The derby match: more than just a game?

Kick starting Liverpool's Euro chase?

So Tuesday night saw Steven Gerrard inspire Liverpool to a 3-0 win over local rivals Everton in a match that avoided them the embarrassment of four straight defeats in the Premier League.

The question very much now is whether the Reds can use the result as a springboard and achieve their ultimate aim of playing in European competition next season.

As for Everton, it’s a case of how do you pick yourself up after such a crushing defeat to your biggest rivals?

Looking at this season, form would suggest that the gap between these two sides will probably increase over the coming weeks as Liverpool ride the crest of the wave of victory, while Everton are weighed down in defeat.

Take a look at the Tyne-Wear derby on the second weekend of the season. Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light set Alan Pardew’s team off on what would be an unbeaten run until mid November – a marvellous feat for a team many predicted for the drop this year.

On the other side of the coin, you have the Mackem’s. Steve Bruce simply couldn’t pick his side up after derby day defeat and the Black Cats nose dived down the table. If the scores were reversed that day, would Steve Bruce still be in a job? And would Newcastle still have went on to impress as many people as they have so far this season? You can make your own minds up.

The most stark example of derby-day syndrome this season is probably from last month’s North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates, where Spurs went into the game 10 points ahead of the Gunners at the start of play.

Spurs went 2-0 up after a little more than half an hour played, and the whispers about Arsene Wenger’s future at the club began to circulate.

The reaction from the Arsenal players, however, was phenomenal, hauling Tottenham back to 2-2 before half-time and going on to bulldozer their neighbours 5-2 in a game that has undoubtedly changed their season.

Since that game, Spurs remain locked on 53 points, having lost every game since. Arsenal, on the other hand, are now breathing down their necks on 52 points, winning 4 games out of 4. Tottenham were 13 points clear when they were 2-0 up in the game – after letting their lead slip, they’re in serious danger of being knocked off their perch.

This isn’t just in England, though, look at the SPL. Glasgow Rangers had been leading Celtic in the league by a massive 15 points a month  before the two sides met in December of last year. Celtic won the match 1-0 and leapfrogged their Old Firm rivals into top spot.

Had goal-line technology been in place on that night at Celtic Park, Rangers probably would have drawn that game 1-1 and would have still been in 1st place at the end of 90 minutes. Sure, the Gers have since been docked points and lost players – but without this they would still be a massive 11 points behind their city rivals, despite being a point ahead at the beginning of this match.

It would seem that these derby matches are becoming more and more important for teams. Maybe because of the pressure put on the game by the media, or maybe because the teams that we’ve looked at have so little to choose between them. Either way, these have been season defining matches.

Of course I’ve only looked at a very small number of examples, and I’m sure there’s plenty of evidence to counter this trend, but I want to know what you think about this? Do you think the derby is just another game? A day for supporters of both clubs to show their passion? Or is it a game that can have massively psychological effects on teams and have huge implications on their seasons?

Let me know what you think with any sort of feedback – comments, tweets, facebook etc.

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4 thoughts on “The derby match: more than just a game?

  1. Excellent topic to debate! No question teams pull out all the stops to win and try and humiliate their local rivals! The excitement it generates between fans and the confidence it restores to players not to be underestimated, however, your right it can work both ways! How does this compare in Europe?

    1. Good topic, right?! The fans play such a huge part in the derby matches, and even if your team has been stuffed 8 weeks in a row, the fans can quite easily get right behind the players – and as you said – it gives the players a boost.

      As in terms of the continent, it’s hard to say. La Liga we have the top two Barca and Madrid effectively doing the same as Celtic and Rangers. The only other division I follow with interest in Serie A. It’s mostly about pride over there. Roma and Lazio kick seven bells out of each other, but it doesn’t tend to effect their form so much. The Milan game has been won by the far stronger side in the last couple of years, so it’s more true to form than form shattering!

  2. The Derby game is the one the fans look forward to all season and it is a must not lose game as it could ruin a fantastic season. Alan Pardew the Newcastle manager said that he would not be able to call this season a fantastic one if they had lost against Sunderland no matter how high up the table they finished. Just shows how important they are to everyone and how it can even influence future results

    1. Very true. In regards to Pardew’s comments, that’s right enough. Okay, you may finish ahead of your rivals, but can you truly call yourself the best in the area if you’re not being the teams around you. Sure, a season is over 38 games, but those 2 are massively important.

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