Arsenal defeated Tottenham on November 17, 2012 in what looked to be emphatic fashion. The 5-2 victory for the red side of London saw goals for all of Arsenal's attacking players, with Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all making the scoresheet.
There are certainly 1-0, and even 2-0 games where the losing team was likely the better side, but certainly not when you concede five times and manage 34 percent of possession, as Tottenham managed that Saturday afternoon.
And yet it doesn't tell the whole story. Arsenal were ripped to shreds over the first 15 minutes, conceding once to former Gunner and Judas Iscariot Emmanuel Adebayor. As befits the predecessor to Mario Balotelli's mantle of crazy, the goalscorer then earned himself a blatant red card for a dangerous tackle on Cazorla in the 18th minute. Had it not been for such a fortuitous turn of events for Arsene Wenger's men, it's distinctly possible that the Gunners would have gone on to lose the match.
It's easy to see how, if we're honest. Spurs are no longer a side made up of simply good players. Jermain Defoe and Adebayor can be world-class players when at the top of their game. Sandro is shaping up to be a competent defending midfielder, and is a regular in the Brazilian national setup.
Clint Dempsey, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Scott Parker; these are all very good players, to say nothing of proven world-class talent like Gareth Bale, who has been linked with Real Madrid, and Hugo Lloris, starting goalkeeper for the French national team.
Tottenham used to be an inferior team when compared to Arsenal, but that is hardly the state of things in 2013. Rather, Tottenham lie in third place in the Premier League, the best of the rest behind the Manchester front-runners, while Arsenal contrive to draw with relegation favorite Southampton in their last Premier League encounter.
One has to say that Spurs are indeed the better side. They are one of three English teams to have defeated Manchester United so far this term, potentially have better squad depth, and, at times, look to have a coach with a fluid understanding of team tactics, something that Arsene Wenger could desperately make use of.
True, Spurs only lie five points above Arsenal in the table, and the Gunners have a game in hand. Yes, Arsenal at their free-flowing best can probably defeat anyone outside of Spain. And on paper, Arsenal have some highly talented players on their payroll.
But over the course of a season, Tottenham are the safer bet. Arsenal netted seven goals against Newcastle two weeks ago. Seven. Yet days later they face a Southampton side they had royally thrashed earlier in the season, but could only muster a single shot on target, and had to rely on an own goal in order to ensure a tie.
Tottenham has already moved to secure the signature of promising German international Lewis Holtby from Schalke 04 in the January transfer window, further bolstering their offensive options when he arrives in the summer. Tottenham look only to be improving, while Arsenal struggle to keep their leading scorer, and have as yet only offloaded bit part players such as Marouane Chamakh and Johan Djourou on loan. Understandably, Arsenal don't have any money to spend on new players.
Wait, scratch that. As a result of Arsenal's new sponsorship deal with Emirates, the Gunners have access to £70 million for transfer fees and contracts. Even if that figure is cut in half, at £35 million, that means that Arsene Wenger has the funds, and the Champions League pedigree, to attract all but the very top prospects to North London.
In light of Wenger's notoriously tight control over Arsenal's coffers, it is an infuriating position that fans find themselves in, what with a squad that is always a few players short of being complete.
For 2013, then, Tottenham do appear to have the upper hand over their higher profile red neighbors. Imagine if Luka Modric was still in the fold and at Andre Villas-Boas' disposal? Arsenal must spend in January, not big, but wisely, in order to secure a Champions League qualifying spot in the league this year.
Spend to keep Walcott. Spend on a holding midfielder to replace the feeble body of the hugely talented but high-maintenance Abou Diaby. And most importantly, don't spend Arsenal's hard-earned sterling on an unfinished product like Adrian Lopez.
Rather, buy the finished product, even if he will only be at the top of his game for the next year or two. Linking David Villa up with compatriot Santi Cazorla will only yield positive results, and will ensure that Arsenal will—apologies to Spurs fans—retain their rightful place as the team to beat in this almost century-old rivalry.
Until then, Spurs have rightfully earned their current third place position in the table, and should be favorites to secure a Champions League spot come the middle of May.
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