Tottenham v Arsenal: Arsène Wenger pleads for Tim Sherwood to be given a chance

It is another big north London derby, especially for the Spurs manager

Chief Football Correspondent

It is almost 15 years ago since the infamous north London derby of November 1999 at White Hart Lane that ended with two red cards, 10 bookings and an away dressing room that was wrecked twice.

The decisive second goal in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 win that day was a free-kick brilliantly executed by Tim Sherwood, the man currently in charge of Spurs as they go into battle against the old enemy.

The first returnee to the Arsenal dressing room that day was Freddie Ljungberg, sent off for what the referee thought was a head-butt on David Ginola. Those who recall the occasion, say Ljungberg took out his frustration on the tables and kit bags, leaving the place in a mess before heading for the showers.

No sooner had Vic Akers, the long-serving Arsenal kitman cleared up, than Emmanuel Petit was tearing the place apart once again, having had to come off injured. The accusation at the time was that Sherwood had elbowed the Frenchman. Akers refused to clear up twice, so when finally Martin Keown burst in, sent off in the last minute and ready to vent his anger, he encountered a scene of devastation and nothing left for him to take his frustration out on.

In those days, Spurs lived for getting a result over their rivals and, although they have set their sights higher in recent times, things are not that much different now. Lose tomorrow and they can probably bid farewell to a chance of making the Champions League places. Win and Sherwood’s position becomes that much easier; their league run-in that much more hopeful.

It is another big north London derby, especially for the Spurs manager who has been in the job less than three months. It is usually Arsène Wenger’s way to show about as much interest in the fortunes of Tottenham as one imagines he does in gardening or rugby league, but he defended Sherwood more than once.

Wenger was not impressed by the behaviour of the Benfica coach Jorge Jesus who he said had “provoked [Sherwood] in an unfair way]” on Thursday night. Sherwood is the 10th Spurs manager, excluding caretakers, since Wenger took charge of Arsenal, and the Frenchman advocated the benefit of a little patience for rookie managers.

“I’m always pleading for stability,” Wenger said. “Maybe you could say I’m pleading for myself! I always think technical stability is important. But it becomes more and more difficult because in every single game there is a trial taking place, based on what the manager has done right or wrong. The stability will certainly be much more difficult.

“I don’t know Sherwood as a coach. I knew him as a player because I am a long time in this job. I like the fact that he has learned his job and gets his chance. In England you rightly complain that young managers don’t get a chance. When you get one you have to  support him.”

There was even a diplomatic joke about the question of Sherwood’s childhood loyalties to Arsenal. “That’s why I have so much sympathy for him,” Wenger said.

The day-to-day trial feels about right as a description of Sherwood’s current existence now, with the two straight defeats to Chelsea and Benfica, unrest among the supporters and a derby looming. On Thursday, Sherwood said that a game against Arsenal was the best antidote for his players’ current slump, and certainly there will be nowhere for them to hide.

As a Spurs player, Sherwood knew only too well the dominance of Arsenal. That win over them in November 1999 was the only one of his four-year playing career at the club, and the last one until Juande Ramos’s Spurs won a League Cup tie more than eight years later. One year ago, when the two sides met at White Hart Lane, a victory for Spurs consolidated third place and put them seven points clear of Arsenal in fifth, but they were overhauled eventually.

This time, with Spurs in fifth place, six points behind Arsenal – effectively seven because of goal difference –and having played a game more, defeat tomorrow will make catching their rivals all but impossible. Arsenal have marginally the more difficult run-in (Chelsea away, Manchester City at home) than Spurs but there is not much in it.

This Arsenal team also have the memory of their run-in last season, eight wins out of 10, which meant they claimed fourth place on the last day of the season. “We have the strength,” Wenger said. “Everybody at the club is focused on this game and for the rest of the season; to do something that turns the season. There are moments in a game and there are moments in a season where you have to be there. This is one of them.”

There are concerns about the injury situation that now extends to Mesut Özil, out for four weeks, Wenger said. The German joins Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby among the sidelined. Wenger has told his medical department to look into the reasons why there have been so many problems among his midfield/attacking players.

There are problems for Spurs too, with Sandro and Kyle Walker both coming off early against Benfica with injuries and the likes of Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches and Etienne Capoue already missing. “I still think it always takes time when you bring in many new players,” Wenger said, “but you cannot say Spurs have had a bad season, they have had a good season and they are there. Like everyone else, like us, they have gone through good and bad periods.”

Come the next derby after this, providing the new contract is signed, Wenger may be facing his 11th different Spurs manager. In a changing world, he will be past the 1,000-game mark and a byword for stability. Did he ever think he would get there? “No, not at all – we are in a job where you try to do well in the next game. Then, step by step, sometimes you get to 1,000.”

Taxi for Bendtner Dane looks to be on his way

Arsène Wenger suggested Nicklas Bendtner will not play for Arsenal again after the striker’s drunken night out in Copenhagen ended in more lurid headlines.

The Arsenal manager said that Bendtner had not obtained permission to go to Denmark, although he would not comment on reports that the player removed his belt and whipped a taxi, calling the driver a “little whore”.

Asked how the latest incident would affect his view of Bendtner, Wenger commented: “Look, he’s at the end of the contract at the end of the season.”

Sam Wallace

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence