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Jul 31, 2011

Red and White growing closer

Both sets of fans may not like the comparison, but there are signs that Arsenal and Tottenham are becoming linked by more than just the 'N' in their postcode.

With both clubs fighting to play Champions League football over the past few seasons, Arsenal's decline and Spurs' rise have caused a meeting in the middle that is most evident when you look across the squad lists of both sides. Of course, Arsenal's success with their academy still puts them on a different plane when it comes to youth, but there are a few similarities when you consider the first-team players who could leave this summer.

To start with, both sides possess a star creative midfielder who has his eyes on better things. Cesc Fabregas and Luka Modric have both expressed their desire to further their careers elsewhere, but have also signed long-term contracts a few years ago and will not be allowed to leave unless either Barcelona or Chelsea come in with offers of around £40 million. They are both key to dictating the attacking tempo of their respective clubs and would be a massive loss when, ultimately, they do move on.

On the left-hand side of midfield Arsenal and Tottenham possess a rebel who is keen to leave. Arsenal have Samir Nasri, while Spurs' Niko Kranjcar has been angling for a move for some time. While Nasri's problem is his wages and ambition to win trophies, Kranjcar just wants more playing time after failing to oust Gareth Bale from the side. Both could soon be available for next to nothing, as they continue to let their expiring contracts run down.

In goal, there are two men who look set for pastures new after a series of high profile errors. Manuel Almunia will almost certainly return to Spain, while Brazilian Heurelho 'The Octopus' Gomes is likely to head back to former club PSV with his tentacles between his legs. Neither will be missed much.

Arsenal were not allowed the chance to turn to experience between the sticks as Fulham blocked their move for Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer, but Spurs did when signing 40-year-old Aston Villa shot-stopper Brad Friedel. The emergence of Wojciech Szczesny suggests that the Gunners won't worry too much about this position, but both Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp appear to value the idea of having an experienced man around.

Up front, Nicklas Bendtner has similarities with Roman Pavlyuchenko in style, although that may perhaps paint the Russian in a slightly unfair light. Still, Redknapp seems to treat Pavlyuchenko with the same distain as Wenger does the Dane and, without guaranteed first-team football, both could well be off with Sporting Lisbon and Zenit St Petersburg rumoured to be keen.

But the playing staff who are in no danger of leaving are also worth noting for their similarities with each other.

There are obvious comparisons to be made between the flying English wingers down the right - Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon - as both have the same style of play and have struggled with injuries.

Arsenal and Spurs also rely on a Dutchman (albeit in a slightly different area of the pitch) for their goals, with Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart bearing the brunt of expectations up front. And continuing the international theme, both sides also contain a rising star of the Welsh team: Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey and Spurs' Gareth Bale.

If further proof was needed, this summer has seen the comparisons take on an additional dimension as they each dipped into the transfer market to bring in an Ivorian attacker, possibly to replace their Mexican flops Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos. Arsenal landed the more established Gervinho, while Spurs took the plunge on the 16-year-old Souleymane Coulibaly, who has been getting rave reviews for his performances at the Under-17 World Cup.

The two clubs are even getting closer in terms of the style of attacking football that they play and, crucially, in their transfer concerns. Spurs may be following the frugal Arsenal blueprint after a few failures under the wing of a sporting director, but those in charge of running of the club are also following the same targets.

Tottenham failed to land Andrei Arshavin back in 2009, but may consider that they have more of a chance of offering Valencia's Juan Mata - rated at over €20 million - a chance of regular games even if they can't offer Champions League football this season.

But for all of these similarities, there are two major differences. Arsenal lack a commanding English central defender in the mould of Michael Dawson - although a transfer window move for Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill would soon change this - and Spurs are without another midfielder of the skill and potential of Jack Wilshere.

Arsenal's defensive concerns have ensured that Wenger is certain to add a new centre-back to the mix before the summer is out, while the onus on doing the Wilshere job in the Spurs midfield could fall on Brazilian Sandro, who won praise for his box-to-box style after a slow start to life in England, once he recovers from injury.

Ultimately, the signs are that North London's finest have been growing ever closer and may yet continue to do before the transfer window slams shut. The one similarity that may hurt most of all is that each may soon have to cope with the loss of a major star and how they rebuild will be key to ensuring that they are both not left behind.

• Follow me on Twitter @joncarterespn

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