North London giants struggling to earn their spurs

LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur’s players invited their manager and coaches to a bonding dinner in a fashionable London restaurant last week as a way of helping turn their season round, something their north London rivals Arsenal might want to copy.Both the North London giants hopes of contesting the title are already over — barring a remarkable Liverpool and Manchester City burn out. They will instead be embroiled in the attritional battle to make up the already significant gaps to Leicester and Chelsea to secure a Champions League spot.The problem for Spurs may largely be a lack of form: just two wins in their last nine games. The Gunners, on the other hand, are struggling with both poor performances and internal division as they prepare to face Liverpool in the League Cup on Wednesday (today).Granit Xhaka’s tantrum at being substituted after Arsenal had surrendered a two goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace highlighted the continuing rift between supporters and players. When fans booed Xhaka, the Arsenal captain fired back ‘F*** off.’ On the sidelines team-mate Lucas Torreira wept. Three of the Xhaka’s team-mates visited him at home that night.According to the British media Arsenal manager Unai Emery will not unilaterally decide who is captain and will consult the squad, who chose Xhaka by secret ballot in the first place. Some critics argue that this democracy highlights the Spanish manager’s failure to show firm leadership by not chosing the captain himself.The Xhaka saga piles more pressure on the 47-year-old former Sevilla and Paris Saint Germain coach. Many have questioned whether Emery has had the impact the board hoped following the stagnation of the last years under their most successful manager Arsene Wenger.“We were better under Wenger,” an Arsenal director remarked acidly to The Sun following the Palace draw. Hector Bellerin, the third captain in the squad-voted hierarchy, called for calm and unity. “We are all humans, we all have emotions, and sometimes it’s not easy dealing with them,” he tweeted. “It’s time to lift each other up, not to push each other away.”

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