The historic significance of a North London derby in the FA Cup

Bitter North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham do battle in the third round of the FA Cup later today, meeting in the competition for only the sixth time in its 142-year history.

Although the goal for the Gunners is the Premier League title this season, while Spurs desperately crave Champions League football, the importance and significance of this cup clash should not be underestimated.

Arsenal are top of the Premier League table and motoring, while Tottenham have looked confident and renewed since Tim Sherwood replaced André Villas-Boas at the White Hart Lane helm.

The hosts will hope for a morale-boosting victory similar to the back-to-back 5-2 routs recorded over the last two seasons, which could be the catalyst for a strengthening of the grip on their lead at the top of the league table.

For Spurs, with a second consecutive win over Manchester United at Old Trafford fresh in the memory, victory at the Emirates could well be a definitive moment in their season.

Arsenal won the last meeting of the sides 1-0 on home soil back in September, with Olivier Giroud netting the only goal of an end-to-end game.

With the race for the Premier League title tighter than ever and the massive increase in importance of Champions League football, the FA Cup has taken something of a dip in significance over recent campaigns.

It has become commonplace for managers of the top sides, Arsène Wenger a key example, to rest some of their stars and give fringe players an opportunity in the competition.

Despite a brutal festive season fixture list, neither side play again for a week after the North London clash, and as such both managers should put out as strong a lineup as they can.

Paul GascoigneBoth sides have won two of the most-recent four FA Cup clashes between them over the years, but it will be the semi-final victory for Tottenham at Wembley back in 1991 that will stick in the memory of the large majority of the travelling support today.

For this Tottenham fan, that game is my first memory of football and the excitement and drama of the clash still carries considerable weight today. From the moment Paul Gascoigne rifled a 35-yard free-kick into the roof of David Seaman’s net five minutes into the hard-fought game, I was a Spurs fan.

Gary Lineker went on to score a brace to ensure Tottenham’s place in the final with a 3-1 win, with victory over Nottingham Forest the most recent of the club’s eight triumphs in the iconic competition.

Arsenal have had their revenge in the competition since 1991, with the rivals meeting at the semi-final stage in both 1993 and 2001, with the Gunners edging the fixture by the odd goal on both occasions.

Today’s game has the potential to be another North London classic, and should serve as an excellent example of the importance and romance of the FA Cup. Both sides will be desperate to win, with victory for either potentially having telling significance in the short and long term.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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