The North London Soccer Derby

Spurs currently hold the top spot among London's Premier League teams.

Spurs won their home game in the latest rendition of North London’s derby with Arsenal. 4.5 miles separates the two teams, with the familiarity that only comes with sharing a small part of a major metropolitan area. When talking about London and its soccer clubs, it’s an important distinction. This is a city of 607 square miles with over 8 million people. The closest a major American city comes to that physical size is Houston with just under 600 square miles of space for just over two million people. LA has 468 square miles, New York City has 302, and Chicago 227.

Our brief geography lesson is here for one simple reason: London is different from not only American cities, but the rest of Britain. They support 14 teams in England’s professional soccer leagues, along with Wembley Stadium. Rugby adds clubs and the 82k capacity Twickenham Stadium. It’s a lot of professional sports for any market, and for the six teams currently in the Premier League it’s a fight for neighborhoods before considering who is the biggest club in the city.

For decades, there was an easy enough answer for what team really represented London. Arsenal’s streak of not just avoiding relegation, but also competing at or near the top of the table saw to that. Chelsea’s title wins changed things quickly. It’s tough to play up metropolitan superiority when another club in your city has the Champions League trophy. It’s even tougher when you fall behind your nearest rival in the standings.

Arsenal are supposed to contend every season. Instead, they’re a 5th-place club looking up at 4th-place Chelsea and 3rd-place Spurs. It’s Tottenham proving to be the major problem for Arsenal. It’s one thing to lose out to a club with seemingly unlimited funding, quite another to the team just to the north.

“If you are dominated and they create chance after chance, OK you accept it,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said following Sunday’s game. “But today it was a strange game to lose.”

For all of Arsenal’s issues this season, losing to Spurs at any stage is tough to explain. Trading home wins with your derby rival simply isn’t good enough. Of concern for Arsenal, is we could just as easily be talking about Spurs.

Corner Rating: (with 1 Arsenal unable to get past Spurs this season and 11 Arsenal finishing higher) 4.

Last Week’s Corner: We focused on the MLS schedule allowing for the Champions League, but MLS staging opening games in the same weekend at the same stadium in Carson certainly doesn’t speak to scheduling acumen.  Let’s go ahead and bump up our rating from a 5 to a 7.

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