Are West Ham Potentially a Bigger London Rival to Arsenal Than Tottenham?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Screen grabs of artists impression of how the stadium will look with West Ham playing their matches at the Olympic Stadium during the press conference to announce the future of the Olympic Stadium on March 22, 2013 in London, England. West Ham United have been announced as the main tenants of the Olympic Stadium, paying 15 million GBP upfront towards conversion costs and an annual rent of 2 million GBP.  West Ham will play their home matches at the Stadium from 2016.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Starting in 1913, when Arsenal moved from south-east London to north London, the Gunners' relationship with Tottenham Hotspur has been fraught to say the least. Stretching for over a century, the North London Derby is a staple of English football; whether in the league or cup competitions, the two sides invariably find each other, and mayhem usually ensues.

Finding a way by which the two clubs, securely joined at the hip, somehow find more bitter rivals in the foreseeable future is impossible—there is too much history, too much animosity and too much proximity.

Chelsea, for instance, who have enjoyed the best decade (2004/05-2014/15) of any London club in the modern era—winning 13 major trophies domestically and in Europe—have not been able to break the long-standing relationship Arsenal and Spurs have shared.

While the Blues have spats with both north London clubs, their distance and expedient rise is more scornful than deep-seated hatred.

Good luck splitting up Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur; they are married by hate, rather than love.
Good luck splitting up Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur; they are married by hate, rather than love.Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

To drive a wedge between Arsenal and Tottenham's collective disdain would take heaven and earth to accomplish. Taking the long view, however, there might be one club, on the rise, capable of at least giving it the old college try.

Disputing the tenancy of London's £530 million Olympic Stadium with Spurs, West Ham United earned the tentative 99-year right to play games in the 54,000-capacity arena in February 2011; the move was officially announced in March 2013. Moving ever-so-slightly north-west from the 35,000-seat Boleyn Ground (AKA Upton Park), the Hammers appear to have the makings of a revolution, and for relative pennies.

According to the Daily Mail, West Ham will pay £2.5 million every season to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for the stadium's rights.

To put that number in perspective: Were they to remain in the stadium for 160 years, it would still be a better deal than Tottenham's new ground—which has cost an estimated £400 million to build, as noted by the Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson.

West Ham United have almost half a season left at Upton Park
West Ham United have almost half a season left at Upton ParkClive Rose/Getty Images

Furthermore, reported by BBC Sport's Dan Roan, converting the stadium for footballing purposes will cost  £272 million; the Irons will pay just £15 million on that tab as contractually obligated—the rest coming from taxpayers.

Ironically, the team who claim to have won England's only World Cup (with Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, of Hammer lore, downing West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final), are essentially being given a king's ransom by the British public, exactly 50 years later, when they swap grounds in 2016.

So, what does this mean for Premier League football—specifically the two major clubs closest to the Olympic Stadium (Arsenal and Spurs)?

In theory, a heightened sense of rivalry.

In application, we cannot be sure.

£2.5 million per year for 54,000 seats. Given time, it should create another top-quality London side.
£2.5 million per year for 54,000 seats. Given time, it should create another top-quality London side.Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Receiving 19,000 more seats, as compared to Upton Park, and upgraded facilities, West Ham United should stand a better chance of annually competing for European places.

If Arsenal and Tottenham find themselves on the outside looking in, and the team standing in their way is West Ham United—who have been gifted the chance of this century—then yes, tempers could flair. That said, the angst required for either of Arsenal or Spurs to turn their heads from one another would have to be earth-shattering.

West Ham would have to hire Thierry Henry as their manager (or something in that vain) for the Gunners to blink.

Tottenham are arguably London's most loathed club, the ire they collect from all four corners of London is rather extensive, so their rivalry with West Ham would intensify, but nothing to the levels they share with Arsenal.

West Ham United beat Arsenal 2-0 to open the season. Surely that won't become standard operating?
West Ham United beat Arsenal 2-0 to open the season. Surely that won't become standard operating?Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

How things transpire a half-century from now, one could only speculate.

West Ham doing serious damage in terms of winning trophies, or simply ruin Arsenal and Tottenham's chances at doing the same on a serial basis, is the most obvious way.

The Olympic Stadium could become fuel for rivalry, but West Ham must succeed. If they fail to establish themselves, the will only receive ridicule, as this deal is quite possibly a one-off transaction in English football's lengthy history

Luckily for WHU, though, things are progressing.

Arsenal and Tottenham cannot be broken easily. It would take a few decades for West Ham United to break that bond.
Arsenal and Tottenham cannot be broken easily. It would take a few decades for West Ham United to break that bond.Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

The Irons are currently sixth in the Premier League table, vasty exceeding Slaven Bilic's "don't get us relegated" mandate, and they have a potential Player of the Season candidate in Dimitri Payet—bought from Olympique de Marseille for £10.7 million this summer. Not to forget their famed academy, with burgeoning talents like Reece Oxford.

Projecting how Arsenal and Tottenham supporters might receive a consistently competitive West Ham United can only be decided by trophy cabinets; as it stands, they have nothing to worry about in that regard. 

If the Olympic Stadium is followed by copious trophies, however, one should expect north-east London to become a swarming, triangular beehive.

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.

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