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Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium won’t be ready in time for the second north London derby of the Premier League season. It means the Lilywhites will have to host neighbours Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday, March 2.
Spurs made the announcement on the club’s official website on Thursday, citing “remedial works on the safety systems in the new stadium.”
Those processes are almost complete, but Tottenham need to finish testing fire alarm systems before a safety certificate can be allotted to the venue set to hold just over 62,000 fans.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy praised the patience of fans still waiting on the club’s new home: “Once again, thank you all for bearing with us and for the great support we have received from so many different quarters. These next few weeks are pivotal.”
While Levy sounds confident an arduous journey is almost at an end, the delay in opening Tottenham’s new home has been an awkward and embarrassing one for the club.
The new stadium, located on the site of the old White Hart Lane facility, was supposed to be ready for matches last September. Lengthy hold-ups since have been a source of humour for fans of rival clubs.
Even Arsenal head coach Unai Emery provided a light-hearted moment when he was asked about being denied the chance to play in Spurs’ new home:
James Benge @jamesbenge
The only GIF you'll ever need https://t.co/ujDBQ5btHg
In fairness, Emery wanted to keep the focus of Thursday’s press conference on the Gunners’ upcoming match away to Huddersfield Town, per Neil McLeman of the Daily Mirror: “You are asking me about Saturday at Huddersfield… and you are asking me about March?”
Emery may not be thinking about Spurs just yet, but the announcement of yet another delay only adds to the narrative the new stadium project has been a badly managed struggle.
The uncertainty it’s caused hasn’t helped a gifted squad working hard to end a lengthy trophy drought dating back to 2008:
B/R Football @brfootball
4,000 days since Tottenham last won a major trophy.
10 other British teams have won 36 trophies in that time 😬 https://t.co/0F1RxHG5s1
Spurs remain in the thick of the Premier League title race, sitting third in the table and just five points adrift of the top two, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tottenham haven’t been winning trophies, but they have become a fixture in the UEFA Champions League on Mauricio Pochettino’s watch. He’s guided Spurs into the lucrative tournament in each of the last three seasons and is preparing to face Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 later this month.
It’s a far cry from the state of things in the other half of north London, where Arsenal are rebuilding after Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger during the summer. Emery’s Gunners are sixth in the table, three points shy of the top four and playing a second season in Europe’s second-tier competition, the UEFA Europa League.
Ironically, Arsenal’s struggles since last winning a league title in 2004 owe a lot to the expensive move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners have been ensconced at the latter venue since 2006, but the cost impacted their standing on the pitch.
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Spurs may face similar problems, but they do own a strong recent record against Arsenal. Tottenham haven’t lost a derby at home since a Tomas Rosicky wonder strike let the Gunners leave the Lane with a 1-0 win in 2014.
Arsenal did beat Spurs on home soil earlier in this campaign, winning 4-2 back in early December. However, Tottenham got revenge later the same month with a 2-0 away win in the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
If Arsenal returned the favour in March, better the blow come at Spurs’ temporary home rather than their brand new one. Yet Tottenham have fared well at Wembley, even in front of crowds significantly less than the 90,000 capacity:
🏟 Average attendance in @PremierLeague this season:
📈 @ManUtd leading the way. https://t.co/Zkcdr1mhVR
The club will hope the latest delay is the final one, although it could stretch beyond March 2:
Simon Stone @sistoney67
Looking like April before @SpursOfficial can play in their new stadium. Arsenal match confirmed for Wembley. Palace visit on 16 March will be off if Eagles beat Doncaster in FA Cup.
Beating Arsenal and damaging their neighbours’ hopes of returning to the Champions League would have been the ideal way for Spurs to open their new home. At this stage, though, Tottenham supporters will likely welcome any occasion to unveil the stadium.
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