Arsene Wenger lit the fuse on today’s explosive north London derby as the Arsenal manager warned Tottenham Hotspur that they will struggle to cope when Gareth Bale joins Real Madrid.
Bale is set to move to Madrid before the close of the transfer window on Monday evening, despite last-minute hitches taking the deal down to the wire, and Wenger is convinced the Wales winger’s departure will prove a major blow to Spurs.
Wenger, whose side pipped Tottenham in the race for the Champions League last season, has bitter experience of losing key players late in the window after being forced to sell Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie in recent years.
The Frenchman believes those star exits proved seriously destabilizing to his squad and he expects Tottenham to suffer in similar fashion, even though manager Andre Villas-Boas has already spent big in a bid to ensure his team can thrive without Bale.
“Yes, it is very difficult, of course. It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always, because you are perceived as well by your fans [for] a lack of ambition, by the rest of the squad, they look for strength in their team,” Wenger said.
“We have gone through that process consistently and it demands of course always a mental adjustment, again, to keep your ambition alive. It is very, very difficult,” he added.
Villas-Boas has brought in Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela, with a move for Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen also in the pipeline.
However, Wenger suspects the spending spree may backfire because it will take time for Tottenham’s new players to adapt to the Premier League.
“I know all the players they have bought. For the rest, we will see how well they integrate and how well they will do,” Wenger said.
“In our job, there is always a technical risk when you buy more than three players, because you unbalance a little bit the stability of your squad. It is always difficult when you bring so many players in,” he added.
Villas-Boas has so far coped admirably despite the distraction of Bale’s impending departure and Tottenham have taken maximum points from their first two league matches.
The former Chelsea manager has taken encouragement from the way his players have blocked out all the talk about Bale and he is certain they can continue their 100 percent start today.
“We have the quality to go there and win,” he said. “I think we will set up to try to win the game and hopefully achieve the result we want.”
“It is a different type of proposition on Sunday [today], but it has special ingredients of a game that is unique in English football and full of emotion,” he added.
“The advantage Arsenal have is that they know each other very, very well. We have lots of new faces and still have to build our own style of play,” he said.
While Villas-Boas has been planning for life without Bale, Wenger has managed to steady the ship at Arsenal after the 3-1 opening day loss to Aston Villa.
The poisonous reaction from Arsenal fans to that defeat made life difficult for Wenger, but three successive victories have given him much-needed breathing space amid continued criticism of his failure to land a major signing since last season.
“I can understand that it is very interesting for people to read the newspapers and see who goes in and out, but there is only one thing that matters if you really love football and that is what happens on the pitch,” said Wenger, who could give a second debut to Mathieu Flamini following the French midfielder’s return to Arsenal on a free transfer.
“We will not panic buy, that is for sure. You can believe me. I think that is the most important — what happens on the pitch. We have a way to play, good players and let’s focus on that,” Wenger said.