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When a Gunner toured the ‘Lane’…….

While it might be surprising coming from an Arsenal fan, Tottenham holds a special place in my heart. The first ever football match I watched live involved Tottenham and Everton. And I remember I supported the team wearing ‘white jerseys’!

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To the Lane and Back guest writer: Vivek Arulnathan (content writer for Welcome to the Gunner’s town

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While it might be surprising coming from an Arsenal fan, Tottenham holds a special place in my heart. The first ever football match I watched live involved Tottenham and Everton. And I remember I supported the team wearing ‘white jerseys’!

It turned out that I fell in love with Arsenal and that love has grown over the years. I’d rather say evolved. But as someone who’s first love is beautiful football, the two North London clubs have never failed me. Any neutral fan would be impressed with what Arsenal and Tottenham offer on the pitch. And that’s what football and sports in general is all about- entertaining, competitive and inspiring.

To be honest, Spurs have come a long way in the last five years or so. They’ve managed to pull themselves out of Arsenal’s shadow and last year’s Champions League campaign has given the club a new identity. No longer can Arsenal fans have bragging rights in this historic rivalry. And the battle for supremacy in North London is more intense than ever. The derbies are…well…like what derbies should actually be. It’s unpredictable, highly intense and nerve-wracking at times. While Spurs fans will point to their successes in the North London derbies over the last two years as an indication of Arsenal’s decline, Tottenham still have a long way to go before they match Arsenal on and off the pitch.

The defeats against the two Manchester clubs showed that these are troubled times for Arsenal and Tottenham. And while Arsenal at least managed to bring in some names on deadline day, I was surprised that Tottenham failed to do so especially given that players like Crouch were sold. Brad Freidel, Scott Parker and Adebayor were the three names that came in and while they can bring some depth to the Spurs squad, I am not sure whether they are good enough to put Spurs back in the Champions League.

Freidel is 40 and will soon need replacement. Parker along with Modric and Van der Vaart can form one of the most exciting midfields in the Premier League. Adebayor became the player he is today because of Arsenal’s style of football. And ever since he left the Emirates, he has become an average player. While he certainly is an improvement over the one dimensional Crouch, I am not sure if he is the ‘15-goal a season’ forward that can propel Tottenham forward.

Modric and Van der Vaart are up there with the Premier League’s best midfielders. VDV was arguably the best signing of the 2010-11 season and Modric is the machine that runs the show at White Hart Lane. While the fans will be disappointed with Modric’s desire to leave, all I’ve got to say is that it is something that comes with playing in the Champions League. All the revenue and pride is great but it also brings the big boys calling. Either your players are wanted or they themselves want to leave. I mean, who wouldn’t want a quick buck and a few trophies?

Gareth Bale and Lennon provide pace on the flanks and given the hype surrounding them, it is high time they delivered. While Bale did win the Player of the year in 2010, I think his performances declined as the season progressed. Yes, he suffered a few injuries but given his amazing talents, he’ll be better if he starts to be consistent. His situation is similar to Walcott’s like a ‘will he…won’t he’ stage though the Welshman is certainly more talented. Huddlestone and Sandro are fantastic talents who will be crucial to the growth of Tottenham in the next decade.

And one shouldn’t forget Harry Redknapp. He has proved why he is so highly respected in England and deserves all the plaudits that have come his way. He has allowed his players to express themselves and this has allowed the players to feel at home. While Arsenal and Spurs play with contrasting styles, both are equally effective and impressive. And performances like the one against AC Milan showed the gritty nature of the squad. It was a great defensive display and I hate to admit that there have been times when I’ve wanted Arsenal to put up a few such displays like Spurs.

Off the field, Spurs have to build a sustainable financial model. They aren’t in any trouble but missing out on the CL would have hit them hard. And unless some Arab aristocrat comes in, Tottenham will have to try and create a business model that is stable and secure. Marketing the club overseas and investing in a youth academy are the key for such ventures to succeed. And they don’t have to look far is they want an example!

Sitting over here in India and having never been to England, I can’t understand how fans in London feel about this rivalry. But it is the best in England according to me. I don’t think any fixture would stand up to the excitement of the North London derbies of 2010-11. And it certainly isn’t an affair of hatred. You will never find me cursing Tottenham like I’ve seen United fans curse City or Barcelona fans curse Madrid. And that is because, no matter who reigns supreme in North London, football is the winner.

Arsenal club structure is at another level to Tottenham’s and while the gulf of class may have been bridged, Arsenal are in a situation from which they can start rebuilding the team again. And this is probably the biggest difference between the two rivals. Tottenham will have to find ways to increase income and become Champions League regulars if they aim to topple Arsenal from their throne.  

For their style, passion and commitment, Tottenham and their fans deserve some success. But wait, Arsenal’s superiority at North London isn’t over yet! And I don’t think Arsene Wenger is finished yet as well!!

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Interested in writing for To the Lane and Back? Simply e-mail ben.mcaleer@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

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