the class of Luka Modric (left), the speed of Gareth Bale (right), and
the grit of Scott Parker, Tottenham have opened a clear gap between
themselves and Arsenal.
EMOTIONAL occasions as derbies are, some local rivalries tend to be remarkably one-sided.
In Barcelona, Madrid, Munich and
Merseyside, one team is invariably in the ascendant, finishing in a
higher position year after year.
So it was in North London, too. Not since 1995 have Tottenham been able to look down on Arsenal at the end of a season.
Ten points clear of their neighbours, it would be
a major shock if Spurs were not kings of the British capital come May.
Arsenal would settle for the position Tottenham long coveted, fourth.
It is a seismic shift in the balance of power,
but one that has been coming. Arsene Wenger was beaten in only one of
his first 27 league meetings with Tottenham; now, he has lost three of
the last four.
Win at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow and Spurs
will have their first league double over Arsenal since 1992-93. They
must approach the game in greater confidence.
The fragility of Arsenal this season was
exposed again in a disastrous week when they were effectively knocked
out of two Cup competitions, losing 0-4 to AC Milan and 0-2 to
It obscured their achievement in retaking
fourth place in the Premier League but, with Spurs, Liverpool and
Newcastle their next three opponents, their hold on it may be
So this is an enviable opportunity for Spurs, a
chance to damage Arsenal's chances this year and affect their future.
'Arsene Wenger,' their fans mockingly chorused during their FA Cup draw
at Stevenage, 'we want you to stay'. Lose and it will increase
speculation that the worst season of the Frenchman's reign will also be
While the young defender Carl Jenkinson
bullishly insisted that Arsenal have a stronger squad than Spurs,
another view is that Robin van Persie is the only fit Gunner who would
be guaranteed a place in the Tottenham team. And he, out of contract
next year, is being linked with both Milan and Real Madrid.
Arsenal's frugality shows on the team sheet.
Tottenham have been eager spenders over the years but, especially in
Harry Redknapp's reign, they have also been cunning bargain hunters.
Brad Friedel and Louis Saha were veterans who arrived without a fee,
while the reigning Footballer of the Year, Scott Parker, cost a mere
£5.5 million (S$10.9 million). Many thought Wenger should have signed
him, few thought he would.
Arsenal could have benefited from Parker's
grit today, just as the class of Luka Modric or the sheer speed of
Gareth Bale would have helped them. But they are reasons why, for the
first time in a generation, Spurs are North London's finest.