The ten point advantage Tottenham currently have over Arsenal in the Premier League would have been unthinkable just a couple of seasons ago. Although Arsenal fans were calling for Arsene Wenger’s head after a bad start to the season, things seemed to have settled down on that front with the good run of form they put together following the 2-1 defeat the Gunners suffered at White Hart Lane. Now reality has finally set in, Wenger’s management skills are once again being called into question by their supporters.
In stark contrast, Harry Redknapp’s reputation continues to thrive not only among Spurs fans, but also football enthusiasts around the globe. Bringing Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor to the club this season only added to what was already an excellent squad of players. Not only have Harry’s player purchases been very astute, he has also helped Gareth Bale become one of the best footballers in the world. He is able to instil a belief in players that Wenger cannot. Another great example of this is Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He was going nowhere fast at Tottenham but Redknapp spotted his potential and gave the former Lens man a chance. Ekotto is now one of the very best left backs the Premier League has to offer.
While the 5-1 cup victory in 2008 was a sign of things to come, the day when the power really shifted in North London was 20th November 2010. Spurs had not won at Arsenal for 17 years. Going 2-0 down before half time would have seen Tottenham sides of old throw the towel in, but this set of players were not prepared to lie down. Winning the game in such a manner gave Spurs a new found confidence and helped enforce the never say die attitude that has seen us become serious title contenders this season.
There are a couple of games during this campaign that really illustrate the difference between the two teams perfectly. Both were defeats, our 2-1 reverse away to Stoke, and Arsenal’s 3-2 loss at Swansea. Admittedly, the game at the Liberty Stadium was very entertaining and all credit to Swansea for playing some great football, but a number of the Arsenal players on that pitch looked like they did not want to be there. It ultimately ended with the man Arsenal fans were hailing as the King a few days earlier, a 34 year old Thierry Henry, turning on them for venting their frustrations.
At Stoke, Spurs were not at their best in the first half. Any team two goals behind at the Britannia Stadium would probably have resigned themselves to defeat. In the end, it was only one of the worst refereeing performances in Premier League history that cost us all three points. Every Spurs player gave their all in that second half to try and get something from the game and even though we lost the match, it is possibly my favourite Tottenham performance of the season. It goes a long way to showing why Tottenham are now the dominant team in North London and why you’d better mind that gap.
The Slightly Later Than Scheduled Festive Reflection
So, it feels pretty good to be a Spurs fan at the moment right?! Six points off City with a game in hand and possibly even more satisfying, six points in front of Arsenal with that same game in hand. I’m looking forward to the FA Cup this weekend and I’m hoping we will make short work of Cheltenham even if most of the first eleven are given what would be a well overdue rest. I do have a soft spot for Cheltenham because of the amazing racing entertainment the town provides me with in March but their football team, not so much.
Even the bookies are starting to take our league form seriously as you can now see quotes as short as 8/1 for Tottenham to win this season’s title. I still personally think we have to much to do to overhaul Man City and I’m sure Utd will bounce back after two straight defeats but what has really impressed me this season is our winning mentality. The game against West Brom this past Tuesday night really illustrates that fact. Roy Hodgson had a few injuries to key players and basically set up his team to take a point. They were very hard to break down and until Sisqo scored, it was looking like being one of those nights. In season’s gone by, that is the sort of game we would have ended up losing through a lack of concentration or determination but Harry now appears to have the players instilled with a belief that they can win every game, no matter the circumstances.
Some fans were saying the point against Swansea was a disappointing result but I definitely would have taken a draw before the game. Only one team has managed to go to the Liberty Stadium and win this season and when you consider it was our third game in quick succession, avoiding defeat was a good result. The performance against Norwich was sublime and Gareth Bale showed once again why he is one of the very best players in the Premier League. While one of the positives of us not being involved in the Champions League this season is our excellent domestic form, Bale not being able to show what he is capable of against the European elite is certainly a negative.
Now the January transfer window is upon us, I expect to see Spurs linked with the usual infinite fictional targets. Samba and Cahill are the most realistic names for me but with Dawson apparently set to start against Cheltenham, our centre back injury problems are easing slightly. A number of my close friends are Millwall fans, so it’s nice to see a couple of our younger players being loaned to the Lions. Hopefully it will be a win win situation, with Ryan Mason and Harry Kane getting some much needed first team action, while also helping Millwall stay in the Championship.
This could well be the key month as far as our title hopes are concerned. Homes games against Everton, Wolves and Wigan with a trip to Man City in there for good measure. City have tough Cup games against Man Utd and Liverpool which could well work in our favour. Is January 2012 going to be the month when Tottenham actually sit on top the Premier League? I bloody hope so!