The Gunners are the most successful women’s club in England – and they were on hand to spoil Spurs’ big day in the WSL’s first north London derby
Where women’s football has been concerned – north London has been red, and it has been for a very long time. There’s no debate.
The most successful female club in England are also the current reigning champions, having picked up their first league title in seven years last year.
But the Gunners’ 2-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in front of a new Women’s Super League record crowd of 38,262 fans, was the start of a real rivalry in north London.
The first game in the WSL between these two historic rivals could have been a one-sided affair to mirror the history of these two clubs.
After all, it was only a couple of years ago that Spurs were hammered by the Gunners in an FA Women’s Cup tie – and it’s only a few months since Arsenal beat them 6-0 in a pre-season friendly.
But Tottenham’s rise to the top of the pyramid has been not just a nice story to tell. It’s a deserved rise and Sunday was a huge occasion that they deserved.
“We’re not in this league to make up the numbers” was the message from skipper Jenna Schillaci after Spurs’ 1-0 defeat to Stamford Bridge earlier this season, a result that was followed up just a few weeks later by a victory at West Ham’s London Stadium.
They are the newcomers to the cluster of London clubs in the WSL, but Sunday was another indication that it won’t take them long to establish themselves.
Nor will it take the fans and players long to get onboard with a new version of this rivalry.
As fans of all demographics poured into the men’s new ground on Sunday, the hostility between those in white and those in red gave the occasion the atmosphere it deserved.
And when Kim Little broke the deadlock just past the hour mark, it was fitting that she celebrated in front of thousands of loudly unhappy Spurs fans.
This was a real derby – and it was something that showed on the pitch, too.
Furthermore, this was a match that showed just how far the game in England has come over the last decade.
The idea of a competitive north London derby in women’s football was a pipedream 10 years ago.
But gone now are the days when Arsenal would win successive league titles for fun and mow down any opponent that stood in their way.
Spurs’ women will have to wait yet to get their first lot of bragging rights, but they are in a fantastic place right now.
There are a lot of unique aspects that have got them to this level – but none more so than the managerial duo of Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amoros that lead them.
The first 20 minutes of this encounter was the one-sided affair that Tottenham fans may have feared – until the pair in the dugout realised their plan to make their shape very wide when defending was suicidal with Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk slipping in between the full-backs and centre-backs.
A more compact shape was a game-changer, with Spurs winning the round ball more, enjoying more possession and creating more chances as a result.
But therein showed the difference in class that still stands between these two rivals.
While Arsenal have one of the greatest finishers in the world in Vivianne Miedema, who showed her class when she rounded Rebecca Spencer late in the second half to make it 2-0, Tottenham’s big chance conversion this season has been just 20 per cent.
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Kit Graham, Rianna Dean and Rachel Furness all came close on the day, particularly the former who raced through one-on-one with Manuela Zinsberger early on, but not close enough.
Ultimately, that was the difference, as a clinical and tidy Arsenal team swept up all three points and the bragging rights to carry the short journey home.
But as this Tottenham team continue to grow in their first ever WSL experience, this rivalry has been only going to become bigger and bigger.