Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Consequences of Losing North London Derby for Spurs

Frank WagnerCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on February 26, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

It was billed as the changing of the guard, one of those rare times when you can pinpoint the moment where it became clear that one club had surpassed the other.

To be fair, the North London derby did play out that way. Unfortunately, it did so for only 35 minutes.

Now, after Arsenal's thrilling comeback and subsequent 5-2 trouncing of Tottenham at the Emirates on Sunday, a new storyline has emerged for the season's run-in: Can Spurs hold on?

This question was almost unthinkable just a few days ago, but its bearing is now a harsh reality for Spurs supporters.

Tottenham entered the weekend holding a 10-point lead over Chelsea and Arsenal, two clubs who were desperately searching for form, and seemed to be in a mightily healthy position.

Now, after Chelsea's thumping victory (albeit over Bolton) and Arsenal's heroics over Spurs, both teams seemingly have the potential to make runs to close the season.

On the other hand, Tottenham's defensive woes and utter downtrodden attitude for the last 55 minutes of Sunday's match cannot bode well for their finish.

The lead that seemed so insurmountable is now merely seven points. To make matters worse, Tottenham play host to Manchester United this upcoming weekend, a match in which they will be without midfielder Scott Parker, whose recklessness in picking up a meaningless red card at the end of a match that had long been decided weighs heavily.

Hence, it is very possible that their grasp on the top four could be a margin of only four after this weekend.

With a match at Stamford Bridge still looming in this upcoming month, this glorious season has the chance of unraveling on Spurs.

The question has firmly shifted from "can they really win the title?" to "can they really not be in the Champions League next year?"

That second question pulls even more weight given the probability that, if it were to happen, the club would lose: their manager, Harry Redknapp, to the England job; Gareth Bale to Barcelona; Luka Modric to wherever he wants to go; Emmanuel Adebayor back to Manchester City (who will sell him elsewhere) after his loan deal runs out; and any chances (however small they are anyway) of signing the young prospects that have been linked with White Hart Lane in the past month.

One key win (against Man U or Chelsea) can seal Spurs' glorious season, but it will otherwise be an anxious time for the supporters.

These last 12 matches are much more than just for this season's top four.

These last 12 matches will determine the future of Tottenham Hotspur.