“We won the league, at S**** Hart Lane!”
It’s been 18 years since Arsenal’s Invincibles won the Premier League in the sweetest way as they were confirmed champions at the home of their north London rivals Tottenham, but you still occasionally hear that chant on the terraces.
Times change in football and the Gunners are no longer title contenders, however, parallels can be drawn to arguably the club’s best ever season ahead of their clash with Spurs on Thursday night.
This is the most hotly-anticipated north London Derby in years with both sides going head-to-head for fourth, which will crucially bring Champions League football next season.
Fourth-placed Arsenal hold the aces in the race with a four-point lead over fifth-placed Spurs, but Antonio Conte’s men have home advantage so will give the race a grandstand finish with a win.
But a win for Mikel Arteta’s side would finish Spurs off, and if that happens, the players and managers will be left with a decision on how to celebrate beating their fierce rivals in their own back yard to reach the Champions League.
The Invincibles only needed a point to be confirmed as champions in April 2004, and they were up against a Spurs side that finished 14th that season – so becoming champions at White Hart Lane was a real possibility.
Gunners icon Thierry Henry revealed he and his former teammates initially agreed to not celebrate in the ground if they sealed the title due to fears it could lead to chaotic scenes in the crowd.
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However, events inside the ground when Robbie Keane’s stoppage-time penalty saw Spurs come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 led to Henry have a change of heart.
After the referee blew for full time, Henry jogged over to the pocket of jubilant Arsenal fans at White Hart Lane to celebrate their triumph – and the rest of the squad swiftly followed suit.
“We were asked: ‘Please, if you win the league, do not celebrate there.’ And to be fair everybody said ‘Okay, we understand, that’s going to create chaos.’
“I remember [Tottenham defender] Mauricio Taricco jumping around, and he got a cramp out of it by the way. He was jumping around and celebrating a draw – that’s their standard.
“I looked at him and said: ‘Are you kidding me?’ He was going ‘yeaahhh’ jumping in front of me.
“I said: ‘Do you realise that we needed a point to be champions at your place?’ He was talking and I told him to watch me after the game.
“That’s the way it is, the game. If you act strong, be strong at the end. I remember everyone was saying we were not to celebrate and I said: ‘What?! I will celebrate and we will see how much it’s going to hurt them.’
“I had to celebrate, they were celebrating a draw and coming in front of me, jumping around like they won something.
“So I said: ‘Okay, we were not supposed to celebrate but I’m now going to celebrate with my fans.’”
Of course, Spurs’ home is no longer White Hart Lane, and any win on Thursday for Arsenal would not feel as sweet as what the Class of 2004 felt.
But it would certainly provide inspiration for another stinging chant at the Spurs faithful from the Gooners.
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