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A Beginner's Guide to the North London Derby

The more you know, the more you hate.

Steve Powell/Getty Images

So I just got into Spurs and I was hoping you could help me learn a little bit about this rivalry.

That's cool. Welcome to N17! I hope that your subsequent alcohol consumption hasn't been too hard on your bank account.

Alcohol consumption? Does being a Spurs fan mean I'll drink a lot?

Oh honey.

Sooooo anyway, the North London Derby? What's that all about?

So in 1913, Arsenal moved from their original South London home to North London, which Tottenham had called home since they were founded in 1882. Their new field at Highbury was only 4 miles away from Spurs' home at White Hart Lane. Spurs fans didn't appreciate competition moving onto their turf. Then in 1919, when the first division was expanded by 2 places, Arsenal essentially bribed the league to get promoted ahead of Spurs.

Wow. So Spurs fans are still mad about that?

Sort of. Mostly it's just an excuse to hate a bunch of dicks we don't like up the road.

How even has the rivalry been?

Honestly, it was pretty even, with both teams going through phases of dominance until the 90s, when Arsenal hired Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman revolutionized English soccer, transforming Arsenal into one of the best clubs of Europe through his introduction of radical concepts such as vegetables and not drinking that much beer. Meanwhile, Spurs were owned by ... Alan Sugar. Spurs proceeded lose to Arsenal .... a lot for the next ten years. Ugh.

Are you ok?

Oh I'm fine. I just realized I'm going to need more beer.

So Arsenal became one of the best teams in Europe?

Yeah they even went undefeated for a season and made a European Cup final.

That must have sucked.

It was ... no bueno.

So are they still one of the best clubs on the continent?

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

What happened?

It turns out running your club like a flea market is not a strategy that helps a team challenging for league titles to stay that way.

So what is the state of the rivalry today?

Well while Arsenal went from winning the league to serving as a feeder club to Manchester City and Barcelona, Spurs hoisted themselves up to the edges of the Champions League on the back of some astute transfer dealings. Unfortunately, Spurs have found themselves finishing frustratingly short of the top four, usually looking up directly at their local rivals.

That doesn't sound fun.

It really, really isn't. But at least we get to watch a team that used to aspire to undefeated seasons and Champions League finals get more excited at finishing fourth than Niko Kranjcar on Taco Tuesday.

What's this thing everyone keeps saying about lasagna?

Next question.

What's the rivalry like today?

It's more even than it's been in the entire Premier League era. Both teams are fighting for a Champions League place and despite their resources, Arsenal isn't nearly as far ahead of Spurs as they would like to believe. Still, they have managed to edge out Spurs, despite the team's ascent up the table. At the end of the day, Spurs have built a team of football manager prospects that never really looks as good as it does on paper. Meanwhile, Arsenal have constructed a team of high profile cast offs from Spain and still haven't gotten any closer to the top of the league.

So the teams are competing for the same goals on the pitch. What are the fans like?

Arsenal fans still expect league titles, which isn't exactly realistic. This has lead to unrealistic expectations for their current team, which in turn leads to repeated backlashes towards the man who got them there in the first place. It's a vicious circle that ends with manifestos written on bed sheets. It's been fun.

What about Spurs fans?

Well we played in the Champions League in 2010/11 and now we all get mad when it turns out we're not Real Madrid. So we take it out on the man who got us there in the first place. It's a vicious circle that ends with manifestos written on bed sheets. It's been ... fun.

So what players on Spurs should I keep an eye out for on Saturday?

Our lord and savior Harry Kane and his Danish prophet Christian Eriksen.

Haha. That's some funny hyperbole.

... We take blasphemy very seriously here at Cartilage Free Captain.

Uh, sorry?

Harry forgives you.

So what about Arsenal?

They're the worst.

Oh I meant their players.

Alexis Sanchez is probably their best player, but he won't be playing because he's scared of Harry Kane. Theo Walcott has been a pain in our rears for years and will undoubtedly play better against us than he will against anyone else. Meanwhile, former next great England midfielder Jack Wilshere is quietly on his way to being a worse midfielder than Jermaine Jenas. But he'll at least be able to give you a light, so that's something.

Sounds like fun?

I suppose alcoholism can be fun.

What's your prediction?

Whiskey 1, Skipjack nil.