In the world of soccer, few things get the blood pumping like a local derby. While each match counts for the same three points, there’s something special about knocking your rival down a peg. And if an ordinary win isn’t sweet enough, imagine clinching the league title on opposition turf. That’s exactly what Thierry Henry and Arsenal did during the 2003-04 Premier League campaign.
Ahead of that match, the police actually requested that the Gunners avoid excessive celebrations at White Hart Lane. While Henry was prepared to comply, Spurs’ collective behavior during the contest prompted him to change his mind.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Tottenham’s celebration prompted Thierry Henry and Arsenal to celebrate their league title
When you’re talking about a local derby, there’s always the extra potential for fireworks. In April 2004, the authorities were aware of that reality ahead of the North London Derby. Arsenal were one point away from clinching a league title at their biggest foe’s home ground, and no one wanted to take any chances.
“It was kind of weird because I remember we had orders from the police not to over-celebrate if we won the title there,” the French forward told Sky Sports. “In all fairness we all said we understood because it might go too far.”
During the match, however, everything changed. Arsenal let a two-goal lead slip, and Spurs tied the game with a late Robbie Keane penalty. As you might expect, scoring an equalizer in stoppage time prompted the Tottenham players to start celebrating.
“I remember [Tottenham defender Mauricio] Tarrico jumping around, and he got a cramp out of it, by the way,” Henry continued in a video interview that’s preserved on Youtube. “Jumping around and celebrating it. Like celebrating a draw. First of all, that tells you their standard. Celebrating a draw. And I looked at him, and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And he went, ‘Yeah,’ jumping in front of me. I said, ‘Do you realize that we only needed a point to be champions at your place?'”
Henry, ever the competitor, saw an opportunity to strike back. If Spurs were going to celebrate a draw, he and his teammates were going to show that what it really meant to achieve something.
I said, “Watch me after the game.” And it’s, that’s the way it is, the game. If you act strong, be strong at the end. So, I said to, I remember at the end of the game, everyone was like, “Do not celebrate.” I said, “What? I will celebrate, and you will see our, our, our, how much it is going to hurt them.” … And I had to celebrate. They were celebrating a draw and coming in front of me, like, jumping around like they won something. So, I said, “OK, we are not supposed to celebrate, but now, I’m going to celebrate with my fans.Thierry Henry
And celebrate they did. That afternoon produced some iconic scenes, including Arsene Wenger celebrating with an “Arsene Knows” banner in the background. And, to this day, Gunners supporters still sing plenty of songs about winning the league at White Hart Lane.
The celebrations weren’t done that day, either. Arsenal would finish the season unbeaten, further writing their collective names into Premier League history.