After a disappointing season finale for Spurs in which they failed to qualify for a Champions League place ahead of Arsenal for the second successive year, the club simply refused to lick their wounds and moved forward with ambition and tenacity in the transfer market whilst Arsenal floundered.
The mood was palpable at the Emirates on the Gunners’ opening day defeat to Aston Villa – the fans heckled the manager and booed their way to the exits before the final whistle. Chants of ‘spend some f***ing money’ resounded around the Emirates stadium, their discord a mark of frustration and disillusionment at the club’s failure to deliver on their promises of new signings.
Across the North London divide and the mood is very different at White Hart Lane – despite the seemingly ‘imminent’ sale of Spurs’ best player Gareth Bale, the manager and the fans remain optimistic and positive about the future of the club and its ambitions this term.
Spurs have made up ground on Arsenal in recent terms, under Villas-boas and his predecessor Harry Redknapp, they have transformed from an underachieving mid-table club in the Premier League to consistent competitors for the top four and beyond.
Their disappointment last season only served to galvanize the players and the manager to strive even harder with more conviction. The potential loss of their best player hasn’t hampered their progression this summer – they are building on what they’ve got and their intentions have been demonstrated clearly with their £58.4 million outlay on new additions.
The arrival of Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, and Etienne Capoue – all top quality professionals with hunger and ambition – and the offloading of underperformers like William Gallas, Steven Caulker, Tom Huddlestone, Clint Dempsey and Scott Parker is a statement of intent on the part of the manager and the club – they simply won’t settle for anything less that the best.
Where Arsenal have been indecisive, slow, reactionary, and nervous in their operations this summer (as they have been in previous windows) Tottenham have been assertive and handled their business with courage and conviction.
In recent seasons, Arsenal have lost their best players – in the last two summers alone Gunners have lost Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy due to their lack of ambition and their lack of clear direction. They failed to adequately replace all of the above and subsequently, they’ve plateaued in terms of their success (or lack thereof) on the pitch.
Tottenham have already made necessary preparations for the potential loss of Bale – they’re reportedly lining up the imminent transfer of Erik Lamela from Roma as his replacement to combine with their other new additions in midfield and forward positions – this is not a club that is underprepared for the season ahead.
Arsenal have begun the new season with huge chunks missing from their senior squad – they have nowhere near the required strength, depth and quality to compete across all competitions this term at present and with less than a week left of the window to go, they’re still treading water.
They failed in recent seasons to replace their best players and, whilst they’ve managed to keep hold of their first-team this summer, they have so far completely failed to bring in reinforcement and improve their overall quality. Arsenal fans are, despite two good results in the past week, still in disbelief at the mismanagement of their club’s transfer business this summer.
Arsenal may yet discover, in a cruel twist of fate at the hands of their most bitter rivals no less, that standing still leaves you lagging behind when all around you your competitors move forward. Tottenham have operated with intelligence, ambition and confidence this summer. Arsenal have done nothing but hold what they have.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald