Look back over the past twenty months and it is clear to see that Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are two clubs moving in opposite directions.
Tottenham continue to maintain their dominance over City in what amounted to a play-off for the Champions League with a goal from Peter Crouch giving Spurs the coveted prize and the opportunity to play at the highest level for the first time in fifty years.
August, 2010 Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 0
With the two clubs having battled it out for the Champions League throughout the previous season, the fixture computer decreed that they should meet again on the opening day of the season at White Hart Lane. City introduced a number of their new signings but it was Spurs who dominated the game and City were relieved to leave with a point thanks mainly to the performance of Joe Hart in goal. Spurs created the chances but couldn't score while City were happy to play defensively as they did for most of the season. Spurs were less satisfied with the result, knowing they deserved to start the season with a win and three points.
May, 2011 Manchester City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
August, 2011 Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5
FA Cup winners Manchester City played with confidence and produced a display of flowing, passing football with clinical finishing from their start striker. It was a team performance that brought them their first League victory at White Hart Lane since 2003 and left Spurs looking outclassed. For half an hour Spurs had competed and created their own chances but City always looked the more dangerous and once the second goal went in just before half-time, the writing was on the wall for Spurs. No longer were City a team reliant on one player, Tevez was now relegated to the substitutes bench wondering if he would get into the team, they had a team of players working together who had shaken off their defensive shackles and had free rein to attack with pace and their high class signings were displaying their full range of talent and skills.
Manchester City are joint top of the Premier League with nine points from three games, Spurs are bottom with no points from two matches. How things have changed in a short period of time. City with millions to spend on transfers have paid top prices and high wages for quality players to ensure success, Tottenham have signed a forty year old goalkeeper on a free transfer, have finally taken Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from City as long as the Manchester club continue to pay a high proportion of his salary and are still negotiating on a number of fronts trying to winkle a bargain or two for a top player at a knock down price in the final hours of the transfer window.
Both clubs have experienced similar problems this summer. They have had to deal with a player who has been looking to leave. Carlos Tevez stated his desire to return to his home country for family reasons while Luka Modric indicated that he wanted to go to Chelsea to play Champions League football. The clubs due to their different financial situation dealt with the matter in opposite ways - City went on strengthening their team, regardless of the unhappy player but Spurs have had to spend the summer fending off offers from Chelsea repeating their intention not to sell Modric who has become less and less inclined to turn out for the club with whom he signed a six year contract last year. Spurs have been unable to sign any quality players, uncertain what the final outcome would be with Modric.
They have both had a number of players who have been surplus to their manager's requirements for some time and have been trying to sell them on but with limited success. City have agreed to allow Adebayor to join Spurs on loan for the season but at a cost - they are continuing to pay a portion of his salary. Other players have not been easy to move out because of their high salaries - any interested clubs have just not been able to reach agreement on terms with the player. A similar problem exists for Spurs who have a number of players who are have been on loan and do not figure in Harry Redknapp's future plans. Alan Hutton, David Bentley and Giovani Dos Santos have all been on loan and the club is trying to move them on while Wilson Palacios, Jermaine Jenas, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Sebastien Bassong and Heurelho Gomes are all players who could be sold if an acceptable offer were received. Spurs have been trying to reduce the size of their squad and wage bill ahead of making any new signings but with little movement from White Hart Lane, they have been reluctant to complete the much needed new signings to strengthen the team. The only significant departures have been Jonathan Woodgate who left on a free having only played for fifteen minutes in his last eighteen months at Tottenham and Robbie Keane who went to LA Galaxy.
Lack of signings at Tottenham
On first impressions at the start of the new season, the two clubs have moved poles apart. Since December, 2009 when Spurs were in the ascendancy, City have used their financial strengthen to improve their team with the goal of challenging at the highest level and winning trophies on a regular basis. Spurs, having qualified for last season's Champions League, failed to strengthen their team last summer. When the club was not in the Champions League, fans were told that top players were unwilling to sign without the opportunity to play at that level. However, it didn't prove an incentive to top stars last year when Spurs were linked with numerous players but no signing transpired. The only signing of note was the very,very late acquisition of Rafael Van der Vaart from Real Madrid in a cut price deal.
Since January, 2011 when Spurs were in a strong position for a top four finish the club seems to have been distracted by other issues and failed to push on to advance themselves in the highest echelons of Premier League football. The early part of the transfer window was dominated by the David Beckham, 'would he, wouldn't he sign for the club?' only for the club to be pleased to announce that he was going to train for a few weeks ahead of returning to America. The transfer window closed again without any key signings, especially a goal scorer who was required with the Tottenham strikers so lacking in goals throughout last season. The attempt to acquire the Olympic Stadium rather than continue with the Northumberland Park Development was another unnecessary distraction at transfer time and the subsequent rows and legal challenges must have taken time and attention from the main purpose of the club - winning football matches. This window has again been full of names and rumours about top class players whom the club has been trying to acquire but nothing has happened yet. Other clubs completed their transfer business early, particularly Manchester United and Liverpool, along with City, and the benefits have been obvious as these three clubs currently occupy the top three positions in the Premier League with Chelsea in fourth.
Missing Out Again, Spurs
It has always been preferable to do transfer business early to enable the manager to work with his new acquisitions and to allow the players to settle into their new team but this is a policy which Daniel Levy, always with an eye for a bargain, has failed to achieve once again. As City and Tottenham at present appear to be moving in opposite directions Spurs may rue missing the opportunity to firmly establish themselves as a club at the top table of English football. Their precarious financial position in the early nineties prevented them from getting established as a top club at the introduction of the wealth associated with the Premier League, surely they are not going to miss out again.