Arsenal gap is almost bridged, believes Jol

The Spurs head coach also feels that his young and improving side, who are above the Gunners in the Premiership table, are closing the gap on their great rivals and the teams who regularly qualify for the Champions' League.

Tottenham, who lie third, have never qualified for Europe's premier club competition but they will strengthen their chances of doing so if they take advantage of Arsenal's lacklustre form in the League by defeating Arsène Wenger's men for the first time in six years. Their chances of winning were further increased when it emerged last night that Thierry Henry had only a 30 per cent chance of playing.

Spurs lost both derbies last season with Jol feeling that Patrick Vieira and Henry made the difference. But with Vieira sold to Juventus in the summer, he said: "If we could identify a [Patrick] Vieira or Henry in the future then we could probably do the same as them. They are a very good team, especially when everybody is there. Since Henry is back they are winning games again.

"The evidence that we are close to Arsenal comes not only in that they have been interested in players we now have [Michael Carrick, Paul Robinson, Jermain Defoe]. Also we have only lost against Chelsea at home since last December.

"When teams like the big four want our players we are doing well. That wasn't the case last year but now we have four or five who were wanted by them so I think everything is going the way I want."

Jol was further encouraged by his side's draw against Manchester United last weekend. "The signs are there we can be a good team," he said. "For instance we had 60 per cent of possession against United and eight corners. How many teams do that? But we still need another 10 per cent [to get closer to the top four] and then you need to look at our depth as well.

"There are four areas in football: if you are almost 100 per cent tactically, technically, physically and mentally then you are just like Chelsea. They are almost 100 per cent in every department and that is what we are trying to achieve."

The corresponding fixture at White Hart Lane last season was Jol's first official league match in charge of Spurs, in the wake of Jacques Santini's unexpected departure last November.

Arsenal won that 5-4, but Jol believes he has made his side much harder to defeat at home.

He said: "For history the 5-4 was a nice game because that does not happen a lot, but we lost and that was a disappointment. Four out of their five goals we scored because we gave the ball away at the back."

Spurs' home form has indeed been strong since that setback. In their 17 Premier League fixtures since then, they have lost just twice, winning 11 times. "We have done well at home since then," Jol says. "The last team to beat us at home was Chelsea, nine months ago and then again this season."

Jol also believes his team are heading in the right direction with their recruitment of young English talent. Spurs have brought in the likes of Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and Wayne Routledge under his watch and he believes that is the way forward for a club unable to compete with the biggest Premiership spenders.

"There has been a lot of development," he said. "For instance, in the last two games we played against Manchester United there were eight changes between last season and this one. That is a lot in only a few [nine] months. I think we are building a new team but you know we can't afford a Michael Owen.

"Getting those English players in is the only way to get very good players on board who are young and can cope with the mentality and the Premiership.

"We are better than last season but we need some time and I think everybody realises that. We are not the finished article."

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