Distraught, saddened, angry. Just some of the feelings I felt when I found out Tottenham had totally capitulated and lost 5-1, at home, to Manchester City. Had I not been on holiday, I would have been at the game and fortunately, being away saved me from the ridicule that I, amongst all Spurs fans up and down the country, would have surely been on the end of the very next day.
However, what followed was Arsenal’s 8-2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United, albeit, away from home. All of sudden, the 5-1 defeat didn’t seem all too bad but, fortunately for both parties, the results would surely save one another from the mockery that had one team been successful, the other would have ripped the other one to shreds. Instead, it was more of an ‘unlucky at the weekend’ from Spurs to Arsenal, and vice versa, with the reply being a frank ‘and you’.
It was a stark reminder that the best teams in England no longer play in London with both Manchester sides out to keep the title in the north rather than their neighbours in the south wrestling it back from them. Sir Alex Ferguson this morning proclaimed that he believes any one of last season’s top six teams can win the Premiership this season, Arsenal and Spurs included. Unfortunately, I don’t believe either of north London’s giants are up to the title challenge as the results of two weeks ago prove.
For some, it is more about pride over which rival can finish above the other. In recent years, Arsenal have always gazumped Spurs into finishing above the white half of north London and it is about high time the red half suffered. Both sides have come a long way recently, Spurs, arguably, are moving in the right direction, despite the initial blip during the reign of Juande Ramos who, in all fairness, did bring a trophy to White Hart Lane.
Can the same be said of Arsenal? The ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003/04 is almost eight years ago now and the club haven’t won a trophy since their FA Cup win in 2005. So many trophy-less seasons has seen a number of Spurs fans believing the next season is the one where they finally finish above their rivals. Yet, Harry Redknapp’s side have failed to deliver on too many occasions and while the players talk the talk, it has been the Arsenal players who walk the walk in recent years.
Yet, Spurs fans have every right to be optimistic. It is what makes Spurs, well, Spurs. From the days of Sir Bill Nicholson right through the dreary days of Christian Gross and Gerry Francis up to the modern days of Redknapp, Spurs fans have forever been the optimistic bunch, made more difficult by the fact that, whenever the odd pessimist attempts to bring the dreamers back down to earth, they are shot down quicker than a record breaking Usain Bolt sprint.
Some fans believe that this year could be the turning point in the two side’s history, where Spurs overtake Arsenal in the battle for supremacy over North London. Last year’s North London derbies can be considered a testament to that. Spurs finally won their first NLD at Arsenal in 17 years when Younes Kaboul’s late header condemned the Gunners to a 3-2 defeat at the Emirates while the return fixture at White Hart Lane was evenly balanced at 3-3 with both sides forcing the best out of Heurelho Gomes and Wojciech Szczesny in their respective goals.
The entertaining fixture would, as some Arsenal fans were ultimately expecting, be the last they would see Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas performing in a north London derby and the loss of both influential players gave Spurs fans hope that this season would be the season that would see the tide turn between the two. How do you recover from losing two prominent members of the starting XI, coupled with the loss of Gael Clichy? You sign Premier League experienced creative forces in their places.
That is exactly what Arsene Wenger did on the final day of the transfer window. Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun may not be on the same level as Nasri and Fabregas but what Wenger has now is two experienced centre midfielders who know the league like the backs of their respective hands. Park Chu Young, Andre Santos, as a replacement for Clichy, Per Mertesacker, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the highly-rated Ryo Miyaichi, or Ryodinho according to the Dutch press, all set to play their part in the coming season, some Arsenal fans believe they have strengthened in the right areas and are stronger than they were last season.
In comparison, Spurs have added the well known Emmanuel Adebayor, Scott Parker and Brad Friedel to the ranks strengthening in the necessary areas but will it be enough to topple Wenger’s side? I don’t think so. The Frenchman has bought in a number of experienced players. Santos will ease the pressure from the shoulders of the injury prone Kieran Gibbs and the Brazilian international is a more than ample replacement for Clichy, Mertesacker will help fill the ever present hole in the centre of defence and once Thomas Vermaelen is fit again, both will undoubtedly form a formidable partnership at the back.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one for the future but is one of the hottest prospects available to England and has followed in the footsteps of new team-mate Theo Walcott and Welsh winger Gareth Bale by making the transition from Championship to Premiership via the fabled Southampton youth academy while with South Korean international Young and Gervinho of the Ivory Coast, two further experienced heads are added to the ranks and it means that the ghost of Nicklas Bendtner can be put to rest, for a season at least.
So, coming from a Spurs fan, I cannot see this year being the year that Arsenal become the second best side in north London. Arsene Wenger has what it takes to get the best out of his players and will continue to do so this season. But, the gulf in class is closing quicker than some Arsenal fans may like to admit and it won’t be long before the Spurs become the number one side in north London.
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