Tottenham: Ready to take Arsenal's place?
Can the 2013/14 season be the campaign that Tottenham take over their north London rivals?
Over the last few years the level of optimism at White Hart Lane has steadily grown into a feeling of inevitability that Tottenham will overtake Arsenal as the top club in north London.
However, year-upon-year the Gunners are able to put Tottenham fans back in their place, quite emphatically by finishing higher in the league table. With each new season there is the belief that 'this is their year', but fans of either side will struggle to remember a time when there has been such a minuscule gap between the two squads.
In my opinion, as well as almost everyone I have to spoke to (Gunner and Lilywhite alike), Tottenham are thought to have a squad with more depth and quality, but the Emirates club appear to just know how to win.
That is not to say that they do not have real talent among their ranks, as this would be a downright lie. Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, of course, Santi Cazorla are all excellent individuals who form a powerful core for Arsenal fans to enjoy.
In actual fact, I would go as far to say that they may have one of the best midfields in English football, if not Europe!
However, there are problems for the Gunners that do not look like being dealt with any time soon. Although they found a formidable partnership in Per Mertesacker and the aforementioned Laurent Koscielny, they lack real quality in the full-back department. Nacho Monreal seems to have been a decent signing thus far, but ten league games is not enough to warrant confirmation on this.
Bacary Sagna on the other hand, was remarkably inconsistent. The lack of depth is the most worrying part with players like Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, with Thomas Vermaelen also going off the boil at centre-back. At least they have gotten rid of the appalling Andre Santos. In attack Arsenal can call upon Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, all of whom can be exceptional on their day, although they lack a striker who has the potential to score 20+ league goals, with Walcott only managing 14 and Giroud, 11.
It is thought that now the latter has had time to settle he will have a greater chance of hitting new heights but it is fair to say that Arsenal are not targeting Luis Suarez for no apparent reason...
The most pressing problem for Arsenal is that they have made no transfers of note, as of yet. They have constantly missed out on the players they really want such as Gonzalo Higuain, Cesc Fabregas and, most recently, Luis Suarez who will apparently not be sold 'for any amount of money', according to the Liverpool chairman. If they really want to challenge for the top four season then Ivan Gazidis and others need to authorise some big name/ quality signings and soon.
Tottenham, on the other hand, seem to have completely reversed their usual summer transfer routine of buying players late on and have wrapped up the majority of their business early.
Paulinho looks to be a superb acquisition at only £17m, which, when compared to Manchester City's outlay on fellow Brazilian, Fernandinho, at £30m, looks to be an absolute steal when you consider the fact that the latter is four years older and has been kept out of the national squad by the new Spurs man.
Nacer Chadli also looks to be a promising buy who can operate with great versatility across the attacking line. They also appear to have signed promising Toulouse midfielder Etienne Capoue, who can operate in defence if required.
The real talking point at White Hart Lane, though, is Roberto Soldado. Finally, Spurs have a striker who just has one task: score goals. Jermain Defoe is capable of this but is just remarkably inconsistent with it. The Spaniard managed 24 goals in 35 league appearances for Valencia and if he can replicate this kind of form in the Premiership, he is sure to be a hit at the Lane. Her certainly has players around him who can provide the ammunition.
Tottenham have an incredibly talented squad with massive depth, especially in midfield, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gareth Bale, Moussa Dembele, Paulinho, Sandro, Nacer Chadli, Lewis Holtby, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker, Tom Carroll, Jake Livermore, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Etienne Capoue and Iago Falque who can all be called upon.
In order for Spurs to take the Champions League spot there are, however, several pieces of the puzzle missing. Firstly, the Gareth Bale situation needs to be resolved, whether he is sold or if he decides to remain a Tottenham player. If it is the former, then a playmaker is needed, preferably Christian Ericksen.
Secondly, they need to secure their defence. It was a mistake to sell Stephen Caulker who is a player that, in the coming years, could easily fetch £15-20m. However, it has been done now so Spurs need to find a replacement as their current centre-backs all currently injured in some way. This was highlighted massively in the thrashing that Monaco and Radamel Falcao gave to the inexperienced defensive duo of Jake Livermore and Ezekiel Fryers. Capoue will provide some relief, but an out-and-out CB is desperately needed.
The final missing piece is another striker, as Soldado needs back-up should he get injured. Adebayor is just not good enough and Defoe is inconsistent. Also, Soldado is not the tallest and struggles to win aerial battles so a target man needs to be brought in for when we need something different against more physical defenders. In all honesty, I have no idea who this could be as all the top target men appear to have already been transferred this summer. I'd be interested to hear your views on such a striker.
In conclusion, it looks as if this really could be Tottenham's year, with Arsene Wenger seemingly stagnant on the transfer front and Andre Villas-Boas already wrapping up some key signings. However, this could all change quite dramatically if Real Madrid snap up Bale and Arsenal find a way to lure Luis Suarez to the Emirates. If this happens, we could easily see the Gunners hang onto fourth place for year another year.
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