Perhaps one of the biggest issues for Tottenham Hotspur supporters historically has been whether Spurs can finish above their North London rivals. The question this season is not only whether Spurs can finish above Arsenal, but also finish as the top team in London? This may partially depend on results against all other “top six” teams including Arsenal and Chelsea. With around a quarter of the season gone Spurs are lying fifth on the table. Against “top six” teams, Spurs have won two, lost two; Chelsea lost one and Arsenal lost all three. Also since October 2009, Spurs have only lost one in seven League meetings against these two London rivals.
Spurs strengthened its roster in the summer, adding the experience of Brad Friedel, Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor (on loan) as well as keeping Luka Modric. Chelsea used the summer to address the issue of an aging squad and have made at least one class signing in Juan Mata, whilst Arsenal lost their two best players and arguably made panic signings in the wake of their humiliation at Old Trafford.
In considering who will finish highest, one could look at the make-up of each team:
Defensively Spurs and Chelsea look solid units with defensive leaders that are missing in an Arsenal back line that has conceded 18 times. Spurs average more tackles and clearances per game than Chelsea and Arsenal. With Friedel providing consistency, Kyle Walker confirming his promise and Younes Kaboul looking a rock in the centre, Spurs’ defence looks to be improving, which may be a main difference. Arsenal’s defence has looked suspect for a while. At Chelsea, age appears to be catching up and some like David Luiz look a liability. The Blues do still have a good defence, but for how long?
In midfield, Spurs have perhaps two of the best defensive midfielders around in Scott Parker and Sandro, who in tackles and interceptions outstrip Jon Obi Mikel and Alex Song. Elsewhere, Chelsea have strength in the aging Frank Lampard, Mata and Ramires, all contributing assists and goals. Arsenal lost Jack Wilshire to long term injury and have been reliant on Aaron Ramsey. No Arsenal midfielder has scored more than one goal, and apart from the Welshman, few have made much impact in assists. Besides Parker and Sandro, Spurs with Gareth Bale, Modric and Rafael van der Vaart have one of the strongest midfields in the League. The Dutchman has excelled this season, but more assists and goals may be needed from others.
Upfront Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres look in good form, though Didier Drogba is perhaps a fading force. For Spurs, it appears Adebayor may do well while Jermain Defoe looks sharper than last season. All three teams are scoring but Chelsea and Spurs are sharing the goals around whilst Arsenal have been relying heavily on Robin van Persie.
Arsenal and Chelsea are also using the same players domestically and in Europe, whilst Spurs are playing basically a different team in Europe to keep first team players fresh. This may prove vital by the end of the season, as could suspensions. On that front, to date Spurs’ disciplinary record has been far better.
There is a long way to go but the signs are promising that Spurs could finish as the top team in London.
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