It has been a mixed week for north London’s finest, with impressive domestic performances followed by disappointment and frustration in Europe.
For Arsenal, the highs of a 5-2 victory over previously unbeaten Leicester City were tainted by the lows of a demoralising 3-2 reversal against Olympiakos in the Champions League – with Arsene Wenger’s team selection and general management suddenly being questioned again from all quarters.
Tottenham Hotspur fared a little better, with their 4-1 mauling of high-flying Manchester City countered by a 1-1 draw away at Monaco in the Europa League – with a late leveller from the hosts leaving Mauricio Pochettino to reflect on what could have been.
Attention now switches back to Premier League competition, with it important that both the Gunners and Spurs put their midweek efforts to the back of their mind and focus fully on testing Sunday showdowns.
Wenger’s men are due to welcome table-topping Manchester United to the Emirates, for what is always a full-blooded encounter, while Pochettino’s troops face a difficult trip to South Wales to take on Swansea City.
Banana skins aplenty await both sides, but Jimmy Bullard is among those who believe the 2015/16 campaign still has the potential to be memorably productive for two of the capital’s heavyweights.
Speaking as part of Ladbrokes Rugby’s ‘Who’s Got The Balls’ campaign, the former Premier League midfielder told HITC Sport on Arsenal’s title ambitions – with the Gunners only three points off the pace and eyeing a potential clamber to the summit this weekend: “This year, you are going to see a lot of the big teams being beaten. It has already started like that and there is going to be a lot more of that this year.
“Arsenal are going to be well in the running. I like their team. It only takes a team like that to get a bit of confidence and go on a good run and all of a sudden...If United and City lose a few games, which they are going to do this year, then a club like Arsenal can be a big issue, without a shadow of a doubt.”
As for Spurs – who, unbeaten in the league since the opening weekend, have edged their way to within a point of the top-four – Bullard believes the scramble for Champions League qualification will be as fiercely-contested as ever.
He added: “It’s so hard to call the top one and two this year, as hard as it has been for some time, so the top four could be anyone’s, couldn’t it? Let’s have it right, I could see a Leicester or a Palace or a Stoke - who’s to say one of those clubs couldn’t finish top four?”
The ambitions of both clubs are likely to rest on the performances of key men, with two of those – Alexis Sanchez and Harry Kane – opening their respective Premier League goal accounts for the season last weekend.
Bullard considers that to be a bonus for Arsenal and Spurs, but believes there is still a marked difference in terms of quality when it comes to the leading attacking lights at the Emirates and White Hart Lane.
He said: “Harry Kane, for me, he’s still got something to prove – he’s a young boy. Alexis Sanchez, let’s have it right, he’s done the business for Barcelona, he did the business last year and is now starting this year. Harry Kane has got a little bit more to prove, I feel.
“I would put Sanchez in a completely different league to Kane. He hasn’t got a strike partner and Tottenham aren’t as good as Arsenal. Kane hasn’t got the players behind him that Sanchez has – (Aaron) Ramsey, (Mesut) Ozil, (Theo) Walcott – Harry Kane hasn’t got that quality, not being disrespectful, player for player. If you put Harry Kane in Arsenal’s team, he would have a lot more chances. They are two totally different players. Sanchez is near enough world-class, for me.”
What the season has in store for Arsenal, Tottenham, Sanchez and Kane remains to be seen, with the two collectives hoping to improve upon their efforts in 2014/15, while the individuals will be hard pushed to match, never mind better their efforts from last term.
There is a long way to go, though, and still every reason to believe that the red and white halves of north London will have plenty to be positive about come the end of the campaign.
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