As the footballing world gears up for the first north London derby of the season, the gap between Arsenal and Tottenham seems to be in-between ‘getting shorter’ to ‘non-existent’. Indeed, some fans would argue that Tottenham are now Arsenal’s equal but every football fan knows, write off Monsieur Wenger’s Arsenal at your own peril.
Arsenal, having lost two of their most influential players in the summer window, have regrouped with Wenger breaking his most revered footballing philosophy: buying young players with potential with the view of unleashing their star quality.
In the shape of Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, Arsenal have procured two experienced and decent players, one proven in the Premiership and the other, in the Champions League and internationally. Arteta has consistently been the main creative fulcrum for Everton and is a typical Arsenal player. He can operate anywhere across midfield and is blessed with the technical skills most Spanish players have. His ability with the ball, both in passing and keeping hold of possession make him a direct replacement for Cesc Fabregas, albeit on a level below. Mertesacker, signed from Werder Bremen, is a proven German international. His 6’6″ tall frame makes him perfect in helping out Arsenal’s defensive set-piece frailties.
Arsenal also acquired the Ivory Coast wide man, Gervinho. Blessed with pace and an unpredictability which makes him tricky for opposing defenders, he won the French League with Lille before moving to North London. As well as Gervinho, they clinched the signings of South Korean Park Chu-Young and the precocious young talent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal’s North London counterparts Tottenham have spent shrewdly. Their only signings of the window were that of Football Writers Player of the Year Scott Parker and Manchester City forward Emmanuel Adebayor.
The main priority for Tottenham was to keep stars Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. This was done despite regular big money offers from Chelsea for Modric. The player himself wanted to leave but the club dug their heels in and rejected any big money advances.
After a slow start to the season where they had to play and lost against both Manchester clubs, Tottenham have won three consecutive games. Scott Parker is looking every bit the England international player as he breaks up play and generally harasses opposition players and protects the backline. Emmanuel Adebayor has given Tottenham an added dimension upfront. His ability to not only score goals – three in four appearances – but to also hold the ball up and bring others into the game is an integral way to how Tottenham play. It remains to be seen how well he will link up with Rafael van der Vaart but early signs are promising.
Sunday will be a good indicator to both teams in terms of how good they are at the moment and where their season ambition actually lies. Arsenal will welcome back Robin van Persie and Aaron Ramsey who were both rested for their Champions League game against Olympiakos while Tottenham will welcome back their whole first team who got the Europa League games off. With both teams in direct competition with each other for that fourth Champions League spot, it will be imperative one can steal a march on their rivals. Whatever happens, though, one thing’s for sure, as usual the north London derby will be an entertaining, full-blooded match with plenty of goals.