Friday, 30 September 2011

Life as derby underdogs

Words: 485. Estimated reading time: 1 minute 45 seconds.
It is timely that our chances of re-signing ‘star’ players in the final two years of their contract come into the spotlight with the North London derby looming. Our opponents on Sunday had a wage bill £43m smaller than ours in 2009/10 – but arguably now have a stronger squad.

Wenger said last week, in relation to Vermaelen, Song, Walcott, Arshavin and Van Persie, that he ‘can’t say today that if we go to the maximum we are sure to sign the player’ and that making maximum offers to Fabregas and Nasri did not work.

In essence he was admitting two things – firstly, the days of him convincing players they should stay at the club for job satisfaction reasons rather than money is no longer working and, secondly, that our hope that moving to Ashburton Grove would give us the money to keep up with the finances of other major clubs is dead.

The second point is not too surprising if we compare ourselves to the ‘petro-fuelled’ clubs out there but we have the fifth highest wage bill in the Premiership at £111m.

Our final league standing over the past few seasons has been higher than that 5th position so we have been ‘over-achieving’ in one sense.

But that brings me to Spurs. Their wage bill in the same period was £68m. No doubt it will have risen considerably since then given they took part in the Champions League and signed players like Van Der Vaart and Gallas but it won’t be £43m higher. And yet they now go into Sunday’s game as favourites and have their best chance of finishing above us for years – assessing the quality of the squads, Tottenham are probably stronger on an individual basis but we have more depth.

This summer Spurs managed to keep their two best players – Modric and Bale – while we lost two of ours. Admittedly Modric wanted to go to Chelsea and they will need to give him a massive pay rise to keep hold of him. But what’s to say they won’t be able to do it if they do qualify for the Champions League this season?

Total wages spent compared to results achieved is a fairly basic criteria for assessing success but the sad conclusion to draw is that in the past few years Harry Redknapp has shown better judgement in using his resources than Wenger.

And as a result, I go into Sunday’s game fearful. The wins over Bolton and Olympiakos after the Blackburn farce are hopefully the beginning of a run of performances. But Spurs must still be scenting blood after our recent away displays and they will take delight in killing off our hopes of resurgence.

What we must hope is that the experienced players brought in at the close of the transfer window are up for a fight. Lingering at the back of my mind is one thought: when was the last time we went into a game as underdogs and won?

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