Robbie Keane: Tottenham are ready overtake Arsenal
Published 23:00 28/10/09 By By John Cross
Robbie Keane last night lit the blue touchpaper for the north London derby by claiming Tottenham have caught up with Arsenal - and are ready to overtake them.
Tottenham have not finished above their great rivals since 1995 and yet Keane says the current Spurs side is now on a par with Arsenal, and have even got more strength in depth.
Harry Redknapp has helped Tottenham get off to a flying start to the campaign and Keane goes into Saturday’s clash at the Emirates believing they are ready to gatecrash the top four.
Tottenham shared a 4-4 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates 12 months ago in one of the most dramatic games in Premier League history and Keane is expecting another cracker.
But Keane has turned up the heat by claiming, despite all of Arsenal’s success under Arsene Wenger including two Doubles, that Tottenham have caught up and are ready to steal their Champions League place.
Spurs captain Keane said: “We are at the same level as Arsenal now. If you look at the two squads, you look at us and think we’re definitely on a par but that will only be judged at the end of the season.
“If you look at the last four or five years, for some reason Arsenal just always got ahead of us a little slightly, but if you look now, it’s certainly even.
“But if you look at the squad maybe, the bench that we have, I think that our bench is probably a little bit stronger than their bench. It’s two top teams and, as I say, it will be an interesting game.
“We have to believe now that we are as good as the teams that are up there. The mentality around here, and I don’t think this is the players, but I’m just saying that the feel of the club was that they’d be happy to get fifth or seventh, in the UEFA Cup.
“But there’s a different feeling now. The feeling is that we want to get into the Champions League and certainly the players have that feeling and if we want to achieve that, these are the games that you want to be winning.”
Redknapp has given Spurs a new belief that they can finally crack the top four this season after the club has brought in a host of top internationals during his reign, including Keane and England pair Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe up front.
Tottenham also boast an all-star midfield with Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Wilson Palacios, David Bentley and Niko Kranjcar costing more than Arsenal’s midfield.
But despite Wenger spending less than their north London rivals, Tottenham have only once got really close to pipping them to a top four finish.
That was back in 2006 when Arsenal squeezed past Tottenham on the final day of the season when Martin Jol’s side succumbed to a dodgy lasagne and blew their Champions League chances at West Ham.
Keane now believes Spurs are back on a par with Arsenal and also says that finishing in the top four is now more important than winning the Carling Cup.
He said: “We were very close a few seasons ago, with that lasagne scenario. That was the case then.
“Of course, you want to get the points on board but it’s still early doors. But it’s still important now that we stay in where we are, we’re involved in the top four.
“It would be nice if we got to Christmas and we were still around there because we would certainly have every chance then.
“The Carling Cup is a good competition, we were lucky enough to win it a couple of years ago and get to the final last year so we’ll be looking to do that again this season.
"We had two great days out in the last couple of years so hopefully we can make it a third.
“But it would be nice to get into the top four. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to win the Carling Cup but now with the squad of players that we have, we’re capable of getting to that fourth spot.
“That’s something that we certainly have to be looking at but by no means it is going to be easy. It’s certainly going to be difficult with the teams that are around us but we’ve got every chance.
“You’re looking at teams that are now stronger, more than ever. People like Manchester City, Aston Villa. Villa are doing really well and obviously ourselves, and the so-called top four.
“There are a few teams around there and Everton, they are not doing as well at the moment as probably they would like to do but they are still a strong side and if they get on a good run, you never know.
“But there are a few teams around and hopefully we can be the one that can slot in there. The good thing about this season is that people are taking points off each other so you never know.”
Keane was midway through his short spell at Liverpool when Redknapp somehow oversaw Tottenham’s last-gasp fight-back at Arsenal 12 months ago.
It was a game remembered by David Bentley’s 40-yard wonder goal against his former club and Keane believes Saturday’s clash is likely to be another classic.
Keane added: “I wasn’t at that one but I remember watching it and it was a mad game. That’s a typical north London derby for you. We’ve had a few over the years.
“There was a 5-4 here at White Hart Lane, and some great games so hopefully we can come out on top.
“This game is very hard to judge because local derbies are a little bit different from normal games.
“So it will be a great occasion for everyone, especially for the fans and of course, it’s the fans’ bragging rights, that’s the most important thing for them, going into work on a Monday morning.
“It’s going to be a tough game for us because Arsenal are a good footballing team and so are we, so I'm sure it will be an entertaining game.”