Hislop: Top Four is in Arsenal's hands (0:48)

The author explains why the club should expect to play in the playoffs next season. (0:48)

9:30 AM ET

For many years, the matches between Spurs and Gunners have been seen as a battle for the balance of power in north London. It is a phrase which seeks to heighten the rivalry of two long-standing adversaries, yet has always felt slightly curious, implying that only one of the two clubs can enjoy meaningful success at any given time.

The derby on Thursday will mean more than most as it could have lasting consequences for both Spurs and the other. The evolution of their club is dependent on getting into the premier club competition in Europe, so the increase in revenue and prestige that comes with it is vital.

The balance of power has been about one club putting the other in the shadows. St Totteringham's Day became an annual event to the extent that it was honoured by the precise moment Spurs can no longer finish above them in the table. In the last five seasons, Spurs have secured a higher league placing, including fourth place in the last day of the season.

It's one thing to have local bragging rights, but it's another thing to ensure your neighbours miss out on the competition. A win for the north London club would see them secure fourth spot with two games left, as well as a first St Totteringham's Day since 2016 If the Spurs win over the Clarets on Sunday and the Gunners lose at home to the Falcons on Monday, the two teams will be two points behind each other.

The balance of power in north London is on a knife-edge, and the short-to-medium term futures of both clubs depend on what happens next. The game is important.

You can watch the FC daily on the US version of the network.

- Don't have ESPN? Get instant access

A rebuilding process: find a way back to the top

Mauricio Pochettino left the club in November of last year without a trophy to show for it, but Spurs enjoyed steady progress under him, reaching a Champions League final three years ago and establishing themselves as top-four regulars after years on the fringes.

In the first half of his reign, the team enjoyed huge success, but the stagnation that occurred in his later years created a problem that Unai Emery was unable to solve. Mikel Arteta knows that gradual decline is better than most and has convinced the club's owners to back him in a ruthless overhaul. Despite the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that process has gathered pace over the last few years. They cut 55 non-playing staff members in 2020 and spent 140 million on five new signings and seven more players to cancel their contracts.

Senior figures at the club believe they would be ahead of schedule if they secured a spot in the playoffs. The internal expectation was to get some form of European football this term and then push for the top four next year. It will feel like a disappointment if they fell short, especially since they have an 80% chance of securing it, per FiveThirtyEight.

Arsenal and Tottenham have a chance to end the season on a high. Marc Atkins/Getty Images

A financial boost in the transfer market

It would give a huge advantage to be in the top tier of European football. It is possible that Youri Tielemans will choose his next move based on the fact that he wants to play in Europe's biggest club stage.

Antonio Conte wants around six new players this summer to transform the Spurs into title contender. The plan will require unusual aggression from chairman Daniel Levy and although we are all attempting to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, it remains firmly visible on the balance sheet.

The latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines are brought to you by Dan Thomas. You can stream on the U.S. only.

The loss for the year ending May 31 was a record for the club. The club announced a loss of 80.2 million dollars for the same period, and said that the swine flu had cost the club more than 150 million dollars.

The Bank of England's COVID Corporate Financing Facility allowed both Spurs and Arsenal to take out 120 million and 175 million loans, respectively. Spurs opened their new stadium in April of last year, but costs spiralled and event revenue collapsed due to the collapse of the economy.

The debt has not stopped fresh investment in the past, but last year the total debt was nearly 700 million dollars due to the stadium build. Swiss Ramble stated that the net debt at the same point was 199.1m.

The failed European Super League project would have provided a potential game-changer if the clubs had qualified for the European League. The maximum prize money that the winners of the Europa League can earn is 23.4m. The winners of the European soccer competition could make up to 85.1 million dollars.

Will Harry Kane want to leave Tottenham again if they don't finish in the Champions League spots? Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

A way to keep star players

The signing of Erling Haaland by Manchester City takes the most obvious suitor for Harry Kane out of the running, but the England captain will still need convincing that Spurs can challenge for major honours. He will be 29 next month and will have another year out of the group stage.

There is some doubt as to whether or not he will stay on next season. The situation regarding the future of the Italian still feels tense despite the positive noises made by Spurs.

Even though Arteta is less proven as a manager than Conte, he is still developing a promising body of work at the club and by having already extended his contract until 2025, continuity is ensured no matter what European competition they end up in.

With three players out of contract this summer, Arteta wants to make sure that he gets the right players for next season. They will need squad depth. A forward, a winger and a centralMidfielder are their primary targets.


It would be similar to winning the premier league or the europe league.

A controversial postponement

The timing has an edge to Thursday's game. The subjective nature of the decision-making around postponements involving COVID-19 cases was always going to lead to arguments and the most controversial was the decision by the league to move the derby in January.

Several of the players at the Africa Cup of Nations were injured and the team was knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City in the last minute. Spurs issued a statement at the time highlighting their "extreme surprise" at the postponement and although Conte refused to double down on that irritation this week, the prospect of facing a stronger team on a four-game winning streak, knowing they can lose.

He has had more time to work with his players. After just two months in the job, his ideas were not bedded in.

I think we are a team with more organisation in the tactical and physical aspect. We had time to improve and become a stronger team.

Spurs are used to waiting. This will be the first north London derby to be staged in front of a full crowd at Spurs. The game was played at Wembley a month before the stadium opened, the game was behind closed doors during Project Restart, and the game last season was in December when fans were allowed back into the stadium for the first time in 277 days.

For nights like this, the stadium was built. It was designed with the goal of becoming a European powerhouse. Only victory over their bitterest rivals will be enough to get them a top-four finish. The power is in the balance.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) permits California residents, or their authorized agents, to opt out of the “sale” of their personal information to third parties. The CCPA defines the term “sale” broadly, and it may include sharing certain information for particular advertising purposes. We never sell personal information to third parties for money. Please visit Your California Privacy Rights for more information about California residents’ rights and our privacy practices.

It's necessary to provide this service or other features.

There is a sale of personal data.

When you visit this website, we and our partners may collect certain information about you, your devices, and your behavior, and this information to third parties to provide you with certain advertising on this site and across the web tailored to you. You can opt out of certain advertising on this site by using the opt out button above. Your choice will not apply to any other property if you opt out on this website. Each website of the Walt Disney Family of Companies has an opt out button. You can change your opt out selection at any time by clicking the link on this site. You must use this link to exercise your opt out on third parties engaging in their own sales as defined by the CCPA. If you opt out of personal information being used for advertising, you can still see ads that are tailored to you and your interests. Certain data collection activities can be controlled by you or your authorized agent. Do Not Sell My Personal Information Rights is a website where you can learn more.

Performance Cookies