London – When Arsenal and Tottenham meet in the Premier League on Sunday, months of contrasting fortunes in the transfer market will be exposed on the field - and the benches.
When last season ended, the balance of power in north London remained tilted in Arsenal's favor after beating Tottenham to the fourth Champions League spot.
Then, Arsenal's hierarchy pledged to escalate their “financial firepower” in the offseason transfer window.
Despite cash reserves of about $190 million, not a penny has been invested in strengthening the squad, which has now been further depleted by injuries. By contrast, Tottenham has already spent $130 million in anticipation of Gareth Bale's impending departure to Real Madrid.
While Arsenal has opened the league season with a loss and a win, Tottenham has earned a maximum six points. And further additions are prepared to sign on at White Hart Lane before the transfer window closes on Monday.
At the same time, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must grapple with injury concerns when he sends his team out at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta have been joined on the sidelines by forward Lukas Podolski.
After the German injured his left hamstring during Tuesday's Champions League victory over Fenerbahce, Wenger said he would only be out for three weeks. Further medical examinations have now shown that Podolski will be out until November.
“It is bad news about Lukas Podolski as he will be out for eight to 10 weeks,” Wenger said Thursday. “His hamstring is much more damaged than we thought at the start.”
But Wenger delivered positive news about Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, who are fit to face Tottenham despite injury fears.
After the opening day loss to Aston Villa, Arsenal has recovered to beat Fulham and overcome Fenerbahce to reach the group stage of the Champions League.
“I feel we're very, very strong,” Arsenal forward Theo Walcott said. “Everyone makes out our squad is very weak and there are not many of us, but we showed in the last few games that we can bounce back from a bad result, proving a lot of people wrong.
“Every club is different and Tottenham invested their money very well ... (and) are playing very good stuff at the moment but we are looking very sharp.”
What ultimately matters, though, is silverware. And Arsenal has not won any trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
“We don't want to be challenging for the fourth spot any more, we want to be challenging for the Premier League,” Walcott said.
The only teams with an unblemished record so far are Tottenham and Liverpool, who have won both their matches 1-0.
And each team has relied on the same scorer - new striker Roberto Soldado at Tottenham and Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool.
Before Tottenham faces its first real test of the season on Sunday, Liverpool hosts Manchester United in the lunchtime kickoff looking to demonstrate that the squad is capable of challenging for the top four again.
“For a long time, the gap between ourselves and United, Chelsea and now Manchester City has been too big,” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said. “Each year we have been trying to close that gap, so really this season isn't any different in that respect.
“But it does feel slightly different this year. The team spirit is really good and there is a belief within the squad.”
Chelsea leads the way, having played an extra game to make up for its absence this weekend for the Super Cup against Bayern Munich.
Two sides are pointless after two games, and Crystal Palace will be looking to get off the mark against Sunderland on Saturday, as will Swansea at West Bromwich Albion the following day.
On Saturday, Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from their loss at Cardiff when it faces Hull, while the Welsh club hosts Everton. Also, Newcastle takes on Fulham, Norwich faces Southampton and West Ham plays Stoke. – Sapa-AP