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Arsenal still bigger club in North London, but Spurs have brighter future

ESPN FC's Stewart Robson critiques Arsene Wenger's tactics in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham.
ESPN FC's Stewart Robson critiques Arsene Wenger's tactics in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham.

Arsene Wenger did his best to play down Tottenham's newfound North London supremacy as a temporary blip. Having finished above Spurs in all 20 of his previous seasons, Wenger has been adamant that there's no power shift in the works, despite seeing that streak emphatically ended with Sunday's 2-0 loss at White Hart Lane.

"Look, in 20 years, it happened once. Mathematically, it has to happen once," Wenger told Sky Sports.

But Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy would be fools to think this is just some inevitable statistical reversion to the mean.

Mathematically, Arsenal remain the bigger club in every sense of the word: 13 league titles to Tottenham's two; 12 FA Cup titles to eight; £350 million in annual revenues to £209m; and so on. But those numbers hide the fact that Tottenham are now ahead of Arsenal in every area that matters in terms of having success on the pitch. Denying that fact is the surest way of making sure this "blip" will soon become the norm.

Here's a look at why Tottenham's current supremacy could be set to continue unless Arsenal act quickly.

Tottenham have a better squad

There was a consensus among pundits before Sunday's derby that Alexis Sanchez was the only Arsenal player good enough to start for this Tottenham side. While that might be an exaggeration as it ignores the quality of both Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil, it illustrates how Spurs have been able to build a much stronger squad, despite spending considerably less money in the transfer market.

Tottenham have unearthed gems in Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier, spent wisely on the likes of Christian Eriksen and Victor Wanyama and are squeezing the very best out of players such as Heung-Min Son. Wenger, meanwhile, continues to stick by his band of underachievers; and he spent a club-record £110m last summer on players who have failed to make the team better.

Tottenham might be one or two players away from winning the Premier League, while Arsenal need a total overhaul, whether Sanchez and Ozil decide to stay or not.

Tottenham have a better manager

Based on their respective trophy cabinets, Wenger is certainly a more successful manager than Mauricio Pochettino. But Wenger's biggest successes are in the past, while Pochettino's are surely ahead of him. Even Gunners fans would probably pick the latter if they could choose one of the two to manage the club for next season and beyond. Pochettino is simply doing more with less -- building a true title contender, despite limited resources and without the global brand appeal of a club like Arsenal.

In terms of modern tactics, Pochettino has shown a level of flexibility that sits in stark contrast with Wenger's stubborn insistence on playing "the Arsenal way," no matter what. Pochettino regularly switches formations based on his opponent. He was an early adopter of the back-three system that Wenger only tried out in recent weeks, after it was too late to salvage their season.

Arsene Wenger, right, and Arsenal sorely need a refresh, especially as Spurs continue to make moves with the future in mind.

Tottenham have a better board

It's almost laughable how impotent Arsenal's board looks at the moment. They've allowed the contract situations for Wenger, Sanchez and Ozil to become seasonlong distractions that have undoubtedly unsettled the entire squad. They've also allowed a handful of other players to reach the final year of their contracts without locking up new deals. They've failed to act aggressively enough on the transfer market in recent years, missing out on a handful of players they had a chance to sign.

Many fans might say Wenger is responsible for all those issues, but that only highlights how the board cedes too much power to the manager. It's simply not how a top club should be run. Ivan Gazidis has been CEO of Arsenal since 2009, but it's hard to name a single thing he has done that would count as a lasting legacy, aside from protecting the status quo.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, meanwhile, has been criticised for his ruthless decision-making in the past, but at least he's making decisions. Lately, they've mostly been good ones.

After a couple of bad managerial hires, he finally hit the jackpot in Pochettino. After cashing in on Gareth Bale, he has broadly re-invested the money wisely in the transfer market to build a stronger overall squad (the £30m for Moussa Sissoko aside). Now, he is overseeing the move to a new stadium that ensures Tottenham will continue growing as a club, whereas Arsenal's board seem content with treading water.

Tottenham will have the better stadium (soon)

Since 2006, Arsenal have had the biggest and most modern stadium of any club in London. Soon, Tottenham will overtake them even in that department. The new state-of-the-art ground being built right next to White Hart Lane will put Spurs on equal footing with Arsenal in terms of financial revenue and ability to attract players. And it's probably no coincidence that the planned capacity of 61,000 is just north of that at the Emirates.

Arsenal are now hoping the £750m project will limit Tottenham's spending power as long as they are paying off the stadium bills. But the vastly increased TV and commercial revenues that clubs are getting today as compared to a decade ago should ensure that it doesn't become the same heavy burden that the Emirates was for Arsenal.

Playing at Wembley next season while the new stadium is finished could prove more difficult, given Tottenham's struggles there in the Champions League this season. For now, that seems Arsenal's best hope of being able to seize back North London supremacy, at least in the short term.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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