Spurs capitalise on Wenger's inaction
In the summer leading up to the 2000/01 season Tottenham Hotspur broke their transfer record with an £11m move for Sergei Rebrov, the then Ukraine and Dynamo Kiev star. Rebrov, as we now know, failed to make a name for himself at White Hart Lane as Spurs limped to a 12th placed finish.
Rebrov appeared with all the hype record breakers seldom come without but departed without a whimper four years later with just 12 Tottenham career goals to his name and a major blemish on his CV.
In contrast, during the same summer break Arsene Wenger added the Metz midfielder Robert Pires to his Arsenal squad, incidentally, for almost half as much as Tottenham coughed up for Rebrov.
Pires joined an Arsenal squad littered with transfer success stories; Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Freddy Ljungberg – the list goes on.
We know the rest; a second placed finish that year preceded a double the next and then came the 2004 ‘Invincibles’, the single best side to grace a Premier League season.
Pires was the effortless architect of the success. A pure footballer who personified the Arsenal way and flourished as its pigeon-footed puppet master.
How times have changed.
This week the confirmation of the deals to bring Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela to White Hart Lane have taken Tottenham’s summer spending up to over £95m as Spurs look to fill the Gareth Bale shaped hole in the squad whilst still improving on their league position.
With Daniel Levy at the helm they have done their work with impressive ease, spending the Bale money before a deal with Real Madrid had been finalised. A risky gamble should the Spanish club fail to stump up the fee, but one that is looking increasingly like paying off.
Spurs also haven’t spent more than £26.4m on one individual in a hugely inflated market since the French nouveau riches of Monaco and PSG entered. The club have bought some of the world’s brightest young talents without the need to pay over the market rate and are reaping the rewards of a hugely effectively transfer policy.
And so to the contrast again.
Arsenal have spent nothing. Nought pounds. Not that they don’t need to of course, this isn’t the Pires generation as we well know. This is an era of the trophy-less squad, of persistent ridicule and the signing of Abu Diaby every August.
The club haven’t struggled to attract interest, more so that they have failed to negotiate successfully. The cries from the fans to spend and the talk from Wenger and Ivan Gazidas that there’s money in the pot have led the club to look desperate and prices have risen accordingly.
Arsenal’s naivety in the transfer market is not only costing the club but, through Tottenham’s endeavours, it’s being capitalised on by their greatest rivals. Last season’s one point gap in the league is already looking even slender than it did in May and the threat of fourth place usurpation is more real than ever in north London.
Wenger is still living in a world of Rebrovs and Pires’, where £6m men from northern France win Player of the Year and Spurs’ ill-fated efforts conclude with persistent underachievement. Yet the axis of power is shifting and Wenger’s inaction is Levy’s gain.