As the full-time whistle blew on Sunday bringing the game between Tottenham Hostpur and Arsenal to a close, there was no doubt that there had been a power shift in North London. The pulsating encounter, which ended 2-1 to Andre Villas-Boas’ side, featured two teams who were more or less evenly matched, both on paper as well as on the pitch. The only difference was the cutting edge in the opposition’s penalty area, with Spurs being incisive and precise and Arsenal looking out of ideas for most parts.
Nearly always in the shadow of the Gunners, Tottenham’s rise over the last few seasons has been quite remarkable. A consistent mid-table club for the first decade of the Premier League, the Lilywhites starting rising in stature after Martin Jol took over as manager. Consecutive 5th placed finishes in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 season saw the fans dreaming of Champions League football, but Juande Ramos’ time at the club saw them slip to 11th place in the following campaign, even though managed to win silverware in the form of the League Cup. A dismal start to the 2008-09 season saw them fighting relegation for a brief period, before Harry Redknapp’s arrival and a subsequent rise up the table.
Champions League football finally arrived after a 4th place finish in 2010, but Spurs narrowly missed out next season, when they finished one place outside the top 4. Redknapp’s final season in charge saw his team once again managing to finish 4th but with 6th placed Chelsea managing to win the Champions League and qualify automatically for next season’s campaign, Spurs had to be content with the Europa League.
But now, Tottenham finally look like a team who are capable at the highest level of European football on a regular basis. Sitting pretty at 3rd in the table with a 12 game unbeaten streak to their name, the Lilywhites don’t look like they’re going to repeat the mistakes that saw them surrender a 4 point lead over 4th positioned Arsenal with seven games to go, last season. With a young and dynamic manager in Villas-Boas and a shrewdly assembled squad, the club are certainly moving in the right direction and making a claim for being one of the top clubs in the continent. Their expansive style of football is an absolute pleasure to watch for the neutrals and fans alike, and their ability to score goals and get results in big games is just what Chairman Daniel Levy has been looking to achieve with his club. If they continue to do this on a regular basis, they can attract more and more rich talent to the club, and strengthen the side even further.
They have shown in the past that they can cut it with the big boys, when they beat both Inter and AC Milan during their Champions League odyssey in 2010-11, before succumbing to Real Madrid in the quarter-final stage.
That being said, there is no doubt about the fact that Spurs are heavily dependent on their talismanic winger Gareth Bale for most of what they do nowadays. With 13 goals in the last 14 games, the Welshman has been the major reason for Tottenham’s unbeaten run. Apart from him, there hasn’t been a standout performer in Villas-Boas’ side and it is imperative that the club hold on their 23 year-old superstar.
Drawing comparisons to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Bale has been targeted by several top clubs across Europe, with Real Madrid and Manchester United touted as favourites to lure him away from White Hart Lane.
In their bid to continue to grow as a club, keeping Bale has got to be top priority for Spurs, because if he leaves, he will leave behind a gulf that will be very difficult to fill.
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