Arsenal’s long road to catch Tottenham

If you don’t already know, St. Totteringham’s day is the day of the season Arsenal fans celebrate when Tottenham can no longer pass them in the league table. Last season, St. Totteringham’s was officially cancelled. Tottenham impressed as Chelsea’s closest title rivals while Arsenal fell out of the top four and fell in to the Europa League. Arsenal did win the FA Cup to salvage a little bit of respect for themselves but the gulf between the two sides is still evident. Here’s a look into why Tottenham are ahead of Arsenal.

Mauricio Pochettino’s management of Spurs over the last three seasons has put Arsene Wenger to shame. Pochettino’s side is tactically intelligent and flexible. There appears to be a system in place that the whole team buys into. The players buy into the old cliche of being willing to run into a brick wall for the manager. When Poch switches formations he does it to counter the opponent.

At the Emirates, things look disjointed at best. Arsene Wenger is seen as reactive, almost as if there is no pre-season preparation. The team started this season poorly as they have done almost every season recently. The shape has shifted from 4-3-2-1 to 5-3-2 not because of tactical nous but mostly because, as Arsene admitted, his side were performing so badly last season that he felt a formation change was his last resort.

Years ago Arsenal were touted as the big team that spent frugally. Many blamed the new stadium, many blamed Wenger and others blamed cheap ownership. Relative to United, City and Chelsea, Arsenal don’t spend all that much despite breaking their transfer record for Alexander Lacazette.┬áSead Kolasinac looks like a great at fullback, it has to be said, but the way they’ve spent in recent years has appeared quite random. Lacazette could and should have been signed years ago for much less, Mustafi has been an utter disaster. Xhaka has been a non-event except for a few red cards and why they signed Lucas Perez at all we’ll never know.

Let’s look at Tottenham over the years. Their transfer strategy is to spend money only when they need to. I do feel they overpaid for Davinson Sanchez but he has been solid. Serge Aurier has come in from Paris Saint Germain and has been dynamic in both full back positions. Llorente as Kane’s backup is not a bad option at all.

In terms of players who have left, Arsenal got rid of Oxlade-Chamberlain which was a curious decision at the time due to his ability to play out wide it but seems to be sensible now due to his poor form at new club Liverpool. Tottenham quickly got rid of Vincent Janssen who was a failure in his first and only season at White Hart Lane. Kyle Walker has improved Man City but his departure has made little to no difference to Spurs. That’s 50m in the pocket without losing anything, and Spurs also made a pretty penny selling Kevin Wimmer to Stoke.

Arsenal have also been destabilized by the impending departures of their two star players, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Both are going to leave for free unless sales can be worked out in January, and both have struggled for form and fitness this season. It’s clear that all parties involved can’t wait to get this situation resolved one way or the other. Spurs on the other hand have a stranglehold on their best attacking players Kane, Dele and Eriksen. They feel like players who want to be there long term and that only helps unity in the dressing room.

Before the international break, Tottenham rolled over the back-to-back European champions Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley. No one predicted this result and no one predicted how easy it would be for Spurs. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes Arsenal could leave a dent on Real Madrid after their going down 10-1 on aggregate to Bayern Munich last season. Now Arsenal are picking up 1-0 wins in the Europa League against second rate opposition. The tide has turned towards Spurs and it’s hard to see when it will turn back until Arsenal’s transfer strategy makes sense and Wenger is gone. For now, Arsenal can start to bridge the gap by pulling themselves together and beating Spurs at the Emirates on Saturday. It’s a tough task but Spurs are beatable as Manchester United showed a few weeks ago.

The Gooners’ pride is on the line. Let’s see if they can regain it or else St. Totteringham’s day may be cancelled for a long time to come.


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