Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1996; Arsene Wenger became manager of Arsenal in 1997. Blair saw off four Conservative leaders: Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith, and Michael Howard. Arsene Wenger has seen off six Spurs managers: Gerry Francis, Christian Gross, George Graham, Glenn Hoddle, Jacques Santini and Martin Jol. Of course, Wenger is not directly responsible for the failure of these managers in the way that Blair defeated his opponents, but Wenger’s success made Tottenham’s underachievement in the last decade or so even more galling for Spurs fans, and both Christian Gross and Jacques Santini were undeniably intended to be in the Wenger mould. Arsene’s shadow has cast a gloom all the way up Seven Sisters Road for quite a while now.
Christian Gross was Tottenham’s Iain Duncan-Smith, and not just because they were both bald – they were both hopeless, too. (As a baldy, I would have taken a secret pride in either of them being any good; instead, they merely reinforced the unconscious association of baldness with haplessness, at least when it comes to public office.) Martin Jol was William Hague, with his likeable ordinary-guy routine that, in the end, wasn’t quite enough. And George Graham was their Michael Howard, the old-school hard-man who was supposed to win through cracking the whip and telling everyone to get back to basics. My big fear, as an Arsenal fan, is that Spurs might have found their David Cameron in Juande Ramos, not least because economic circumstances are affecting Wenger in the same way that they’re affecting Gordon Brown: the ruinous cost of the Emirates Stadium looks every bit as damaging as the credit crunch. Worse, really. We don’t seem to be able to buy the footballing equivalent of a bar of Dairy Milk at the moment, let alone a four-course meal at Nobu. Ramos’s Sevilla team was dazzling, and if he can achieve a similar style at White Hart Lane, it might just be enough to push Arsenal out of the top four. A lot of Arsenal fans, me included, have enormous faith in Wenger, but this season he seems hell-bent on playing an entire Premiership season with a whole squadful of seventeen-year-old inside forwards, and that faith is going to be tested to the limit.