Are Spurs’ attempts to become North London’s top dogs stalling?

The second half of the recent North London derby could mark a turning point with the balance of power returning to Arsenal

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Putting bias aside, and debating this like reasonable neutrals, you can see the argument that Spurs are on the up as Arsenal pass them going the other way. Brand new stadium, regular Champions League participation, manager that seems to understand what the Premier League is about, players with a higher book value than their neighbours.

However, in recent matches, there are signs that wheels might be coming off for Tottenham Hotspur. At 2-0 up in the North London Derby, they’d have expected to win. Arsenal staged a comeback and might have even won the game. It looked like a blip as Mauricio Pochettino’s team hammered a normally belligerent Palace side 4-0 at home following the international break. Since then though… they’ve conceded a two goal lead again, this time away in Greece on Champions League duty. Then losing at Leicester. And finally the ignominy of being eliminated from the Carabao Cup by League Two Colchester United, granted away from home and on a penalty shoot-out, but nevertheless…

Tottenham finished in fourth place last season for the simple reason that they only drew two of their games. In spite of losing 13 matches out of 38 (three more matches than both Arsenal and Manchester United below them), their ability to win fixtures whilst the latter two clubs were piling up draws saw them over the line for Champions League qualification. But this season, they have already drawn three times in the League, as well as losing twice. Did Spurs peak last season?

At the other end of the Seven Sisters Road, there may be cause for optimism. There don’t seem to be too many issues about their firepower upfront, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring for fun, as the club wait for Nicholas Pepe to complete his adaptation to a new country. Once Alexandre Lacazette returns to fitness, there is good reason to believe the attackers can make this a better campaign than last season. That, of course is based on an improvement at the other end of the pitch.

An area of concern has to be the defensive solidity of the midfield. It’s widely acknowledged that never properly replacing Patrick Vieira is a significant factor in the club’s decline since their former captain was sold in the summer of 2005. You cannot compare current skipper Granit Xhaka to the Frenchman in spite of the fact he plays in the same position. If Emery is bold enough to try something different though, he may have a solution on hand. Calum Chambers excelled playing as a defensive midfielder in his year on loan at Fulham last season and is surely worth a look in that position for the Gunners. Another option might be moving David Luiz forward from centre back, or even simply instructing Lucas Torreira to play there and hold his position as Francis Coquelin used to, with the emphasis less on creation than prevention.

There is of course good news with regard to returning defenders which could also stem the flow of goals, such as the three conceded against Liverpool towards the end of August. Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are the first choice full backs and likely to do a better job than Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac, who have been playing there in recent Premier League outings.

And of course, the central defence can only be strengthened by the return of Rob Holding. The player was initially signed by Arsene Wenger back in 2016. In Ladbrokes’ guide to Premier League managers they detail how Wenger took charge of more Premier League matches than any manager, but the Frenchman didn’t get to see the best of his investment from Bolton, mainly down to a series of injuries under his watch. After his return to fitness it seems likely that he will replace one of David Luiz or Sokratis as a first choice centre back, although his availability does also offer the prospect of Emery returning to three at the back with Bellerin and Tierney playing as wing backs. There are many who believe Luiz would be less of a liability in such a system, were he to remain in the backline. And Holding has performed well in a three man system, most notably in the 2017 FA Cup Final defeat against Chelsea.

Although fans know what Bellerin can offer, the Carabao Cup match against Forest saw Tierney’s first team debut, and what was seen justified the amount of fan anxiety during the summer as the club seemed to be dallying over the signing of the Celtic defender, and although they might have had to end up paying more than they’d have liked, the evidence from last Tuesday evening suggested he can bring more stability and balance to the back four. With the three returning players, as well as Calum Chambers battling for a place, the wonderful array of attacking talent could finally be backed up by something approaching a solid and robust defence.

Given how close Arsenal finished behind Tottenham last season, it could be enough to see the North London balance of power shift back towards Islington and the once-dominant Gunners.

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  1. markymark

    Sep 29, 2019, 21:25 #115000

    Ron - Xhaka can’t tackle full stop and when he attempts it he tends to give away penalties such as Brighton and Spurs. He is continually single out for unforced errors leading to opposition goals. There is a reason for his unpopularity . If you want a scrapper I’d say Torreira is your man. Xhaka usually just gets bypassed

  2. itsRonagain2

    Sep 29, 2019, 14:12 #114999

    Hi Paul. Another excellent example you mention - Andrie Arshavin. An excellent player totally screwed over by Wenger. Many more. Even. Denilson. Quite adequate as squad man type. Coming on to play higher in midfield and and be asked to push into the edge of the box area to support the attacks. Instead , asked to be defensive middle man. He had neither rhe stature, mindset or the durability to do that. Djourou - another who perhaps cd have played DM encouraged to think he was a centre back. Back on the Xhaka issue - what’s happened is that the media have created a feeding frenzy by some of those arsehole pundits having been given licence to blame him for everything including the recession and the Middle East crisis. Some of their comments by ex pro s about him have been a disgrace. What happens then is that the great raft of brainwashed fans whose views are often shaped entirely by silly SKY tv parrot what they hear and think it’s fun to slake him up hill and down dale. Not all who critique him by any means but many do. He has made a few prominent errors. No doubt , but the hostility towards him is barmy. We ve cried out for years about the lack of a mongrel type in midfield. Xhaka is one and gets hammered. The age of Sky tele and social media creating the instant opinion mentality has left many fans unable to see what they look at and then to think about what they say before they join the frenzy biting chunks out of players out of players. I can understand the Ozil trend of opinion as we ve seen what he clearly is over a very long time. Fact isvthough, he was given a long time and a lot of latitutude before the brick bats headed his way because tele pundits still haven’t turned against him in a destructive way. . Not so with xhaka who the cretinous media see as a soft target.

  3. Pauljames

    Sep 29, 2019, 11:30 #114998

    Agree with you on players positions Ron. Alex Song was good until he started to think he was Maradona, and remember Wenger ruining Arshavin by continually playing him wide when he was a blatant number 10. Now Torreira seems to be the latest player who is being asked to do what he is not good at, the man is the only natural holding midfielder we have, so why isn’t he playing there every week? Baffling.

  4. itsRonagain2

    Sep 28, 2019, 20:46 #114997

    Always good to swap opinions with you Marky. I know yr a very passionate Gunner. On Xhaka. I just think like many players this last decade he s lacked direction being given to him in his play. When deep as defensive middle man his lack of inclination as an out and out defender is shown up. Pushed further fwd I think his his hod carrier type style would be best used. A bit like Henderson can for Liverpool. I like Xhaka s tendency to put his foot in and leave a piece on opponents basically. He s a grafter with a hell of a dig on him if he was encouraged to play as the man that just keeps things tidy in centre mid. As it’s been he’s never had a designated role. He’s always been here and there and nowhere particular. It’s not surprising he makes errors. We ve had many players under Wenger go the same way. Walcott was one. Never more than a wide runner yet encouraged to think he might be a centre fwd all those wasted years for him. Song even. Basically needed coaching just to sit deep. Not wander and put his foot in and give ball to better players yet encouraged to think he was Alonso marque 2. He didn’t have the ability for that ever. Xhaka s failings are hardly worse than many who he’s played with since joining and his errors reflect the poor coaching largely I feel under the 2 coaches both there only due to errors at the top ie the Wig man with the wallet. Xhaka never skives or ducks out of things either. Far too easy for some to make him the embodiment of the club’s failings elsewhere on and off the pitch I think. Booing and sneering won’t make him perform better.

  5. markymark

    Sep 28, 2019, 17:52 #114996

    Ron - I know it all just views but Xhaka a decent player? I know whether someone’s good or bad does not suggest booing is the right course. Xhaka has been really poor , the use of scared is also very poor what sort of agenda was he trying to set ? You don’t need brilliant English skills to get that you are not setting up a great situation with that. Saying that, English language skills - see Emery are seriously lacking at Arsenal at the moment so you do have a point

  6. itsRonagain2

    Sep 28, 2019, 17:36 #114995

    No mate. I can’t agree with that. Nothing worse than booing yr own players. It’s frankly embarrassing to hear it from a home crowd. Of course players have had stick before but now, it takes little for fans of the top 4 or 5 clubs to turn on their own. It’s many things I think that creates it such as the money they earn and the lifestyles they have now and celeb status etc. There is a simmering resentment by fans of players nowadays. Most clubs do have a boo boy tho. Yrs ago ASL fans drove Jon Sammells out of the club yet he was a lovely footballer. Not robust or aggressive but a really good player. He’s one eg. I don’t recall Young getting it. He was a bit of a cult figure in fact tho a very limited footballer. A tryer though. Personally I think the written abuse Xhaka gets is a bit OTT. He has many faults but he does have qualities. He’s a Swiss international of long standing too. We ve had far worse this last 14 yrs who’ve not picked up the boo boys tab for the rest of players in our weakest teams in that period. Yr Bendtners. Deniksens Songs and Eboue s. Very poor footballers. Xhaka is the chosen target for all the dissatisfactions about the club by the boo boys. He’s basically a decent player. Arsenal fans shd target the real fault lines in the Club. He wears a wig and never kicks a ball. Ps. The use of the word ‘scared’ was simply a poor word to use in the context of the point he was trying to make I m sure. He’s a foreign lad and made a mistake. I wonder how many of them jumping in on that can speak French or Whatever language Xhaka speaks? Very few of the boneheads can I suspect. In my view football fans have never been so caustic towards their own. It’s got progressively worse at Arsenal this last 6 or 7 years. I was at Stoke that day Wenger was abused. Yes. Poor team show as had occurred before there but frankly some of them so called supporters that day deserved a water cannon up their arses. The year before there they were in the bar area fighting and brawling among themselves. Football fan displeasure as you call it is more like innate anger that simmers just below the surface and is easily released. For all it’s money football is in a rather sick state on and off the pitches. Just my view.

  7. markymark

    Sep 28, 2019, 16:35 #114994

    Sorry Ron but I don’t get what you’re trying to say here. You’ve complained at Arsenal supporters in the past for being far too comfortable with things. Now your saying they can’t vent their displeasure . Herbert Chapman was decrying Highbury boo boys in the 1930’s. From memory Willy Young who sort of became a cult hero was booed off the pitch on his debut. I remember the north Bank singing F’ck off back to Tottenham. Emery is constantly playing a weak minded individual in midfield who says he’s scared of Watford and even under the micro level of pressure tends to balls up big time . It’s no wonder fans are mad. Particularly as frustration boils over with Emery choosing to play his favourite team rather than his best team. Booing on the pitch is a tough lesson but likely to happen in the circumstances. Going onto social media to threaten him is different . But then if players / people in general didn’t use social media they could insulate themselves to a degree. It’s the lesson not being leant in modern society , simply do not expose yourself to having Twitter followings , YouTube etc. I would certainly never do an in loving memory page to a deceased loved one either as trolls seek them out to cause distress. A fair proportion of trolls have spectrum disorders so it’s a real problem as they have deep rooted health issues. Xhaka would be better to concentrate on his game get an IT tech specialist to carry out a cyber suicide on himself so he’s delinked from troll nutters, whilst good performances will instantly stop booing

  8. itsRonagain2

    Sep 28, 2019, 10:14 #114993

    Very true John. Sign of the times mate esp in today’s football fan fraternity. Facebook and Twatter warriors on one hand and gobshites in public on the other. Football has become far too entrenched in many of these pilgrims lives. It defines many of them. Wins of 4-0 every week is what they think they’re entitled to and if they don’t get it, it’s open house in their book. I honestly think the wall to wall coverage of it and the way it’s delivered by satellite tele is to blame. It’s presented in such a way to make these boneheads think that only winning is acceptable and that the opponent is something to hate. It’s sick. At games you can feel the aggression in the fans demeanour. Turn on their own players in a milli second and a goal conceded .... blimey. The reaction is toxic. The booing of Xhaka recently was a disgrace. It barely gets more base than booing yr own.

  9. John F

    Sep 28, 2019, 09:21 #114992

    I do not rate Xhaka as a player and definitely not as a captain but from what my Son told me the awful abuse that Xhaka and his wife gets in social media and apparently out on the street from so called Arsenal fans is well out of order and may be the reason why he was picked as captain by the players.I am all for criticism of his play but personnel abuse is a step too far.

  10. markymark

    Sep 27, 2019, 18:35 #114991

    I’m so angry with Dick I can’t even spell Suave properly! Just when I thought we dumped the prick Dick bloody makes him undroppable . I hope he loses his job over this

  11. markymark

    Sep 27, 2019, 18:31 #114990

    Shambolic decision from Dick , doesn’t have the balls to make his own decision so he gives it to the players who lets face it are not going to rock the boat with a team mate doing the rounds with why didn’t you vote for me. Now we are left with the weakest member of the squad a self confessed coward who should be drummed out of the squad made undroppable . The next shit show from Xhaka will send the support nuts. You’d think Dick would have learnt his lesson from the Neymar Cavani chaos at PSG but he appears to have learnt nothing . And yes I would rather have a Sauve Allegri than this indicisive lacklustre coach

  12. itsRonagain2

    Sep 27, 2019, 08:54 #114989

    I think the John Cross piece is a bone idle article. As you say, any of us could have written that. All hes ever concerned about is being Mr PC, Mr smiley ' i want everybody to think im lovely' nice guy. Nauseating man. Has he ever said anything remotely contentious? Loves to be seen to be at the moral vanguard of any issue that arises. Is he genuine? Every time he speaks about anything it sounds forced to me. Loves to preach at people with his inane utterances seems to me. Hes just ideally made for the dreadful SKY tele footie coverage. On Allegri lads - are some of you not just totally fed up and at your limits of having a Mr Suave as our Coach? I am . First Wenger for all those extra unwarranted years and now this guy. If AFC are to change horses, i think its time to show some guts and get some body in to properly shake the tree and actually change some thing there. Its needs some body who ll be his own man basically. It wont happen though. Not till this owner moves on. Only yes men are allowed across SKs threshold. Thats why Dick's there.

  13. John F

    Sep 27, 2019, 05:20 #114988

    Mark I lost any faith in what John Cross claims when he became an Arsene apologist and was happy to slag off the fans who criticised Wenger during his last season.There is a belief that he no longer enjoys the confidence of the club after Wenger left and is bitter about it.I would take Allegri now before the Spuds but probably Utd take him.

  14. markymark

    Sep 26, 2019, 22:25 #114987

    John Cross article in the Mirror could have literally been written by any Gooner poster. Very interesting in that John Cross is effectively the Arsenal Journo with an “in” at the club. Looks like he maybe at a bit of a make or break point judging by the article . Note Allegri has shown interest in Spurs, will Arsenal make a sudden move ?

  15. itsRonagain2

    Sep 26, 2019, 21:48 #114986

    Ernie. Posters are just responding to the original poster. No need to be shirty about that. Anyway, fact is that no matter how shite Tottenham Hotspur FC is and it really is a shite club, all Arsenal fans look across to that rathole at N17 and get enjoyment from seeing it crumble from its latest delusion. Also , too it’s good to laugh at them and it’s a club that never stops making me laugh. They are perma losers and the most enjoyable part of that for me and many is that deep down most Tottenham fans know it. The very existence of AFC and what AFC are compared to them is a constant red hot poker stuck in their guts. Nobody elevates the Tottenham thing above anything else as you suggest but local thing will always be there for all of us and I say that as one who s not lived in or near London for 36 years.

  16. markymark

    Sep 26, 2019, 18:37 #114985

    Apparently a genuine book has come out for Spuds fans on their glorious failure in the Champions League . That’s just bizarre

  17. markymark

    Sep 26, 2019, 18:34 #114984

    They are a strange mob no doubt. I’ve got a very good mate who’s a Spud but watching them group together well just Wow! Lived near Liverpool St for a while and walking past the Whetherspoons attached to the station I watched on incredulously as Police dog handlers let their Alsations of the leash to charge in snarling through the doors . Yep they were let loose on the Spuds. They either seem to go along as large family groups , probably ok in normal life or form nasty sneaky chav sets ready to pounce on you. They do always appear embittered . I’d guess that they have a split in the camp with 3 of them wanting to go . The problem is the manager can’t contain that as he wants to go as well.

  18. CORNISH GOONER

    Sep 26, 2019, 18:29 #114983

    Be careful what you wish for - apparently Allegri has, amazingly, said he would be open to managing Spurs. Can't see it myself but as a smooth italian he will prefer the fleshpots of London to those in Manchester surely?

  19. John F

    Sep 26, 2019, 16:12 #114982

    He is not called Potlesstino for nothing.It is their horrible fans that probably infect the club to its core.The slime ,the black teeth ,excessive body hair why would the players want to win anything if it meant the danger of a celebratory pitch invasion with the fans smelling of the local tip hugging and kissing them .urgh!The players know they might catch something and probably intend to screw it up.

  20. Redshrtswhitesleeves

    Sep 26, 2019, 15:05 #114981

    How can any club that hasn’t won the league in most of our life times and no trophy since 2008 claim to be bigger than us. Even these last few years when we’ve been a pathetic shambles we still won 3 FA cups whilst according to the spud loving media they have turned into the greatest team of all time, yet won f*ck all! Horrible bitter club, deluded low life fans and cheats like Kane, Ali, Son etc they all deserve each other. To put into context how small they are, they have won the league the same amount of times as Preston, Burnley and Portsmouth and less times than Blackburn, Huddersfield and Wolves. Our standards have slipped, no doubt about that, but we will always be bigger, more successful and more respected than that lot. Even their best ever player Jimmy Greaves is on record saying that Arsenal will always be THE club in north london

  21. Ernie71

    Sep 26, 2019, 14:13 #114980

    Hooray we may become the top team in North London again. Lets award ourselves a trophy and have an open top bus parade shall we?. Comparing ourselves with Spurs just shows how far we have fallen. Which Gooners cared about Spurs from 1991 until 2015? Saying we are better than Spurs just papers over the cracks that since 2009 we have become a club that are also rans.Its like our fans celebrating a top 4 finish like a title win.Its now becoming the norm that we finish 25 plus points behind the champions.In the last 15 seasons Chelsea have won 16 trophies but lets compare ourselves against Spurs.

  22. The Man From UNCLE

    Sep 26, 2019, 13:19 #114979

    To be fair there was also a period in the early 1980's when the two clubs were almost at parity, around from 1980-1986, their FA Cup wins 1981/82 and the UEFA cup win of 1984 with us going nowhere at the time; even the season later it was touch and go but the never to be forgotten LC SF win pulled the rug from under their feet. Remember them saddos singing "we'll win the proper cup, Arsenal, Arsenal" around that time and then getting it put to them well and proper by Coventry ha ha ha. No one seemed to give Coventry a prayer before that game but they had had a very good season (by their standards anyway) and I wasn't too surprised. For what it's worth my opinion is Poch realises he can't take this lot any further. Spuds fans hate us more than they like their own team, how sad is that.

  23. itsRonagain2

    Sep 26, 2019, 12:54 #114978

    In short yes. Lets face it Sours have only truly ever been top dogs over Arsenal once in their history - in the period 1961 - 67 ish approx. The most annoying thing about Tottenham (put aside the high proportion of low life, neanderthal fans they have for the moment) is the myth about the damned club and beyond that, the media who really really really want that myth to become a truth. Its a joke club. Football seems to have its own laws in some cities. Utd generally always bigger and better than MC. Liverpool vis Everton, Aston Villa vis Birmingham, Sheff Wed vis Utd, Bristol City vis Rovers. Its the same in North London. Tottenham would be best off moving up the M1 some where, such as to the Milton Keynes area. They would be far better off having no bigger neighbour to envy which has always eaten them up from the inside and that vile area of London could then be cleansed and developed properly free of that perennial, laughable mess of a football club.