For the majority of the 2012-13 Premier League season, it appeared like Tottenham Hotspur had the better standing in the division over neighbours Arsenal. Indeed, having slayed Arsene Wenger's Gunners with a 2-1 triumph in March, Spurs opened up a ten-point gap and seemed a sure thing for a finish inside the top four and a passage into Champions League qualification.
Mind the gap
Arsenal, though, resigned Tottenham to Europa League football on May 19 having closed the gap and pipped their rivals to fourth place on the final day of the campaign.
While Gunners fans were jubilant with the dramatic finish, compounded by a pledge from Ivan Gazidis that Wenger would be gifted a £70m budget for transfers in the summer market, their transfer window business has not just been underwhelming… but non-existent, bar the free signings of Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini.
That £70m warchest will have been significantly bolstered through the collective player sales of Andrei Arshavin, Denilson, Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh, Andre Santos and a vast number of reserves, however, the big-money signings that the first-team needs for a top four push this season continue to be lacking.
Tottenham, in stark contrast, have enjoyed one of the best summer markets for any Premier League participant having secured the acquisitions of Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue and the supremely talented Erik Lamela.
The first North London derby of the season arrives this Sunday, September 1 at Emirates Stadium, but Theo Walcott refuses to believe that Spurs have not only closed the gap, but made a statement of superiority.
'Not at all,' the zippy winger said simply to Evening Standard recently.
'We’re very, very strong. Everyone makes out our squad is very weak and there are not many of us but we showed in the last few games that we bounced back from a bad result in the first match [3-1 loss to Aston Villa] and proved a lot of people wrong.
'They have some very good players and a very good manager but we need to make sure we focus on ourselves. The way we’re playing at the moment we believe we can beat anyone. We don’t care if they have brought in £30m stars.'
Wenger continues to search the market but rumours of Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema are fading, leaving the press with Yohan Cabaye as the sole recognisable name to run in their columns, but is the Frenchman enough? Especially when Tottenham's own activity is yet to be concluded?
Regardless, Sunday, in the words of Theo, will be a 'pretty impressive spectacle for the neutral.' Maybe then Arsenal will care about the £30m stars.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald