THE CIRCUMSTANCES of Tottenham’s defeat at Manchester City on Sunday will have stung Harry Redknapp, but he should seek significant consolation in the fact his side’s performance confirmed a shift in the balance of power in north London.
To have retrieved a two-goal deficit and come within a few centimetres of beating the champions-elect underlined the faith Redknapp’s players hold in his methods.
The contrast could not have been starker just a few hours later when Robin van Persie appeared to contest Arsene Wenger’s decision to substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – it had the feeling of a watershed moment, perhaps in the Frenchman’s reign, but certainly in the rivalry between Spurs and Arsenal.
The toxic atmosphere inside Emirates Stadium intensified once Danny Welbeck’s late goal secured victory for Manchester United and left Arsenal staring at the prospect of a year without Champions League football and all that accompanies it.
A manager of Wenger’s standing doesn’t deserve to have his authority or decision-making so openly questioned by his club’s fans or his skipper, but you can certainly understand the frustration felt on all sides.
Arsenal’s downfall has been in their refusal to build from a position of strength and has led them to a position whereby they are now attempting to sculpt a side around the likes of Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, who would have been solid squad additions when they were challenging for honours, but simply aren’t the sort of players that win you titles.
FLAWED TRANSFER POLICY
Wenger is a magnificent coach who has transformed Arsenal’s image, but sometimes you have to rely on short-term fixes to ensure the long-term goal remains attainable.
A failure to invest last January saw Arsenal’s challenge on four fronts unravel in the space of three weeks and certainly contributed to the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, while already Wenger appears to be fighting a losing battle to maintain the services of Van Persie.
Redknapp, on the other hand, had to fight to convince his chairman of the merits of signing Scott Parker. Daniel Levy argued that the addition of a 30-year-old with no re-sale value and a checkered injury record should not be top of his club’s priority list.
You can understand his thinking and I’m sure were Arsenal considering taking a gamble on Parker they would have harboured the same reservations. But Redknapp’s judgement and confidence in the short-term merits of Parker’s presence in his side’s midfield has emphatically proved to be a punt worth taking.
It would be churlish to claim Spurs are on the verge of usurping Arsenal on the basis of signing Parker, but certainly it indicates their willingness to invest in the here and now, while Arsenal are stuck in a perpetual state of building for the future.
The next six games could well determine what that future holds for Arsenal. A failure to pick up something near maximum points will see them wave goodbye to a top four place and their only world class player.
If that’s the case, the Gunners will start next season from an unfamiliar position as north London’s second class citizens.
Trevor Steven is a former Everton and Glasgow Rangers winger who represented England at the 1986 and 1990 World Cup.
NEXT SIX PL GAMES | SPURS & ARSENAL
31 January: Wigan (home)
6 February: Liverpool (away)
11 February: Newcastle (home)
26 February: Arsenal (away)
4 March: Manchester United (home)
10 March: Everton (away)
1 February: Bolton (away)
4 February: Blackburn (home)
11 February: Sunderland (away)
26 February: Tottenham (home)
3 March: Liverpool (away)
12 March: Newcastle (home)
* Fixtures subject to change due to both teams involvement in the FA Cup