Tottenham have gone on a shopping spree this summer while Arsenal have struggled address their weaknesses. Brendon Netto discusses why Spurs now have the upper hand.
In the last nine Premier League seasons, Tottenham Hotspur have finished in the top five seven times but only tasted Champions League football once. Their North London rivals, Arsenal have beaten them to the final slot thrice in that time much like they did last season. However, the contrasting transfer activities of the two clubs this summer paints a very different picture of what may lie ahead this time around.
Spurs have consistently lit up England’s top flight with an attractive brand of football which normally kept them just outside the ‘big four’ (apart from that hiccup under Juande Ramos and the following rebuilding season under Harry Redknapp). Since then Manchester City have replaced Liverpool as part of that elite quartet and now Spurs are threatening to take their place at the top at the expense of Arsenal.
Bale's imminent departure has funded Spurs' shopping spree
With Gareth Bale’s imminent move to Real Madrid nearing completion, Spurs have gone about reinforcing every department of what was an already good team. Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Paulinho, Etiene Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen and Vlad Chiriches have signed for the club so far.
The new arrivals are set to cost the club a figure in the region of £110 million but with Bale’s fee covering most of that, it's turning out to be excellent business from Andre Villas-Boas and co. Tottenham have had good teams for a few years now but thanks to the acquisitions they’ve made this summer, they can boast a great ‘squad’ for the new season capable of rivaling any in England.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s transfer activity couldn’t be more different. Arsene Wenger has either sold or released 22 players this summer, 7 of whom were in the senior squad. In addition to that, he’s loaned out a further 7 players, 3 of whom have appeared for the senior team. That’s 10 players from the first team squad gone with only two arrivals taking their place.
The two recruits however arrived on free transfers, the 20 year-old Yaya Sanogo and former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini returning for a second spell. The problem is that Sanogo is not the answer for them up front and the latter seems more like a stop-gap solution in their quest to land a defensive midfielder.
Just not enough| Flamini arrived on a free transfer
Arsenal’s habit of losing their best players has punctured more holes in their squad than they’ve been able to plug. They can’t keep up with the departures anymore so at least it’s a good sign that they’ve kept all of their regulars from last season. However, they needed to improve in every department and while they’ve tried to, they’ve fallen well short.
Early on in the summer, Arsenal seemed interested in Marouane Fellaini before his £23.5 million release clause reportedly spooked them while they were close to signing Gonzalo Higuain but were out-priced by Napoli. Their pursuit of Luis Suarez didn’t yield any results despite the player’s desire to leave and they are also said to have missed out on Luiz Gustavo aside from being linked to several others.
Their failures in the transfer market so far have rendered the squad weaker than ever and devoid of the kind of quality that’s needed to compete at the top. What makes it all particularly bad is how much Spurs have strengthened, since they are their biggest threat in terms of Champions League qualification while Liverpool have made a few quality reinforcements as well.
Strangely enough, Arsenal have most recently tabled a £10 million bid for Yohann Cabaye and are also chasing Angel di Maria, two players that shouldn’t be their priority right now. Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have picked up injuries but with Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla, they do have players to play in those wide roles while Riyo Miyachi is also available.
Arsenal's latest targets don't match their priorities
Taking that into consideration, Di Maria is perhaps not a necessity. Meanwhile, despite Mikel Arteta being out inured, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Rosicky and Cazorla are more than capable of filling in for the Spaniard so Cabaye shouldn’t be a priority either but perhaps a holding midfielder instead. A quality striker, a reliable center-back and goalkeeper should be their targeted players as well.
Meanwhile, Spurs have gone about their transactions strategically. With Jermaine Defoe incapable of leading the line on his own effectively, despite his form in front of goal, and Emmanuel Adebayor’s poor scoring record, it was evident that they needed a top striker. That’s exactly what they got in Soldado; Defoe’s movement and finishing combined with Adebayor’s link-up play.
Scott Parker had started to fade away last season and was riddled with injuries so in came Brazil’s Confederation Cup winning midfielder, Paulinho and they added the promising Capoue from Saint Etienne for good measure. Bale’s impending departure meant Chadli and Lamela were recruited with Andros Townsend in reserve as well.
Steven Caulker was sold but Chiriches was brought in and let’s not forget that they also have former Manchester United youngster Ezequiel Fryers in reserve while Danny Rose has returned from an impressive loan spell with Sunderland. They effectively strengthened every department of the squad.
Spurs can look to shed their inferiority complex
As the North London rivals gear up for the derby, Spurs look like the more assured of the two. This is as close to a complete team they could have hoped for, and nearly everyone is fit. At the moment though, Arsenal seem vulnerable in so many areas and the team has a patched-up look to it not only because of the lack of transfers but their recent injury woes as well which have only exposed their thin squad.
For 16 years Arsenal have consistently featured in Europe’s elite competition and that’s been their greatest achievement in recent times but they are now in severe danger of ending that streak and Spurs may have a hand in that. Villas-Boas certainly has the necessary tools at his disposal to finally rid Spurs of their inferiority complex but you can’t write off Arsenal just yet. Either way, the North London derby should give us a better idea of whether a power-shift is on the horizon or not.
|Who will win the derby? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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