Blog by: James
Now I’m sure there are those of you reading this that excel in forward planning.
Nest-egg saved away for that rainy day, always at your desk 15 minutes early and enough cans of tinned ravioli stored away in an underground bunker to last a good two months in the event of nuclear fallout.
The Lone Frontman strives to be more like you – Alert. Attentive. Ready for whatever may lay ahead.
Alas, come Christmas Eve, you can be sure to catch a glance of us as we rifle through the shelves, trying to locate cranberry sauce, frantically looking for advice on how to defrost a 12lb turkey before morning and mentally repeating over and over that, ‘it’s the thought that counts’ as we wrap up the last minute 24 hour co-op offerings for little Jonny – what kid wouldn’t be happy, come Christmas morning, to be unwrapping a pack of reduced scotch eggs and the latest copy of the National Enquirer?
Over the past few years, we’d need only to glance over a shoulder to catch sight of Daniel Levy scrabbling around the fruit and veg. Wading through rotten, discarded celeriac in the vain hope of finding enough runaway brussels to produce a plateful and keep the in-laws happy.
Though this year we fear we may be trudging that long and lonely path solo, as Tottenham seem to have finally woken to the idea that getting in there a little earlier and perhaps paying that little extra, will be worth it in the long run.
Compared to previous seasons, Tottenham’s summer transfer strategy has been more thoroughly planned than the Normandy landings.
Weaknesses have been identified. Targets have been drawn up. Gaps have been filled.
Even with the inevitable, long, drawn-out affair that has been Gareth Bale’s transfer to Madrid, Daniel Levy has appeared in control of Spurs’s destiny at all times.
Willian aside, Spurs have managed to compete for, and succeed in, capturing some of the most prized assets around, and all without the promise of that most precious of footballing commodities – Champions League football.
Last season, Tottenham missed out on fourth place and Champions League qualification, because they refused to pay that little bit extra for a centre forward.
This summer, transfer records have been broken multiple times to assemble, what could yet be, a squad with the ability to, not only claim a place in the top four, but also to become league champions for the first time since Sean Connery was strutting his stuff as James Bond around Crab Key fighting mechanical dragons.
In Roberto Soldado, Tottenham look to have finally found the steady stream of goals they’ve been crying out for since Jurgen the German swan-dived out of White Hart Lane for the last time.
All over the pitch things look rosy, with noticeable upgrades in midfield. Out have gone the loveable, but workmanlike Scott Parker and the always flattering-to-deceive Tom Huddlestone, to be replaced by the the classy, all-round talent of Brazilian Paulinho and his new all-action, midfield partner-in-crime, Ettienne Capoue – both highly sought after, and both who look as though they will take to the Premier League as easily as Accrington MD, Robert Heys, took to the bookie.
Envious eyes can almost be seen, squinting through the seemingly perpetual transfer darkness covering the red half of North London, as Arsene Wenger’s designs for squad reinforcement have been continually squashed all summer.
Le Professeur’s quest has hardly been helped by the pressure heaped upon him by Arsenal’s supporter’s and perhaps more importantly, the Arsenal board’s desire to see at least one marquee name shimmying through the gates of the Emirates.
While Wenger has been frantically flapping around, trying to tread water in previously uncharted territory for the Frenchman, rival managers have been cannonballing in the shallow pools, for so long Wenger’s prized hunting ground, scooping up handfuls of smaller fish that would have served Arsenal well this season.
Indeed, as Wenger has grappled for the attention of first Wayne Rooney, then Gonzalo Higuain and most recently, Luis Suarez, only to be rebuffed each time, pressure has built to bends-inducing levels. It could be argued that if Wenger had gone back to the tried and tested formula that built his ‘invincible’ side of 10 years ago, paying the necessary price, recruiting players on potential and ability, with focus on the benefits that a player could add to his squad rather than simply appeasing the masses, the Arsenal manager may not have found himself with just four days left of the transfer window and only Yaya Sanogo to show for all the early summer bluster and whispers of £100 million transfer pots.
Surely, what the fans craved at the start of the summer was for Wenger to address the obvious holes in his squad – lack of a dominant centre back with the ability to organise, an energetic, dynamic midfielder and a reliable goalkeeper.
Unlike Spurs however, Arsenal’s cash has so far been flashed in the direction of more attacking talent. Even now, in the dying embers of the transfer window, Wenger is still batting his lashes towards Madrid’s seemingly soon to be surplus to requirement creative flim-flam.
Now, no-one would argue that the likes of Ozil, Di Maria and Benzema wouldn’t improve Wenger’s squad, but from the outside-looking-in, priorities seem to have become skewed. Capoue would have been an ideal signing for the Gunners and they have been linked for the past few windows, but when the time came for the player to move, Arsenal were nowhere in sight.
This, more than Wenger’s inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to sign those players from the very top drawer should surely be the worry for Arsenal fans. It is a worrying trend that has been evident since the break up of Wenger’s invincibles, where Arsenal have seemingly been at the front of the queue for a player only to be unable to close the deal.
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Yann M’Vila (Rubin Kazan), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Michu (Swansea), Lewis Holtby (Tottenham), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Yaya Toure (Man City), Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich) and even Christiano Ronaldo has been within touching distance at one stage or another since that undefeated season and all have slipped away.
Come the North London derby this weekend, Wenger may yet surprise most, delve into those reputedly deep coffers and unveil an array of talent that fills in all the current blanks. If not, Wenger may find himself casting an envious eye to the opposition bench at AVB’s expertly assembled side with perhaps the very slightest thought in the back of his mind – “I was right all along.”