Arsenal are due to play Tottenham at White Hart Lane that could potentially end either team’s hope of European football next season. The lack of fans in the stadium will dampen the atmosphere for the players but for fans, this fixture has likely never been more important.
Both fans are in some degree of transition right now. Tottenham were the runners up in the Champions League last year but have completely tanked this season despite looking like one of the best teams on paper at the beginning of the year. Arsenal similarly fell short in the Europa League final, but their poor position this season is somewhat less surprising.
Arsenal looked somewhat directionless at the tail-end of last season, they looked like a team always trying to react to an opponent rather than a team taking the game to their opponents. Since Mikel Arteta arrived as the Gunners’ new head coach, this appears to be changing – however the fitness levels at the club were nowhere near the standard required to play Arteta’s protagonist style of football for 90 minutes – so they often find themselves looking very defensive in the latter part of most games.
Tottenham hired Jose Mourinho largely in an attempt to get a team from “nearly” winning trophies – to a team that was capable of getting the team over the finish line. Of course this season was always going to be difficult, taking over a team in 9th place, but the truth is that Tottenham’s key players had all peaked, their most important playmaker in Christian Eriksen was looking to leave the club and a number of key players were under-performing. The club was in crisis.
Truth be told, neither club’s fortunes have dramatically improved since their head coaches changed, but the sense among fans now is that both teams need to fight for their position within the football world again. Tottenham had surpassed Arsenal in the past 5 years – becoming an established European side capable of beating anybody on their day, whilst Arsenal were looking worse and worse in the latter half of the previous decade. Both teams were still considered as part of the established “top 6” though.
Now both teams face an uncertain future – Arteta is still an unproven, untested commodity at Arsenal, whilst Mourinho appears to be an old school manager trying to compete in a new era of football coaching and management.
Strikingly different perspectives from the two clubs, who’s position within the world of football are undeniably similar.
Photo: Ronnie Macdonald (2010)