Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Losing Bales no big loss to Spurs
Tottenham has seen his move to Real coming for a long time, has made plans
By the time Tottenham Hotspur take the short journey down the Seven Sisters Road to Emirates Stadium for Sunday's North London Derby against Arsenal, Gareth Bale could be a Real Madrid player.
Or he could still be in limbo.
While various reports had the reining Premier League Player of the Year already signed, sealed and delivered to the Spanish capital on Friday, nothing had been made official by the evening; on Thursday Madrid vice-president Fernando Fernandez Tapias went so far as to admit there had been "problems" with the transfer as Spurs had kept "putting it off."
Not that you could blame them.
A 26-goal scorer last season, Bale brought the sort of match-winning element to Tottenham that chairman Daniel Levy couldn't possibly expect to replace overnight. So when Madrid's interest in the Welshman became tangible he set about acquiring enough quality players for the impact of Bale's exit to be felt as little as possible.
Neither Levy nor manager Andre Villas-Boas will have wanted to lose Bale, but when losing him became inevitable they decided to look at their circumstances as an opportunity -- an opportunity that would introduce Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela to White Hart Lane.
In total, Spurs spent just over £90 million over the course of the summer transfer period--slightly more than the revenue they'll be taking in from Real Madrid in the coming days.
And as Arsenal will find out on Sunday, they've managed to assemble an even better, deeper squad than they had when Bale was in it.
Conversely, the team Spurs will find themselves up against is woefully thin, injury-riddled and mostly unenhanced from the previous instalment that only secured fourth place in the Premier League on the final day of the season.
Of course, there's still a table Arsenal can expect to be atop of for much of the current campaign.
With seven players either unavailable or questionable for Tottenham's visit the Gunners lead the English top flight's injury standings -- Lukas Podolski being the latest name on the list after tearing his hamstring against Fenerbahce during the week.
So far manager Arsene Wenger's strategy for dealing with his injury crisis, nevermind bolstering a squad that would have struggled for a Champions League spot next season, anyway, has been to do next to nothing.
In July, he acquired France under-20 star Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre on a free transfer, and on Thursday Mathieu Flamini, who represented Arsenal between 2004 and 2008, was brought back to the club.
Neither will be a key player at the Emirates this season, although Flamini could be thrown into the fire as soon as Sunday given Wenger's lack of options.
Unlike Levy, the Frenchman has never properly replaced the high-profile players who have left his side (Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie among them), opting instead to sit on considerable profits while a once-successful, ambitious club settled into a sort of inertia that left them irrelevant when it came to club football's major prizes.
All that said, Wenger's Arsenal have never finished below Spurs in the table, although their guests from just up Seven Sisters Road will be looking to change that in the coming months.
They've spent the better part of the summer making their preparations in difficult circumstances, turning adversity into opportunity -- something their archrivals would do well to emulate.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 C8
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