Spurs' free-spending ways growing irksome for Arsenal supporters

Posted by John Cross

There is a debate on Twitter ahead of every North London derby.

Arsenal and Tottenham fans will know the one. How many Arsenal players will get in the Tottenham starting lineup?

- Report: Wenger won't 'panic buy'
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Last year, it hit an all-time low. Even some neutral journalists and bloggers were suggesting only Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere would make a combined North London XI.

Yes, you read it right. Hugo Lloris is better than Wojciech Szczesny, Jan Vertonghen better than Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Lennon better than Theo Walcott and, my own personal favourite, Kyle Walker better than Bacary Sagna.

Walker, a developing player who has yet to become an England regular, is better than Sagna, a vastly experienced French international who has twice been voted in the Professional Footballers' Association XI as the best right back in the Premier League?

The point of bringing this up now ahead of the Arsenal-Tottenham match Sunday at the Emirates is to highlight that we tend to get carried away when we talk about a shift in power in North London.

Last time I checked, Arsenal have finished above Tottenham every single year since Arsene Wenger took charge in 1996. Tottenham haven't finished above their neighbours since 1995.

And yet we still have this debate about Tottenham's squad being better than Arsenal. How can that possibly be so? You may think that Sandro is better than Mikel Arteta, but the league table tells us otherwise.

Arteta makes up part of a squad that is better than Tottenham's. How do we know that? Because for the last 17 years of Wenger's reign, Arsenal have finished above Spurs, and that must be the ultimate test of a squad.

I must confess that I thought Tottenham would finish top-four last season. How wrong I was. Somehow, Wenger pulls it off every year. But this must be the ultimate test of Wenger's managerial prowess.

It seems funny that we could be talking about how strong Spurs are looking when they are about to sell their best player, Gareth Bale, to Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee.

Tottenham, however, have broken their transfer record three times this summer. First Paulinho for £17 million, then Roberto Soldado for £26 million, and now Erik Lamela for £30 million.

Arsenal, meanwhile, haven't spent a penny. Mathieu Flamini and Yaya Sanogo both arrived having seen their contracts expire at AC Milan and Auxerre, respectively.

Wenger has also shipped out lots of free agents: Sebastien Squillaci, Andrey Arshavin and so on -- deadwood, youngsters, loans and fringe players to trim the wage bill to leave himself woefully short of players. So short that the academy is struggling to make up a team, let alone the first team.

Arsenal have a long list of injuries: Thomas Vermaelen, Arteta, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain -- but surely a title-winning team shouldn't struggle to fill a bench just because four players are out injured.

Arsenal are so short of players it's embarrassing. Their declaration to join the big boys and spend big on big names looks to be an empty promise so far.

So, no wonder Arsenal fans are angry, upset and frustrated. Arsenal have the money but haven't spent it. And they've left everything so late after botched moves for Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Wayne Rooney. There's not much planning if you leave everything until after the season starts.

Now it's just a last-minute supermarket sweep. Two years ago Arsenal did something similar, picking up some last-minute bargains. But then they shopped in Sainsbury's -- and got some good deals. Now they hope that Harrods have some last-minute castoffs.

Can you do megadeals for Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria in 24 hours? I doubt it. Maybe Daniel Levy's final piece of wizardry in this window is holding up the Bale deal to ensure Arsenal can't strengthen to stay ahead of Spurs.

Either way, if Arsenal haven't signed big and they lose, then things will turn really ugly. If you thought the supporters got nasty after Aston Villa, then you haven't seen nothing yet.

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