Michael Owen admits this could be the season that Tottenham Hotspur finally pull ahead of their north London rivals Arsenal.
Spurs have not finished above the Gunners in the Premier League since the 1994/95 season, prior to the arrival of current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
But the White Hart Lane outfit have ended the last four top-flight championships just one place behind Arsenal, with only a single point separating them in each of the last two seasons.
Owen, who has turned pundit full-time since making his final appearance as a player in May, said it was likely to remain a close run thing this season but that Spurs’ willingness to invest in their team compared with Arsene Wenger’s apparent reluctance to get out his chequebook could well make this Tottenham’s year.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” Owen told RadioTimes.com when asked whether Spurs could end the 18-year hoodoo. “Tottenham have made great strides over the last couple of years. Unlike Arsenal they spend money on a regular basis. They’re constantly reinvesting in the team and they’re a team that are upwardly mobile at the minute so I think they’ll certainly give Arsenal a run for their money this year.”
Owen said Arsenal’s lack of spending was a worry for fans and that the club was in particular need of a new centre-forward after their failure to secure the services of Luis Suarez following an embarrassing apparent misunderstanding about a get-out clause in the Liverpool player’s contract.
“You’d certainly hope there’s a plan B for Arsenal,” said the Anfield legend. “It would be pretty disappointing for their fans and the club as a whole if there wasn’t one. Because they really haven’t signed a marquee signing for a long time – and that’s exactly what they need, it’s exactly what the fans want – if anything, they’ve lost their best players over the years.
“They certainly need a centre-forward… In recent times they’ve had Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie – three players who would grace any team in the world – and now they’ve just got nothing of that calibre.”
But with less than a fortnight to go until the transfer window closes, Owen said Wenger might already have left it too late.
“The worry for Arsenal fans is that everybody’s made their moves so early… What’s left out there in the marketplace that’s going to really turn them into a top side? The danger when you leave it so late, as they are, is that there’s no longer anyone of that quality, everyone’s taken them and spent their money.
“There’s lots of reasons why it’s good to make your moves early in the transfer market. Later on, people realise how desperate you are and you can add another nought to the [transfer] figure a lot of the time.”
Wenger is notorious for his unwillingness to fork out on large transfer fees but Owen said the Arsenal manager needed to accept the state of the market and spend.
“As much as Arsene Wenger may bemoan the prices that are getting bandied about that’s the reality,” said Owen. “That’s what people are prepared to pay and if you don’t pay it then you’re left in a situation where you get nothing again, so it’s a very difficult situation now for Arsenal.”
Whether that “difficult situation” is one Arsenal’s local rivals will benefit from remains to be seen but Spurs have certainly had a better start to the season. They ground out a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, while the Gunners threw away an early lead to lose 3-1 at home to Aston Villa.
Michael Owen is co-commentator on BT Sport’s coverage of 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League Football matches. Coverage begins this weekend with the first game of the season Liverpool v Stoke at 11:30am on BT Sport 1. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit www.btsport.com