Arsenal losing their grip - now or never for Spurs to seize power - Leo's London

28 September 2011 11:44
When this weekend comes around there will be a myriad of interesting issues to focus on, from the status of Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko at Manchester City to Chelsea without Fernando Torres and the openness of Manchester United this season.

But even with Everton facing Liverpool on Saturday, too, there will be no game bigger than the north London derby. Tottenham against Arsenal on Sunday blows everything else away.

This is the season, after all, Spurs have long targeted as the one in which they will overtake their bitter local rivals - and that was before Arsenal began to implode. The balance of power in north London can seldom have been more delicate.

Under fire: Arsene Wenger has never been under so much pressure at Arsenal

Spurs' rejuvenation under Harry Redknapp in recent years has seen them significantly close the gap on Arsenal. Even after experiencing a slightly choppy close season themselves at White Hart Lane, things have gone swimmingly for them relative to their neighbours.

Arsenal have lurched from crisis to crisis and even if a kind of calm has descended on the Emirates Stadium after victory against Bolton, there are still fresh problems.

Robin van Persie's contract situation and Jack Wilshere's prognosis are the latest in a long line of difficulties that their urbane French manager Arsene Wenger has had to cope with.

Changing faces: Arsenal are rebuilding after losing key players in the summer

The derby could be next. It is a game in a period of rivalry that has a now or never feel about it, a time when Spurs might even be favourites and have to hammer home any element of supremacy.

Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal since 1995, when their neighbours' key players suffered injuries and the club's name was dragged through the mud. First, Paul Merson admitted to gambling and alcohol addiction, then manager George Graham was sacked after taking a bung.

Things are of a much lower order of crisis right now for Arsenal, but they are pretty unstable nonetheless.

Surprise, surprise: Spurs have dispelled fears over their future with a bright start

The presence of their former striker Emmanuel Adebayor in a Tottenham shirt on Sunday is unlikely to put them on a firmer footing. He was bitterly hated by Arsenal fans before he joined their most despised rivals, so his temperament will be thoroughly tested in an atmopshere at fever pitch.

Adebayor has a habit of scoring in these games too, having notched eight goals in nine games for Arsenal against Spurs.

It is not a match that rests on Tottenham winning for the full dramatic effect, though. An Arsenal win could help start to get their season back on track and would, at the least, buy Wenger and his players a little time to make the best of their troublesome situation.

Old friends: Emmanuel Adebayor is not a popular figure at the Emirates

Such derbies can fail to live up to their billing but there were 16 goals, including four from penalties, in three encounters last season and goals are not usually a problem.

All the ingredients are there and, with all due respect to fans on Merseyside - whose derby is always fascinating and febrile too - there is no realistic rival for top billing.

Broken record

  More from Leo Spall. Leo's London: Warnock is asking for trouble by handing QPR captaincy to Barton21/09/11 Leo's London: More clown than clone but Chelsea boss Villas-Boas is a real entertainer14/09/11 Leo's London: Luka that! Modric starred for Croatia, so Spurs can expect a top show at Wolves then.07/09/11 Leo's London: Spurs boss Redknapp uses his window of opportunity to keep us entertained31/08/11 Leo's London: Lamps could burn out for good when Modric makes his Chelsea move25/08/11 Leo's London: Premier League pantomime - starring Nasri, Adebayor and Barton - isn't quite football fun for all the family17/08/11 Leo's London: QPR fans are feeling down but Warnock's men have a chance of staying up10/08/11 Leo's London: Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and United make their moves. but nothing to shatter the transfer window20/07/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE  Six games, that is all it took. Neil Warnock made noises at the end of last season to suggest he had changed his tune about referees but they always sounded hollow. His anger about Michael Oliver's decisions in QPR'S 1-1 draw with Aston Villa last Sunday confirmed it.

Did you know?

Arsenal have struggled through 40 injury complaints to 22 different established first team players in 2011, according to reports. How accurate they are, only the club can know.

But given Birmingham covered up a drugs ban to Gary O'Connor with an alleged injury problem, it is hard to say whether they would tell us.

Managers often talk vaguely about injuries anyway and medics sometimes cannot immediately diagnose a problem or be spot on about recovery time. So we can only go on what the clubs are prepared to admit to publicly.

From that, it is hard not to think that Arsenal have had a tough time of things and the pressure on key players in an insufficiently deep squad is as good an explanation as any. 

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Source: Daily_Mail

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