Are Spurs about to overtake Arsenal as king of north London clubs?
Holly Thackeray | March 5, 2016
Since that game-changing mid-summer moment in 1996, when French innovator Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight, Tottenham have been north London’s biggest also-ran.
No matter what Spurs seemed to do, they never quite clicked all components into place, and were left smouldering in the shade as the Gunners went on their ‘Invincibles’ surge.
Yet, while the White Hart Lane outfit were always lauded for their attacking intent and attention to flair, they were simultaneously rarely taken seriously as more than a bridesmaid, as Arsenal walked down the aisle with trophies galore.
Now the Gunners are on the receiving end of similar accusations, however, and roles are potentially set to be reversed.
There is little doubt Wenger has succeeded in transforming the Emirates outfit’s reputation to one of the most aesthetically pleasing and artistic passing clubs on the planet, and been rightly feted for this, but has his project reached an impasse?
Arsenal in flux
The Gunners have looked a pale imitation of the likes of Barcelona in Europe, with their possession-based style bearing no fruit there yet, with no signs that will change this term either as the Catalans themselves take a 2-0 last 16 lead back to the Nou Camp.
It is a stick often used to beat their long-standing gaffer with, but it is failure at the business end of their bread and butter in the Premier League which perhaps stings fans the most.
A couple of FA Cup crowns have done little to quell growing doubts, particularly as Arsenal have their best shot at a league title in years, but keep conspiring to fluff their lines.
With Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and even Manchester City shadows of their former selves, a Danny Welbeck winner against surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City should have been the catalyst to a triumphant charge.
Yet, once again supporters are left scratching their heads, as Arsenal have followed that result with a winless streak of four across all competitions.
Spurs eyeing ascendency
Instead, Tottenham are the team to have capitalised on uncertainty and inconsistency among elite teams, hounding the Foxes, and now above their noisy neighbours in second spot.
Coral have this plucky, young Spurs side priced ahead of the Gunners (4/1 for Premier League glory) at 2/1 to go all the way with nine league games remaining for both capital clubs.
Can Tottenham finally shake-off the tag of serial underachievers and perhaps pass it on to their rivals?
Pochettino has much to prove
Manager Mauricio Pochettino unpacked his bags at White Hart Lane in 2014 after leaving Southampton, amid a mix of excitement and trepidation.
Yet now, should Spurs steal this title from under Leicester and Arsenal’s nose, the Argentine’s arrival may one day be likened to the influence of a fresh-faced Wenger back in the 1990s.
Forgetting the hype, as Pochettino has implemented an exhilarating, pressing and attacking style of play, with youngsters handed the baton of responsibility, the shrewd South American, linked with the Manchester United managerial role, still has much to prove.
Expectations are certainly less than at Arsenal, arguably allowing the Argentine to operate under less pressure than some peers, but should they be?
Tottenham taking plaudits
Spurs are undoubtedly en-vogue in north London, the boisterous younger brothers of fellow big capital clubs the Gunners and Chelsea, petitioning to disrupt the established order.
With six less league goals conceded than Arsenal, and five more on target, while also losing three less games, Tottenham are running a tight ship.
Encouragingly, lessons look to have been learned, with Pochettino and canny operator Daniel Levy fixing central defence in summer with the addition of Toby Alderweireld next to Jan Vertonghen, while the same position continues to plague Arsenal.
Petr Cech was instead purchased by Wenger, at the expense of a truly top-draw centre half or defensive shield and, while the stopper has indeed saved the Gunners points, David Ospina would surely have done a similar job with increased protection.
Recruitment is often where titles are won and lost, and Pochettino was the one to get it right last off-season, also throwing midfield sensation Dele Alli straight into the fray. It was a decision reminiscent of a younger, more daring Wenger.
A challenge for years to come
Most worryingly for Arsenal’s dominance on their own patch, is that Pochettino’s batch of youngsters including heroic homegrown heroes Harry Kane (22) and defender Danny Rose (25) illustrated superior spirit, desire and ability to dictate in the most recent north London derby.
It may have ended a draw, thanks to individual brilliance from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, but Tottenham looked the completer team and could claim to have deserved all three points.
Scarily, the likes of Danish plotter Christian Eriksen and ever-improving Argentine Erik Lamela are also still just 24, meaning they could be at White Hart Lane for years to come.
Tottenham certainly have all the tools to become Arsenal’s biggest threat, should they manage to cling on to Pochettino and co.
This, crucially, looks to be what has changed. While once stars Gareth Bale, Luka Modric etc were always up for grabs to the higgest bidder, Spurs have made a statement this season and can offer the prospect of success.
It seems as though now, no amount of money could prise Kane, Alli and co from White Hart Lane. If Spurs stand firm, and continue to repel their reputation as a buying club, the Gunners will have to question the hunger in their own ranks; lest they find their north London throne and future usurped.