Can Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur Be Considered Title Contenders?

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Can Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur Be Considered Title Contenders?
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Head-to-Head. Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal this coming season.

You can feel the anticipation mounting for the upcoming Premier League season. Never has there been so much uncertainty, speculation and action in the build-up to the start of a new campaign.

Normally, the offseason during non-World Cup/European Championship years are the dullest of affairs. This offseason, however, it has all been happening. The managerial merry-go-round has been in full swing, with no fewer than 4,973 (number may be a slight exaggeration) managers around Europe having either moved clubs or moved on since the end of last season.

Transfers have also gone a bit crazy around the continent. The amount paid for Hulk, Cavani, Falcao and Neymar has shown that 50 million is the new 30 million when it comes to excessive transfer fees.

Even Arsene Wenger is trying to getting in on the act, proving that A) he does know where his transfer kitty is and B) he does have a sense of humor with the £40 million + £1 bid for Liverpool's Luis Suarez. Rather than another preseason of protracted transfer sagas (with the word saga being used as loosely as possible) this year's preseason has almost been interesting.

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Manchester City's Yaya Toure has suggested that this season could be the most open yet at the top of the Premier League

Perhaps most madly of all though, Yaya Toure has stated that he believes as many as six teams could be in the title race this year. There is nothing new about this cliche, rarely a year goes by without someone at the top of English football declaring that the Premier League title "could be won by anyone this year", or that this season is "the most unpredictable one yet". 

To be more realistic though, "anyone" generally means either Manchester United or Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea, or Manchester United or Arsenal. "Unpredictable" generally means the possibility of Arsenal or Liverpool possibly winning it but invariably not doing so.

But this season does have the unpredictability factor in a way that no Premier League season has ever had. Of the six teams name-checked by Yaya Toure, the only team I'd immediately discount as even the most optimistic of title contenders would be Liverpool.

With some smart acquisitions a push for the top-four is not out of the question, but as these warm summer days go by, they look more and more likely to lose their talisman Luis Suarez. Without him their squad sheet looks dangerously average.

The usual suspects will still all be there. You'd expect a "re-Mourinho'd" Chelsea to be back amongst the title contenders after a couple of seasons in which they have not quite been at the Premier League races, Manchester City will be right up there after some excellent acquisitions and Manchester United should still be hanging round the top end come April/May. Fergie or no Fergie.

So that leaves us with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Can these two fierce North London rivals genuinely be considered title contenders this season?

Both clubs' campaigns last season seemed almost scripted to what was expected of them. Arsenal started poorly and finished well, Spurs started well and finished poorly. It has been several years since Arsenal have realistically challenged for the title, it has been an awful lot longer for their local rivals.


Arsenal

For Arsenal, this preseason seems to be very different to the start of recent campaigns, in that they do seem to have some money to spend. Despite Olivier Giroud's solid first season as a Gooner and his excellent form in preseason so far, Arsene Wenger still seems intent on bringing in a top striker.

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Can Wenger get his man?

The pursuit of Higuain was a signal of intent and the bid for Suarez proves that Wenger means business. For the first time in a long time, this is a summer of buying rather than selling for Arsenal. But failure to buy a big-name player could be as damaging to the team's prospects as losing van Persie, Fabregas or Nasri ever was.

With Manchester United firmly declaring that Wayne Rooney is not for sale, Suarez is the last truly A-List striker seemingly left available on the market. If this move doesn't transpire, it is hard to see where Wenger can turn, having already missed out on Higuain.

But if he can convince Suarez to sign, it will convince other big name players that Arsenal are once again a club that mean business, creating something of a domino effect making further signings a lot easier than the first. Blockbuster signings are not really Arsene Wenger's thing, and the Suarez saga already has the feeling of something that Arsenal's season hinges on.

With him, Arsenal could push onwards and upwards, without him, they're doomed for another season with an empty trophy cabinet and a frustrating scrap for the top four.


Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur are in a pretty similar boat to Arsenal transfer wise. Having already signed Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, they possess arguably the strongest midfield unit in the Premier League and are now also in pursuit of a talismanic striker

Whilst Arsenal's potential success seems to rest on buying a key player, Spurs, in contrast, are as concerned with holding onto theirs. And no, I'm not talking about Emmanuel Adebayor. 

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AVB will know that it is of the utmost importance that Spurs hold onto Gareth Bale

I am of course talking about Gareth Bale. Spurs are not a one man team, they are a very good team with one exceptional player, and there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever. They are no more a one man team than Barcelona is with Lionel Messi, Real Madrid is with Cristiano Ronaldo or Manchester United is with Robin van Persie.

Spurs desperately need to hold onto Bale. They need to prove once and for all that they aren't a selling club. Only then will they truly be able to establish themselves at the summit of the Premier League, rather than a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

They also have some psychological hurdles to overcome. This season will be the second in a row that they are playing in the Europa League when, in no uncertain terms, they should be playing Champions League football. 

Two seasons ago, Manchester United threw away an eight-point lead to lose the title to Manchester City on the last day of the season. Last season, they put that right. They got themselves on top and wouldn't let up until they were over the line. 

Last season, Tottenham didn't learn from its errors from the season before. They have to prove their resolve before they can be considered even potential Premier League title contenders. They can't afford to come unstuck during the climax of the Premier League season again.

Perhaps less of a focus on the Europa League will let them peak at the right time of the season, rather than suffer from burnout again towards the end.


The Verdict

Both Arsenal and Tottenham seem in a far stronger position to challenge for the title than either have been in a long time. In recent seasons, the fates of these two clubs have seemed more intertwined than ever before. 

This upcoming season has the potential to provide the first ever genuine three-way title battle, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea on a more level playing field than ever before. But a five or even six-way title battle, as suggested by Yaya Toure, is a little too far-fetched possibility.

Come the end of the season, Arsenal and Spurs will still be fighting it out for that coveted fourth Champions League spot over anything else. But with the right acquisitions and some genuine improvement from past mistakes, both sides have the potential to narrow the gap between fourth and first closer than it has ever been before.

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