Arsenal no longer a threat, says Jol
Monday 17 October 2005
Raising the stakes ahead of that contest Martin Jol, the Spurs coach, wrote off Arsenal's championship chances and declared that "without Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry they are just another team". Jol, whose rejuvenated club lie second in the Premiership, five points and six places above Arsenal, then looked forward to an era when Tottenham will again be north London's premier team.
"Arsenal have been better than us but in football history I don't think that's been the case," Jol said. "Spurs were better than them and maybe one day we will be again. If we get a Thierry Henry or a Patrick Vieira then we will do the same as Arsenal, we have the same set-up with young players and we can grow and grow.
"It is about finding big players. When Henry gets to 35 and cannot play any more, and Arsenal are looking for a replacement, maybe Tottenham will find him first. We have found [Aaron] Lennon. He will be a big player in the future."
Though Jol said that he thought Arsenal would make the top three, when asked if Spurs could catch Chelsea he pointedly ignored them as he replied: "I'd like to but it would be impossible. Let's leave closing the gap to Manchester United because it will be difficult enough for them."
And Arsenal? "Arsenal is different nowadays," he said. "They have just lost again. If the big players are not there - and Vieira has gone and Henry is out - then maybe Arsenal are the same as other teams."
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said last night that Henry was doubtful for the Tottenham game while Alexander Hleb, Ashley Cole and the latest injury victim, Freddie Ljungberg, will all be missing. Sol Campbell, however, should be back to face his old club. Even without some major stars, Arsenal can field a balanced team with plenty of internationals but the bench is threadbare.
Arsenal are 14 points behind Chelsea, which Wenger preferred not to address. "At the moment I don't look at the gap," he said. "Let's try to win the next game and slowly get our players back, it does not look like we can [win the Premiership] but there is a long way to go."
Wenger said that it was "very worrying" to have already lost three Premiership games, blaming the latest defeat on "a lack of experience and maturity". To find that, he said, "I will have to look in the treatment room". He added: "We gave goals away like a youth team and lost a game we should not have lost."
Arsenal have now taken one point from four away matches in the Premiership, a weakness Wenger hinted at when he said of Saturday's match: "If we had played at home today we might have got away with it." The north London derby is at White Hart Lane.
Back on the Tottenham High Road Jermaine Jenas, who scored against Everton, caught the mood when he said: "It would be great for us to be the dominant north London team. Everyone's talking about the derby. It'll be a great day."
However, Phil Neville, in the beaten Everton side, had a word of caution. "They're all thinking it's exciting times and that may well be. But to break into that top three is going to be very difficult. You've got to progress on to that world-stage level. I don't see Spurs presenting more of a challenge than Arsenal this season. Arsenal are suffering a lot of injuries at the moment."
Arsenal's crisis has come at a bad time for the club as it prepares to move to the new 60,000-seat Ashburton Grove stadium next August. Flats in the to-be-redeveloped Highbury go on sale the weekend of the Tottenham game. That move heralds the ending of an era off the pitch. Wenger will hope his team's recent decline does not signal a similar defining change on it.
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