Hating Arsenal & 'fragile foundations' - inside the weirdest night in Premier League history

  • Tottenham beaten 2-0 by Man City on Tuesday
  • Spurs supporters split between wanting their own side and wanting to lose to spite Arsenal
  • Ange Postecoglou furious at 'foundations' of club
Postecoglou was insistent that he wanted to win
Postecoglou was insistent that he wanted to win / Julian Finney/GettyImages

FROM TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM - Never before in the Premier League era has a set of home fans wanted their team to lose.

Tottenham knew that if they took anything off Manchester City then it would all but secure a first Premier League title in 20 years for rivals Arsenal.

The feeling among Spurs supporters was not universal that they actively preferred their side not to emerge victorious, but they were unanimous in their hatred of the Gunners. Most, therefore, were at least open-minded about a City win.

Leading to the game, Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou was fiercely critical of the notion that fans would actively root against their own team. He was proven wrong.

The first chants of the night were anti-Arsenal. For the first five minutes, they barely stopped. And then Spurs showed some promise.

That extra spark of ingenuity that was present in the first few months of the Postecoglou era but went AWOL thereafter suddenly returned. Maybe it was the sense that this was a free hit and the pressure was off, maybe City's own game matched up perfectly with their style - Spurs did cause them some headaches in a 3-3 draw at the Etihad Stadium in December, after all.

Rodrigo Bentancur stung the palms of Ederson early on and suddenly it was tangible - Tottenham could help Arsenal.

Down the other end, a brain-fart from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg gifted an opening to Phil Foden, whose only blemish of the night was not converting the resulting volley.

After being so effusive in their hatred of Arsenal, Spurs fans didn't know what to do now. The atmosphere became flatter, but not to the point where it completely died. Murmurs and rumblings filled the air, like the background sounds you pick up when watching matches on non-native broadcasts. White noise against a murky backdrop.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League
Loyalties seemed split among supporters / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Tottenham conceded early in the first half, and the curiosity of what home supporters would do ended. Few actively cheered - some presumed fans in the home end were removed by stewards - but there was not a sense of anger or anguish. When Spurs won a corner, the 'come on you Spurs' cries were not wholehearted. When a player misstepped, the only angry person in the stadium was Postecoglou.

The chants continued. 'Stand up if you hate Arsenal'. 'F***ing hate Arsenal'. 'Are you watching Arsenal?'

With 85 minutes on the clock, the season's biggest sliding-doors moment arrived. Manuel Akanji dawdled. Brennan Johnson pounced. Son Heung-min ran. Substitute goalkeeper Stefan Ortega was the last man back.

Son had scored this exact chance a hundred times over, in this stadium, at that end, beneath the golden cockerel and in front of over 17,000 fans looking down behind the goal. This time was different.

Somehow, somehow, Son's shot was saved by Ortega. And home supporters found themselves disappointed. Not enough to blow their lid off but to voice their annoyance, nonetheless.

We'll never know what would have happened if Spurs had actually scored, and after Erling Haaland converted a last-minute penalty, it didn't really matter.

Postecoglou didn't directly call out Spurs' fans, but he was clearly bitter. He described the atmosphere as 'different' and then claimed the club's foundations were 'fragile', that he'd learnt a lot in the last 48 hours.

A new culture war may have started within Tottenham with only five days of the season remaining. Only Spurs could find themselves at the centre of such discourse.