After a weekend that saw Arsenal turn a corner and Tottenham struggle to even find the road, it’s tough to remain as optimistic as I was after last season about closing the gap between the the two London rivals. Even though both clubs began this season with a slump and a mini-crisis, as usual the grass is far greener on the red side of London…wait… err, whatever.
Despite finishing 5th last season, I never really felt that Martin Jol had Tottenham playing confident, creative football with regularity. Significant, but relatively unthreatening possesion with moments of inspiration were usually enough to earn some points but teams were rarely dominated. This year, with the loss of Michael Carrick’s ability to quickly receive and redistribute the ball, and an over reliance on the now-injured Aaron Lennon as a creative outlet, the side looks static and rather incapable of creating regular scoring chances.
Arsenal, on the other hand, continued to tear teams apart from start to finish – with simply their finishing letting them down. There was reason to be annoyed if you were a Gooner, but hardly troubled about the long term implications. You just knew that once things clicked that someone was going to get slaughtered, and an away win over Manchester United should do the trick.
Martin Jol has proven he is a capable coach, but he has to deal with a rather poor transfer window that only replaced existing first teamers and did not address the only key need of the squad (natural wide players). And, thanks to the revolving door of players at White Hart Lane, he has a new batch of players to mold into a cohesive team once again.
I would love to know what the hell Arsene Wenger has Arsenal players do in training, but they seem to be able to bring in new players and, no matter how old they are, where they came from or how long they’ve been at the club, they seamlessly slot into the side and display the same technique and movement as the rest of the team. Tottenham’s midfield, on the other hand, take about 5 seconds just to control the ball and another 5 seconds to decide what to do with it. This is not the foundation for fluid, attacking football.
The solution is, and has been for 18 months, quality wide players to provide outlets to our hordes of solid, if unspectacular, central midfielders. And with the money from the Carrick sale and new sponsorship deals with Mansion and Puma it’s inexcusable that this was not done. If we look to our London friends again, they needed a replacement for Robert Pires, midfield enforcer and a more direct striker. They addressed the first with Tomas Rosicky and the latter two with Julio Baptisa.
You know you are getting the better of your rivals when you stop caring so much about what’s going on at their club. Last season, I enjoyed a glimpse into life without a mind full of Arsenal related resentment. I thought that West Ham and Tevezcherano would make this year unbearable, but the Hammers have got plenty of their own problems to worry about.
So until at least the January transfer window, it’s back to business as usual.