When I first came to Highbury, I knew about the North London Derby, but not in any depth. I was aware there were a lot of London clubs, and that I would have to play in a lot of local derbies.
But it wasn’t at the forefront of my knowledge.
I used to see a lot of Spurs fans in the streets, or end up as a passenger in their cabs, and, almost without fail, they were friendly.
Despite the talk about how I came to Arsenal in the first place – remember the famous taxi story? – they were nice to me, telling me how good a player I was and asking for photos with me.
Even if I’d played in a North London Derby in the preceding days, I could walk the streets without any problems and mix freely with Spurs supporters. That’s something I appreciated about how things were in English football back then.
If you respected the game, and your opponent, supporters would in turn respect you.
As a new arrival in the Premiership, that was a novel experience for me.
Nowadays, Arsenal have lost the supremacy they once had in this fixture and in this rivalry. The team to beat now is Tottenham, making this a must-win game for Arsenal on Saturday. They simply cannot afford to lose at home to Spurs.
If they do – oh my god!
If Arsenal can play as a unit and with the required intensity across the board, then they have the quality to win. But this will be a tough game: tactically, physically and mentally. As it is for any side that goes up against Tottenham now.
Preparation is key – you need to be ready for what you’re facing, to be ready to fight for every ball. But, psychologically, Spurs are the better team.
They have leaders throughout their side – Arsenal don’t.
This game is about more than just three points – it’s about sending a message.