Despite a wave of changes last summer and a clear intention for new designs in North London; both Arsenal and Tottenham have reverted to type over the course of this season.
It’s one of fiercest rivalries in the Premier League – the battle for bragging rights in North London has been a war of words and warriors both on and off the pitch since long before the Premier League was the mass brand we see today.
Flashback to last May when the Gunners clinched the fourth spot ahead of their archrivals on the last day of the season at Newcastle – the weeks and months that followed set up a summer transfer window beyond either club’s wildest dreams and nightmares. Tottenham’s PFA Player of the Year seemed destined to depart for Madrid but there was palpable optimism that his departure could and would open a door to the future for Spurs.
Meanwhile, Arsenal were still just clinching fourth and still hadn’t won a trophy for the ninth consecutive year under Arsene Wenger who seemed to have lost and be losing the faith of the fans at the Emirates that had been unequivocal since his arrival at Highbury in 1996.
In that time, Spurs had seen no less than 14 managers come and go but Andre Villas-Boas seemed to be the man to take the club forward – the Portuguese coach had won more points in his time at Spurs than any other boss at the club in the Premier League and his continental flair and dynamism on the touchline inspired the likes of Bale to aspire for the heights of trophies and titles. The future looked bright for Tottenham and many were prophesising the swing of the North London pendulum in Spurs’ favour.
Then came December and off the back of a number of poor performances and results Villas-Boas was sacked and suddenly all eyes were again on Daniel Levy – the future and the season that had promised so much was suddenly a daydream.
The seven players who came in to the club in the summer seemed a shadow of the players they had been elsewhere, the form and confidence seemed to have disappeared from White Hart Lane where fans rushed to social media and websites to roll their eyes to the sky as another season look set to be a failure of the club’s objective.
Meanwhile, no one actually expected Wenger to spend £42.5 million and no one (including the player himself) expected to see Mesut Ozil sign for the Gunners from Real Madrid. There’s almost, upon reflection, a certain irony about the synchronicity of the two rival club’s summers and seasons. Without Bale leaving, Ozil would have likely not signed and, as they say, the rest is history.
Arsenal, however, had been riding high as Tottenham fell into despair towards the festive period – the Gunners were top of the league table for weeks on end with renewed spirit and belief that this could finally be their year but, here are, it’s April 2014 and Arsenal are in fourth place, out of the Champions League after suffering a number of injuries to key players and losing their bottle against the big teams in recent weeks and Spurs, meanwhile, seem resigned to missing out on the Champions League again.
Arsenal have the FA Cup to chase and Tottenham can still hope the Gunners and Everton slip up in the remaining fixtures still but the season for both the North London rivals that held so much promise of change, progress and perhaps even prosperity didn’t deliver on its promise.
Instead of change, it’s just more of the same for both Tottenham and Arsenal who will have to re-think again come May.