning for trend-buckers, Leicester.