Thus Arsenal, days before they paid that £42 million to sign Mesut Ozil, had encountered and beaten a Spurs team glittering with costly new acquisitions, among them Paulinho, Soldado, Chadli with that splendid young playmaker Denmark’s Christian Eriksen to come. Not to forget Erik Lamela the Argentine born attacker who came on only late in the game against Arsenal, and the Romanian international defender Vlad Chichches.
Some knowledgeable critics have warned that Spurs have bought too many players and will find it hard to knit them into a team. And there can be no doubt at all that none of them can replace Gareth Bale, who had such a marvellous last season at Tottenham.
Now we must see how well he can settle in at Real Madrid which he tells us has always been his heart’s desire. He has already eulogised Christian Ronaldo, king of the castle at the Bernabeu. But how easy will it be for the two of them to play together? Bale may have made his name as a left-winger but last season saw him operating right across the front line with some truly spectacular solo bursts through the middle. But Ronaldo, who functions on either wing, also likes to drift into the centre; so have Real over egged the pudding, quite apart from the stupendous amount of money they have spent on Bale, creating potentially a dysfunctional situation?
The Dutch international former Spurs and Real player Rafael Van der Vaart, opines, “I’ve played with him but I couldn’t see that he was worth a hundred million back then; he did develop quite good but still he has to prove his worth at Real….I think he would fit best in England. A club like Real Madrid is different and there is a lot of pressure over there. But maybe he can surprise everybody at Real.”
But Real are surely not expecting a “surprise,” since they clearly believe the fee is worth paying. We shall see.
By a huge and distressing irony, the father of Bale’s partner Emma has been arrested, jailed and is to be tried for alleged “boiler room” offences, the selling of worthless shares, conducted from of all places Barcelona, where Real’s historic rivals play.
But if Spurs already seem to miss Bale and how could they not, Arsenal, without even having signed the £42.5 million Mesut Ozil, beat Spurs at The Emirates without a single new player. And would surely have done so more comfortably had the brains of their attack young Jack Wilshere not been forced off, ill, before half time.
His place went to the returning French midfielder Flamini, released free by Milan. He is not an inventive player but he showed he can provide the steel in midfield which arguably has been missing since Alexandre Song (who could also produce the occasional killing through pass) was allowed to join Barcelona where alas he seems to have sunk without trace.
Wilshere has joyfully greeted the arrival of the unquestionably gifted and inventive Ozil, who could well now be missed in the midfield by Real Madrid. But was Ozil the ideal acquisition for the Gunners in so far that he like Wilshere himself is a creative midfielder, a playmaker if you like though well capable of scoring goals himself. In other words, is there some peril of duplication?
The so-called Arsenal Supporters s Trust declared that they felt another £50 million should have been spent, and it is perhaps a little significant that both Manchester United and City could have bought Ozil but didn’t.
As for Chelsea, this was another early season case of, like the Gunners, flying high without all but one – the German international Schurrle, gave Bayern Munich in Prague a very hard run for their money in the meeting between the two holders of European trophies.
Much was made at the time and somewhat embarrassing questions about it were asked at the press conference of Jose Mourinho, of the fact that rival manager Pep Guardiola had such an overwhelming record against him in direct meetings. But today is today and in Prague, Bayern Munich now managed by Guardiola only scraped through on penalties against a Chelsea team reduced to ten men by the expulsion of Ramires.
No Willian, the hugely expensive Brazilian, no Samuel Eto’o, signed on a free transfer for a season, but on colossal wages. And a splendidly taken goal by, of all people, Fernando Torres who has had such a frustrating time since he arrived for that excessive £50 million from Liverpool.
I still believe that Guardiola could have problems at Bayern his famous successes at Barcelona were built of a system which developed, schooled and matured players in the club’s intricate system from boyhood. At Bayern he takes over a team of highly experienced internationals and could well be caught, so to speak, between two styles.
A word about Jermaine Pennant a winger I have long admired, albeit during such a stormy career. A glorious free kick for Stoke at West Ham, memories of a hat trick for Arsenal against Southampton, a dazzling display for Watford versus West Bromwich Albion and a mesmerising game for Birmingham.