Tonight may just be the biggest North London Derby of the last decade, with the result likely to be key to determining which one of rivals Tottenham or Arsenal finish in that all-important top four spot.
The stakes could not be higher for the manager in each dugout: for Mikel Arteta, three points tonight would ensure Spurs cannot finish above his Arsenal side, showing the club that they were right to take the risk of backing this inexperienced coach in their bid to get back to the top table for the first time in six years; for Antonio Conte, a win would surely make them favourites to clinch fourth, and could be the catalyst for something much bigger to come.
And following the news of Erling Haaland’s transfer to Manchester City, this game has just become that much bigger for Harry Kane.
Courted by City last summer, any hope of a move to the Etihad Stadium this summer has “collapsed”, according to Fabrizio Romano in his exclusive CaughtOffside column.
With Manchester United’s decline, Chelsea’s ownership issues, as well as the rivalry with Tottenham, options are fast running out for Kane if he wants to play in the Champions League. It may be down to him to get the crucial goals tonight. It may be just one game, but it has the potential to be career-defining for one of English football’s modern greats.
Kane has a superb record against Arsenal, scoring against them a remarkable 11 times to move to the top of the all-time North London Derby scorers’ charts. It’s also worth noting that the home team tends to have a major advantage in these derbies, with the visitors not coming out on top in one of these league games since Arsenal’s 1-0 win at White Hart Lane in 2014.
The stage is set for Kane to topple Arsenal and secure Spurs’ future. For him to fail to do so is almost unthinkable. The consequences could be huge.
Conte was quite the coup for Tottenham and there remains the sense that his commitment to the club could hinge on clinching Champions League qualification, which would in turn allow them to compete for the kind of signings he wants.
Without that fourth spot, there may be no Conte, and without Conte, the lull for Kane at Spurs is surely going to continue to drag on. It’s hard to imagine a better managerial appointment out there, and the club will be scraping around for less exciting signings without the lure of Conte and the Champions League to dangle in front of them.
And yet, there may be no escape for Kane. Daniel Levy held firm and didn’t let him go last summer, and this year will very much be the same. “Tottenham have not decided any price for Kane as of today. It was the same last summer, they simply didn’t want to sell him,” Romano told CaughtOffside.
The stage could not be more perfectly set – an all-or-nothing North London Derby in which Kane can make himself a hero, or be condemned to a career which, although likely to yield even more goals, will forever have a big question-mark hanging over it.