Monday, October 3, 2011

A North London Power Shift?

Arsene Wenger has achieved great things at Arsenal and for that reason alone it is far too soon to write an epitaph for he and his much maligned current team. Injuries to key players such as Jack Wilshire and Tomas Vermaelen have hindered them this season and Barcary Sagna was added to the injury list yesterday with a broken leg.Yesterday's game was however significant for several reasons.

Since George Graham arrived at Arsenal so many years ago, the Gooners have had the upper hand in North London with only brief and occasional respite for Spurs. It is symptomatic of how few games they have won during that period that that semi final of Gascgoine and Lineker is so oft remembered and replayed. Spurs may have won matches against Arsenal but no one at any point felt that they had the better team - until now.

During this period of Arsenal dominance, Spurs have been nothing more than an occasional 'cup team' with a smattering of truly quality players such as Klinsmann, Berbatov and Modric and it is a period that has seen them have their share of (brief) relegation scares.

The relative success of the last couple of seasons has been greeted with much glee at White Hart Lane yet the reality is they have only finished at best fourth and had (and have) no realistic chance of winning the league - and they still did not finish above Arsenal. The change in dynamic this season has come solely from Arsenal's fall from grace.

Having watched Arsenal against Liverpool, ManYoo and Spurs this season, the lack of quality in this current Arsenal team is incredible. Even in recent seasons in regular defeat against the likes of Chelsea, there was always ability throughout the team, it was just a question of character and balance.

Spurs yesterday fielded a team more akin to a side you would associate with Arsenal. Their midfield quartet of Bale, Modric, Parker and Van Der Vaart would compare with most in the world in terms of quality. With three very attack minded players however it also smacked of a midfield that Wenger would covet himself as it was so wholly unbalanced.

Had Spurs fielded that midfield and with two strikers as they did yesterday against Chelsea, City or ManYoo they would have been ripped apart. With Wenger's Arsenal there was always an assumption that they would have huge periods of possession, again that Spurs midfield would not be equipped to deal with that. It seems however that Redknapp looked at Arsenal's options yesterday and came to the basic conclusion that they could and would outplay Arsenal.

It would be folly to write Arsenal off completely but with the injury list that they have and with the brittleness of their defence, their ability to compete for fourth place this season must be hugely under question. Both Spurs and Liverpool will see this season as a golden opportunity to reclaim the hallowed ground that is Champions League participation.

Yesterday's match was significant, not because of the result but because of the manner of it. Spurs in the past have had to cope with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Overmars et all. They had to field sides to frustrate, defend against and simply cope with the superior firepower of their neighbours. Yesterday they were able to name a side to simply outgun them and they achieved just that - No Nonsense.