What happens when a rivalry has no history? Arsenal and Tottenham prepare for first WSL north London derby

The two clubs have a massive rivalry in the men’s game, but when the women’s teams meet on Sunday a new chapter will be written in its hostile history

When the north London derby comes around, it is massive. The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham is embedded in years and years of history – but what happens when you remove that history?

That is exactly what will happen on Sunday, when Arsenal and Tottenham’s women’s teams face off for the first time in the Women’s Super League.

“I think it will still feel like derby,” Jordan Nobbs, the Gunners’ No.8, tells Goal.

“It is new and fresh but hopefully, especially playing at their stadium, it will hopefully be a good moment for us to start off the tradition of big derby days like that.”

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will be a fitting setting as these two clubs write a new chapter in the story of the famous rivalry.

Both have faced off before, but with Arsenal having been a top team in the game for many years and Tottenham only promoted to that top tier this year, this weekend is the start of something new.

“It’s massive for me as a person and a player to be a part of it,” Spurs defender Hannah Godfrey says.

“For this club, being in the highest league and having that chance to play at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and against Arsenal – it’s just massive. You can’t really put it into words.

“Obviously since joining Tottenham, they’ve got a big place in my heart now believe it or not,” the 22-year-old, who grew up as a Chelsea fan, laughs.

“It’s an honour to represent the club, whether we’re against Arsenal or against anyone else, we just want to go out there and win. That’s the main thing.”

Nobbs embodies the same pride playing for Arsenal that any north London derby needs.

“I feel like I’m a Gooner now,” says the 26-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Sunderland back in 2010.

“I’ve obviously loved this club from the age of 17.

“When I came, I was fighting for a place with fantastic players and Arsenal have developed me into the player I am today.

“I can’t thank them enough for letting me be a part of their club, the club that I love now and the club that I want to play for. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Sunday is a huge day for Tottenham. After promotion last season, the club is now fully professional, with pro contracts a well-deserved reward for players who spent years splitting their time between full-time work and playing commitments – as so many women do.

“This is what players dream of,” Godfrey, who joined in the summer after studying in America, says.

“I’m sure a lot of other clubs are looking and wishing they were in our shoes.

“We’ve just got to go out there and enjoy the experience. Hopefully this is just the start for women’s football.

“We had a great start to the season, now it’s just a case of showcasing what we’ve got and putting Tottenham Hotspur on the map, showing people that we are in the WSL to compete and to do well.”

They have been doing exactly that so far, sitting comfortably in sixth going into the fixture.

Spurs have also been part of many big occasions along the way – playing at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea before beating West Ham at the London Stadium.

“We’ve played in two big stadiums already and we knew we were going there to get points and get results,” Godfrey says.

“Whether we’re in front of 10,000 fans or 10 fans, we knew that no matter what the occasion, we are there to win and that’s what football’s all about.

“We don’t want to get carried away, but we’re also going to enjoy the experience. This is massive for the club and for us as players as well.”

Arsenal’s task, as comes with any derby, is ruining their big day – especially with a league title defence on their agenda.

“I’ve seen a lot on social media of the girls posting about it so it would be great to upset them,” Nobbs laughs.

“They’ve obviously improved a lot since we met them at the start of the season in a friendly [which Arsenal won 6-0], so it’s not going to be the easiest game – I don’t think any game has been in the league yet. It’s a big game for us to get three big points.

“Obviously, the women’s game is changing where you need to get used to playing in front of [big crowds].

“There’s that added pressure but the preparation and everything we do is the same.

“It’s about performing on the day and making sure that we don’t slip at any point in this league.”

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