There is very little for Tottenham to celebrate in their recent rivalry with Arsenal, but Harry Redknapp demonstrated yesterday, that does not mean you cannot still wind up the old enemy.
The Spurs manager claimed that Arsenal were not real contenders for the Premier League title because their young team would be no match for the experience of Chelsea and Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger was pointing out that if Spurs ever wish to be considered Arsenal's equals then all they have to do is win three Premier League titles and qualify for the Champions League 12 years in a row.
By his demeanour, you would not have guessed that the Arsenal manager expects that to happen soon.
The knackered old cliche goes that in a derby game the form book goes out the proverbial window. Well, not in the north London derby. In north London, the form book says that Arsenal do not lose to Spurs and that has rung true for the last 10 years, since Spurs last beat Arsenal in the league in November 1999.
Having drawn both league games with Arsenal last season, the first a thrilling comeback to 4-4 in October, Redknapp is better qualified than most of his predecessors to cast a critical eye over Wenger's team.
His assessment of them was polite but it hinted at a distrust of the principles of youth that Wenger has adhered to, as well as a frostiness towards the manager in charge of them.
“They [Arsenal] are potential winners but personally I don't think they will win it, that's only my opinion,” Redknapp said. “I'm not writing them off, they've got a good chance. But I think the winners will come from Chelsea or Manchester United. I've been wrong a million times before, I could well be wrong again.
“I don't think it's a soft centre [at Arsenal], I think it's maybe a little bit of a lack of experience still. They're not an experienced team, it's still a young team, a fantastic young team. But I just feel Chelsea and United, they have players who have been there and done it all and been the full course in the championship race. And Liverpool, I'm not writing them off but I do fancy one of the two.”
Redknapp has faced Wenger 23 times as a manager and beaten him just once, as West Ham manager, in October 1999. Nothing he said yesterday suggested that the two men enjoy much of a bond apart from a post-match glass of wine. “He helped me at Portsmouth when he loaned me [Armand] Traore,” Redknapp said. “I find him okay.” He pointed out that it was Wenger's scouts, not him, who was finding all those bright young players, “No disrespect but Arsene isn't standing on Hackney Marshes is he?”
Today Redknapp has key players missing. Aaron Lennon and Luka Modric are injured, Jermain Defoe is suspended and much will depend on Peter Crouch and David Bentley. Last October, Bentley scored a brilliant goal at the Emirates but his fall from grace since then means that is his only league goal for the club.