The Battle For Supremacy In London: The Race For Top 4 Promises To Be The Closest In History

The Battle For Supremacy In London: The Race For Top 4 Promises To Be The Closest In History

  • Features
  • September 17, 2022

“London calling to the faraway townsNow war is declared and battle come downLondon calling to the underworldCome out of the cupboard, you boys and girls”

This timeless classic released by The Clash in 1979 best embodies the spirit of London. It is a city drowned in culture, reverence, politics, and enormous history. But also within its inner sanctums lies footballing rivalries that shape modern day society.

Separated by geography, politics, and pride, there are three footballing teams that represent more than just club colours and on-field rivalries – the rugged, artsy and lively North of London, represented by bitter rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and the posh and wealthier South, where Chelsea lies.

These teams despise each other. Through a fabled history of rivalries across more than a century, there has always been a lot at stake.

“It’s emotional, it’s football, you like it no? We love it” said former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel after that handshake with Spurs boss Antonio Conte after that London derby earlier this season. The game ended 2-2. Both managers were sent off. The fans were boisterous and vociferous in the stands. It felt like a long-awaited sequel to the famous Battle of the Bridge from 2016.

Bitter rivals to the end, the footballing hatred permeated onto the pitch in a feisty affair that will live long in people’s memories. Adding cross-town rivals Arsenal to the mix, and we have the perfect recipe for a three-way battle for not just top 4, but for pride and bragging rights in London.

Arsenal have had a flying start to the season. Mikel Arteta’s men sit at the top of the Premier League after 6 games, ahead of the other two London clubs. In his third year as the Gunners’ boss, a lot is expected from him and his side. After narrowly missing out on the top 4 in a disappointing end to last season, Arsenal fans will want Champions League football again, and anything less will once again put doubts about whether Arteta is the man for the job.

But largely, the signs from the last two and a half years under the Spaniard have been encouraging. With flourishing young stars like Saka and Martinelli, new quality signings in Jesus and Zinchenko, and a solid defensive line reinvigorated by White and Saliba, Arsenal are building something for the long term. A lot of the negativity that regularly shrouds the club seems to have dissipated, and the fans are allowing themselves to dream again.

However, navigating Thursday nights in the Europa League will be a challenge. The squad’s depth will be tested to the limits. How they can handle injuries, an inevitable dip in form, and how they can bounce back, will define their season. “I want people on this pitch that I’m happy to go to war with”, said Arteta about his team, earlier this year in January. Nine months later, he may have found the right mix of soldiers for the task.

Their noisy North London neighbours have however made all the right sounds as well. Spurs were quick and decisive in the transfer window, going after players in an aggressive manner seldom seen under Daniel Levy’s reign. “Winning at Chelsea is an expectation, for Tottenham it is a hope”, said Conte in his first spell in England when he was Chelsea manager, in someways aptly defining Spurs over the years.

But if there is one man who can exorcise the Tottenham hoodoo, it is the mercurial Italian. Conte is a serial winner, and will not accept mediocrity, as it has been evidently visible in his short but fiery & invigorating spell thus far. After addressing key areas on the pitch and at boardroom level, the team is now slowly starting to resemble its manager’s ilk.

Sporting director Fabio Paratici has helped bring in PL-proven quality in Bissouma and Richarlison, along with the experienced Perisic from Serie A. With the existing firepower of the prolific Kane and Son as well, Spurs look ruthless, ambitious, and hungry for the first time in many seasons.

Pipping Arsenal to get Champions League football last season will have brought the squad closer together. Having started the season well, they will want to not just challenge for top 4, but also give City and Liverpool a run for their money. Conte either wins in a blaze of glory, or loses and combusts, there is no in-between with the Italian. This will be an interesting season in the white half of North London.

Down South at SW6, Chelsea have had anything but a smooth start to the season. The club went through a tumultuous period at the end of last season with their ownership situation, which they still seem to be reeling from even after huge investment from their new owners. The sacking of Tuchel just a week after the end of the transfer window has not helped matters. The move has brought an intense amount of spotlight on Todd Boehly and his consortium.

After a scattergun approach in the summer transfer window where over £250 million was spent without a director of football, a lot of questions still need to be answered about whether the players Chelsea have brought in are the right ones for the club. New manager Graham Potter might have been given a new 5-year contract citing a long-term project, but even the progressive English coach will know that winning will still remain the mantra at the Bridge.

It’s definitely a new era for the Blues who are in a period of transition. Not finishing in the top 4 would be unfathomable, but it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility. A lot will depend on how Potter can galvanize his squad, much like his predecessor, Tuchel did in his early days, and also whether the players and fans buy into the vision of the new manager and the owners.

The money seems to be there, and the ingredients are also available, but will the owners have the know-how and more importantly the patience to let things manifest? Only time will tell.

Within the fabled walls of Stamford Bridge, the Emirates & the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the fans can perhaps feel the heated rivalry seeping in gradually, in its new embodiment in this new 2022/23 season for the battle for supremacy in London.

In truth, it’s top four or bust for the London clubs, and they will be looking to give their fans something to cheer about after the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II last week.

The battleground is London, the swords will be drawn, the crowd will be roaring and the race for top four seems prepared to go full tilt and waiting to boil over onto the pitch.

The battle for top four could be at its peak this season; a tussle much closer than in recent memory.

And the three biggest London clubs are at the heart and forefront of it.

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