Tottenham are at least a decade behind Arsenal in every sense.
I’m not talking about trophies – after all, light years would be a better unit of measurement for that particular comparison – but about club development.
Specifically, the build of a brand new stadium suitable for the 21st century.
The goalposts are somewhat different now compared to the situation in 2004 when the ground was broken at Ashburton Grove, and indeed to 2006 and the official opening of the Emirates.
For a start, where a few clubs had *all* the money back when Arsenal were building a new home, especially with the influx of overseas dollars into a chosen few.
Now, however, a number of stadium expansions are in train as all the Premier League clubs benefit from insane levels of funding following the new TV deal. Money is everywhere.
Back in the mid-noughties, Arsenal had to fund their construction project much as you would expect of any private entity. Bonds were raised, and construction delayed, as the club fought tooth and nail to make the move happen.
Fast forward a decade, and Spurs are benefiting from investment by Haringey Borough Council (£13m), Transport for London (£20m) and even the Mayoral Office in the biggest ever grant of its kind.
Add in various waived fees and a stadium move represents somewhat less of a financial burden for the lesser light of north London’s football scene than it was for its trailblazer rival a decade earlier.
Nonetheless, Spurs still have to find hundreds of millions of pounds to fund their shiny new
home hole, a challenge Gooners are all too familiar with.
Yet we are constantly told that we have underachieved, settled for fourth place ‘mediocrity’ and compared unfavourably to the unfettered Tottenham Hotspur.
There are certainly similarities with how the Lilywhites are approaching their very own austerity period, despite the increased Premier League funds.
There are shades of the Arsenal team post the Invincibles, collecting a group of young players who – when push came to shove – were unable to get over the line.
This week, despite the gargantuan feat of achieving a record attendance by borrowing a stadium, they disappointed that same audience of roughly 50% Spurs fans and 50% neutrals in a performance reminiscent of so many Arsenal games, dominating possession, failing to capitalise on chances and conceding to pretty much every opposition attack.
No, it seems Spurs are desperate to copy their north London neighbours despite the media narrative of underachievement.
Imagine my surprise then, while suffering through TalkSport’s “Kick Off” programme, when one of the panelists asserted that Spurs would bite your hand off to have half the achievements of Arsenal during the stadium build phase. It suggests that the years between roughly 2004 and 2010 weren’t quite the horror show the media suggest. Imagine that!
So what is it that Spurs are hoping to emulate?
In the aforementioned time period, Arsenal managed to finish 1st, 2nd, 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th and 3rd, securing Champions League football and crucial funding in the process.
There was an FA Cup victory, a Champions League final as well as a semi-final and two quarter-finals, and a number of near misses including some questionable refereeing.
That final in particular represented a very close shave with success, with a surprise goal and a valiant defensive effort following Lehman’s red card in vain as Barcelona broke Arsenal hearts with a late goal.
Despite selling the club’s best players year after year, and a net spend of just £18m over six years (indeed, a substantial amount of this was for Samir Nasri, who was later sold for £22m despite being in the final year of his contract) Arsenal fans continued to be treated to top quality football even if the consistency was a little more lacking than in the preceding years.
Henry, Fabregas and Van Persie graced the Emirates turf, while there was more than a touch of what might’ve been when it came to the vast talent of Rosicky and Eduardo, had the injury Gods been a little less cruel.
Indeed, what might’ve been was an ongoing thread running through the tale of Arsenal’s early years at the Emirates. Twice the club came close to winning the league only to tail off through horrific injuries and youthful inconsistency.
Throughout, the club managed to hold on to a top level manager, despite his courtship by the likes of European super-giants Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
It’s easy to look back on that spell, especially coloured by the intervening years, and bemoan our lot, yet with an objective pair of spectacles on, it’s hard to criticise Arsenal’s achievements. Indeed, they should be applauded.
Without Champions League football, the club would have found itself in an altogether more perilous financial position, and to continue to be competitive for long spells demonstrates the excellent planning and execution that sat alongside the stadium build.
That constancy is in no small reason why a TalkSport pundit – a station which is notoriously anti-Arsenal – felt compelled to go against the failure narrative and address how the club’s approach to such a project should serve as a blueprint for Spurs, and something to aspire to.
To put it in perspective, imagine trying to compete at the top of the Premier League and the sharp end of the Champions League now with a net spend if £3m per year.
This summer, Arsenal Football Club spent £100m on players without letting so much as a dime of true first team talent walk out the door. Some difference.
And yet, for all the Eboues and Hoytes we had to watch wearing the red and white, I don’t think I’m stretching the realms of reality too far to suggest we were but an injury to Eduardo away from winning the League in the 2007/08 season.
So, Tottenham, you can aspire to emulate the mighty Arsenal, but the idea of you reaching a champions league final or getting so close to winning a title?
Don’t make me laugh.