Did you feel that? A tremor. A few notches on the Richter scale: not quite a full-blown earthquake, but unless carnivorous worms have tunnelled their way into the British bedrock, evidence of significant seismic activity rumbling beneath the Premier League’s surface. This weekend, football’s tectonic plates shifted an inch or two into strange new positions that might shape the lay of the land for many years to come.
It was the immaculate turf beneath Arsenal and Spurs’ feet on Saturday that shuddered most. When Arsenal should have comfortably seen out the North London derby at 2 – 0 up, should in fact have gone on to slaughter their local rivals, they slumped. The opportunity to go top of the table, and possibly on to actually winning something, seemingly left them indifferent. Their defence buckled all too easily to allow ripostes from a Spurs side sharpened up at half-time by Harry Redknapp and sent out to attack: »I got the hump with Gareth Bale«, said the manager of the interval. »The right-back [Bacary Sagna] made a diabolical tackle on him and then Gareth went for a header, bumped him and walked over and shook hands with him. I said, ‘What are we? We’re not the nice guys. Let’s go out there and compete with them in the second half.
Will the earth swallow him, please?
That advice inspired Bale to grab the first goal of the fight back, before the once more excellent Rafael Van Der Vaart and Younes Kaboul completed the unlikely 3 – 2 turnaround. The returning Jermain Defoe also deserves credit for brilliantly attacking the space between gung-ho Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy and centre-half Laurent Koscielny. The latter especially will have wished that the earth could have swallowed him up, so wretched was his second-half performance.
Spurs though could reflect on ridding themselves of a significant hoodoo: this was their first win on enemy territory for 17 years, and more importantly it was the club’s first win on the road against any of Arsenal, Manchester United or Liverpool in 68 attempts. Though they remain three points off fourth place and the last Champions League spot, both off and on the pitch, they are starting to position themselves to profit from the shifting sands the traditional elite have built their success on.
With Chelsea contriving to lose 1 – 0 at Birmingham to record their third loss in four games, and their first back-to-back league defeats since 2006, there was a tangible sense this weekend that the Premier League’s much vaunted (or rather much marketed) quality is in serious decline – Arsenal’s unbeaten 2003 – 2004 season seems a distant memory, Sir Alex Ferguson’s rampant United side that reached successive Champions League finals in 2008 and 2009 already seems a thing of the past, and even the grinding brilliance of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea seems like a precious heirloom, mislaid in the league’s attic. No team seems capable of sustaining a run that will lead them inexorably to the title and indisputably to footballing glory.
The advent of UEFA’s financial fair play rules in 2012 seems to be forcing clubs to grapple with new realities. Some are doing it better than others: Manchester United have done nothing but create a rod for their own back by boosting Wayne Rooney’s wages to a rumoured £250,000 per week, whilst in the new year, a top ticket at Arsenal will break the £100 price barrier for the first time. Chelsea meanwhile have belatedly realised that the days of fixing all and any problems in the transfer market are over: Ray Wilkins’ ruthless dismissal points to a club trying to extract every ounce of quality from the resources already at its disposal. Manchester City for their part, are engaged in a race to join the Champions League elite before restrictions bite hard. Sheikh Mansour has so far spent £573 million salvaged from down the back of the sofa at City, but chief executive Gary Cook has gone on the record as saying they will have to exercise restraint in future transfer windows or risk missing out on an eventual UEFA club licence from 2012.
Tottenham is young, hungry and exciting
From then until 2015, clubs will not be allowed to spend more than they earn, apart from on major infrastructure, and will have to run at an aggregate loss of no more than £38 million over that period. While that may leave the Premier League’s nouveau riches on shaky ground, it plays nicely into the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, who have a sound financial record (the most recent figure that I could find pointed to a wages to turnover ratio at a healthy 47% for example, with the fifth highest turnover in the Premier League). They also have planning permission for the redevelopment of White Hart Lane or a move to the Olympic Stadium on the cards. And their squad (a few duff strikers not included) is young, hungry and exciting. Now that they have demonstrated not only their ability to mix it with Europe’s finest but the bullies in their own back yard, they might just be standing on the brink of a bright future in the strange new world of the Premier League 2.0, ready to prove that greater competitiveness, rather than elite quality can be the product’s new selling point. A significant challenge remains for them this season to capitalise on the inconsistency and parsimony of the teams above them while maintaining a run in Europe. But if they can, the aftershocks could resonate for seasons to come.
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An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 13: Chas and Dave
Denn ich gerade Hansi Hinterseer entdeckt habe, den ikonischen germanischen Troubadour, habe ich zwei Musikanten mit ähnliche Talent mit euch teilen gewollt. Chas und Dave sind zwei Cockneys (Ostlondoner) sowie die berühmteste Anhänger von Tottenham Hotspur. Sie haben am ende der 70er Jahre und am Anfang der 80er Jahre, mehrere Hits gehabt in ihre einzigartige ‚Rockney’ Stil und sogar vier Liede über Tottenhams FA Cup Saisonen geschrieben. Stellt ihr vor – das ist wahrscheinlich die Musik, die Harry Redknapp jeder Morgen im Auto hört. Komischerweise, ist ihre Wikipedia Seite nur nach Schwedisch übersetzt. Ich habe keine Erklärung für ihr Erfolg in Skandanavien. Ehrlich gesagt, habe ich auch keine für ihr Erfolg in England. Enjoy!