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Why multi-competition football is about far more than just going out and having one style of play.

By Tony Attwood

It cannot have escaped your attention, unless you really have no interaction with the media whatsoever (other than Untold, obviously) that Tottenham Hotspur have been getting a good press just as much as Arsenal have been getting a bad press, this season, last season, and indeed most seasons.

We know why – because if the media runs a negative piece about Arsenal, all the world and half the world’s dogs pour in with commentaries.   Do the same about other clubs, and the reaction is a lot less intense.

So we get praise for the Tottenham players, praise for the vision of the new ground and its innovations, praise for their transfer policy, praise for their style of play… it goes on.   And let’s not be churlish – they are having a good season by their standards.

It’s been a difficult few years for Tottenham fans, well a difficult 21 years in fact.  Or to put it another way, since Tottenham last won the League, they have won 8 European Cup/Champions League games. Which as Google has just told me is eight in 55 years.  Arsenal have won eight Champions League games in the last two years.

But still Tottenham get a better press than Arsenal in relation to every single thing.  Arsenal built its new ground first, but Tottenham’s ground is already being lauded.   Which is a bit surprising given that Arsenal’s ground was based on a proven design that had been used elsewhere, and Tottenham’s is a totally new design (as it has to be because of space issues and the desire to accommodate American football) is being seen as a bonus to Tottenham.

As my few acquaintances in architecture tell me, your best bet with building is to copy as much as possible from what has been got right before rather than go for mass innovation.  You never really know what might happen.   (But then since football correspondents of most media outlets seem to know bugger all about football, it is perhaps a bit much to expect them to know something about architecture).

Of course we all know that the media has its favourites, and the media can also be fickle.  George Graham’s acceptance of illicit payments – something which caused his downfall – can still be found getting an occasional mention when his achievements are discussed, while David Pleat’s contract termination in October 1987 due to “disclosures about his private life” which showed he had been cautioned by police three times for kerb-crawling, made the headlines and then faded away far more quickly after the end of his contract with the club.   He has since become a “respected commentator on the game”.  (I am told he now works for Al Jazeera).

As for now, maybe this is the season Tottenham will finish above Arsenal – just as we thought could happen last season.  Obviously it is going to happen sometime or other, and the press seem to be very much on their side over this.  Arsenal as we know are utterly useless, have 28 members of their “25” first team players injured, and haven’t won a home match since the foundation of the English state in 1017.

But setting the media aside it is interesting to think about Tottenham in Europe.   This season they played eight games and won just two, both against CSKA Moscow. But when it came to playing Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and Gent they have not done very well.

I’m reminded of Arsene Wenger’s early travails in Europe, before the days when it became normal and expected for the club to get into the group stages of the Champions League every single season, and the thought just struck me, if Tottenham are a good team (and let’s not be too tribal here, Tottenham have a team good enough to be above us in the league at the moment on goal difference) they can’t hack it in Europe.

Now of course the naysayers will instantly point out that the Munich game shows the same for Arsenal – but we did actually get through the group stages by coming top.   But we should not get too carried away in praising Tottenham, as the Independent’s always amusing  Jack Pitt-Brooke has done in a current article which say of Tottenham “they could have won the Premier League last season.”  I am not sure about that one.

Tottenham are a comparatively successful team in the league but they are even worse in Europe than we are – and reading all the media stuff about them, I wondered why.

I think their problem is that you need to play in different ways in different competitions.  You need to play one way to get results against mid-table and relegation threatened Premier League bus parking time wasters, another way against fellow top-four challengers, and another way against against small teams from not so competitive leagues across Europe for whom every Euro game is a cup final plus plus plus (but who don’t have to slog it out week after week in a tough league).

The difference between Europe and domestic games might seem very obvious and easy to adapt to – after all these are professional footballers who are supposed to have footballing brains – but it seems not.  It took Arsenal several years to get this right, and now it seems it is taking Tottenham the same amount of time.

And perhaps much more importantly it means that when the time does come for choosing a successor to Mr Wenger, we absolutely do need a manager who has a wide range of experience in European football.

Now I see that the Sun has been touting the notion that “Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino [is] ‘in line to replace Luis Enrique as Barcelona manager’.”

But I wonder about that.  He has been at Espanyol (their third coach in one year when he came in) Southampton and Tottenham, which means he doesn’t have the experience of European football – as his results this season perhaps reveal.

In an interview in the Guardian last year the Tottenham manager was quoted as saying, ““Where did I get the idea we had to (press)? It’s about your personality, who you are. You show on the pitch who you are. If you are brave in your life, you cannot behave in a different way on the pitch. I don’t understand how to play in a different way. Always, be brave. I like to be brave.”

And maybe that is the problem when it comes to Europe.  Actually, you don’t always have to press, at least as far as I can see from the benefit of my sofa, and my seat at the Ems.  Sometimes other tactics work.

But it is not just Tottenham who have had difficulties in Europe.  In the last seven years the record of  Manchester United (England’s most successful team this century) in Europe reads:

  • Runners up, once
  • Quarter final, twice
  • Exit at round of 16, once
  • Exit at group stage, once
  • Didn’t participate, twice

And that is with a team as widely praised by the media as Tottenham.  (Although that is not tough.  All teams are widely praised when it comes to comparisons with Arsenal.)

I am not sure Tottenham could have won the league last season, as the Indy suggests, but I do think that as their record in Europe shows, getting in the top four is once thing (and not always that easy) but getting on well in Europe is another, not just for Arsenal, but for most clubs that don’t have the backing of an oil or gas rich state.   (And come to think of it, even that backing doesn’t always make it easy, as Man City have found).

Arsenal History Books on Kindle

The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle.  Full details are here.

Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without.   For full details please see here.

58 comments to Why multi-competition football is about far more than just going out and having one style of play.

  • Mahn

    Zidane had no experience in Europe but went on to lift the champions league. Experience sometimes doesnt matter but the quality at your disposal.

  • Gaz

    You sound worried mate, and a litte jealous, whinging about Spurs getting more favourable treatment in the media. Tottenham’s new stadium is state of the art,inovative, and will be the biggest & best club stadium in London.It’s not going to be a generic, soulless bowl. Spurs deserve all the plaudits they recieve, especially having the sixth highest wage bill in the league. You sound worried, and you should be worried. There’s a new sheriff in town. COYS

  • Equalizer

    Arsenal never did and never will get the credit they deserved from the media. Even under GG,we were perceived to be a defensive boring team, despite the fact we won the league in 89 on goals scored after being level on goal difference. GG was rightly punished for taking bungs, but it’s interesting to note he was the only one punished when it’s well known the practice was rife in the game at the time. When AW arrived the press made vile accusations against the man, and it’s been a battle with them ever since. Whoever comes next can expect the same treatment. It’s kinda like the England managers job, it’s a no win situation. But the point is, who cares what others think.

  • para

    I actually think it is a good thing that Spurs are improving.

    If this does not show Arsenal that they are at a standstill at the moment, where teams are slowly catching up, both in their teams and in their capacities, meaning more income, better players etc. and that they will have to continue to innovate for Arsenal’s own survival.

    It’s a sad fact that in life as it is, the ones who try to show some sense of real humanity always gets the boot from those who can’t even perceive it and from those who can but prefer to do anything for personal gain.

  • ARSENAL 13

    New sheriff in town!!!!??????…..

    This new sheriff is a lazy $@&+@_&. We’ve heard of his arrival for long now….Never seen him….

  • colario

    @ Gaz
    26/02/2017 at 9:51 am

    Gaz never ever forget.

    THFC = ‘The Horrible Football Club’. And so it is. Only to the blind does TH not mean ‘The Horrible’.

  • Tommo

    Just caught the end of Sunday Supplement. The presenter asked the question ‘why’ do Spurs keep blowing it… twice. So from what I can see the media are asking the questions.

    Answers given were they are tactically poor and look for excuses. Poor mentality was also given. Also about time they won something was mentioned. Not much praise from what I heard.

    Hope that puts your mind to rest and makes you feel better.

    Personally, I don’t give two hoots what they say.

  • Stephan

    You just made an entire post about spurs?
    Let’s talk about our own misfortune in Europe instead of theirs

  • Mandy Dodd

    Very amusing about the new sheriff…..we hear it every year, and as long as Wenger is here, we all know how it ends. Arsenals mental strength is always questioned, but nobody bottles it like Spurs.
    Tottenham have a lot of issues in Europe, proper referees who can recognise diving and card offences would rank amongst them

  • Minesy

    Gaz

    Was discussing this point with some mates the other night, (Spurs, Chelsea, Exeter and Arsenal fans).

    You realise, as even the BBC commented yesterday, the last five managers to win the league didn’t complete the next season at those clubs … in the last three years we’ve seen Ranieri win the League and get sacked, Pellegrini win the League and two League Cups and get let go, Maureen with the League and League Cup and get sacked, LvG win the FA Cup and get sacked, Wenger win 2 FA Cups and be under constant pressure … the press have had a go at Pep, Maureen and Klopp at various times this year …

    Yet at Spurs, defeat to Chelsea in the League Cup in 2015, falling to pieces when the League was a possibility last year, a poor Champions League campaign this year, defeat in the Europa to a side who have never got this far before, struggling to beat Wycombe with a side that should still have been good enough to win easily … yet anyone on TV or the radio or papers even vaguely questioned Pochettino ??? Not that I have seen …

    Likewise with Tony’s article about the ongoing saga with the new Spurs ground … I was amazed to find they haven’t got the contracts for next season finalised yet … and Tony’s right, Arsenal would be portrayed in the press as incompetent if we did that …

    As ever it’s all spin, spin, spin with football, but Spurs are certainly getting a positive one at the moment

  • Polo

    I think Spurs are not receiving bad press is due to having a vast number of England internationals in their squad. The media can’t have a dig at them throughout the seasons and then praise them before international tournaments. And if the media have a dig at the players before an international tournament it would be interpreted by the readerships as not supportive, offensive, and un-patriotic.

  • Josif

    Have you noticed anywhere other than Untold that Tottenham have gone 65 league games without getting a red card?

    Their thuggish approach is widely accepted in England. The Guardian’s Rob Smyth has said a few times during his Minute-by-minute comments that he absolutely loves this Spurs team. Jacob Steinberg of the same papers has had a strong anti-Arsenal agenda for years.

  • MickHazel

    OT
    It’s not often you find an interesting football article in the Daily Mirror but take a look at this…..

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/row-zed/red-card-kings-arsenal-league-9917131

    It compares win records when down to ten men and Arsenal fare much better than any of our main rivals being the only team to have won more games than lost when a man down.

    Not bad for a team with no leaders, mental fragility, no backbone, no character, too soft etc etc.

  • Gaz

    I think you must have been living under a rock if you believe that Spurs are immune to criticism in the media. They can’t wait to put the boot in, and laugh at us. Regarding our form in Europe, that’s down to not having the squad depth to compete on all fronts. Moreover, it can be difficult enough to balance playing in both Europe and the Premier League, even with a decent sized squad. The stadium contracts not being signed is textbook Levy, he’s hedging his bets. If we are not getting stick in the media, it’s probably because they are intelligent enough to understand the constraints we are working under.

  • ossasa

    More and more articles about other teams and less about the elephant in the room. Oh dear – Kane on the way to another hatrick. Nothing is quite as bad as being repeatedly battered by BM but the way the PL is shaping up perhaps Arsenal can have a well deserved breather from meeting BM, Barca, Monaco or any of those other euro-bullies.

  • Polo

    Great link Mick, thank you. But we are ‘bottlers’ and ‘mentally weak’ because the media says so. Let ignore real facts because opinions are now considered as facts.

  • finsbury

    England’s record of late with a few of these 5pur2 veterens in it of late:

    Ecuador Costa Rica, Iceland….

    You can dress up a turd with bells and whistles and a prodigious helping of game management, no reds, etc. but it’ll still be a stinking pile of shite!

  • finsbury

    Allowed to dive and clog their way to the kind of glory witnessed last year when losing to a relegated team.

  • Josif

    Kane is one of two Spurs players I’d ask to do a Sol Campbell. The other one is Alderweireld.

  • Nitram

    Gaz

    Who’s been living under a rock?

    Even my Spurs supporting Friends, family, and work colleagues, willingly concede that the Arsenal/Arsene battering in the media is way over the top.

    They also concede, given Spurs appalling record of not having won a title since Black and white TV, and there desperate lack of silverware of any description over the years, that they get away with it lightly.

    No, this doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally get criticism, because they do, but to suggest it’s anywhere near the level of abuse and criticism we get is simply ridiculous.

    Similar comments apply to Liverpool as well, who are, far more than us, living on past glories.

    And as for this:

    “….it’s probably because they are intelligent enough to understand the constraints we are working under.”

    Well that’s all well and good, but I didn’t see much intellectual understanding applied to us over our ten year trophy drought, did you?

    Whilst Chelsea and Man City where benefiting from Billion pound + donations and United where turning into a financial Goliath we where hamstrung with financial restraints due to our Stadium build, but I didn’t see US receive much understanding, did you?

    Whilst those 3 where spending a net £50 Million plus on transfers a season we where still ridiculed remorselessly for failing to beat them.

    You wasn’t.

    Liverpool wasn’t.

    But why not?

    You both had as much, if not more available funds for transfers over that period, as we did.

    Sorry, you are way off base with this.

  • Menace

    Gaz – that new sheriff in town found that a cock is not much good against a cannon. The media are all from the same school as Levy & cannot say anything bad about your team because Shugsy will have them fired!

  • finsbury

    Josif,
    Alderweireld impressed for the saints, the top right footed CB from Belgium*

    Kane impressed at the Euros but perhaps not in the manner for which he was hoping! Not as awful as some of his fellow divers, that is fair, but neither could he reach the heights that Giroud has hit on he international stage.

    *Alongside pre-injury Vermaelan the best Belgium CB? I think so

  • ossasa

    The same Kane with three hatricks in eight games? Time to talk about Giroud and Theo again. Looks like Untold are missing a trick here. Decent fans never have a problem giving credit where it’s due.

  • Menace

    Decent fans support their own players.

    OT same old Pigmob rob Southampton of a goal with an offside flag that should have remained down.

  • finsbury

    The same Kane that couldn’t score at the euros!

    Thear trolls are wasting their Sunday afternoons failing to troll Untold when they should be tearing it up down their Sunday league with such expertise and knowledge of the game (Praising diving cloggers that couldn’t clog their way past Ecuador, Costa Rica, Iceland etc…)

    LOL
    Comic gold!
    Please Carry On Trolling, don’t give up the day job in any hurry…

  • finsbury

    Menace
    Same old same old, not interfering in play in any way.

    Joke of a decision. Ho ho ho!

  • finsbury

    Twenty minutes in and already heavy tilting affecting this final.

    Thank the football gods for the Arsenal.

  • Menace

    OT Southampton being robbed by blind officials. Cheating at Wembley by Pigmob is the norm after the 2 FA cup finals where Arsenal just were not given penalties.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Pgmol decisive in that game, it was always going to be such.

  • ARSENAL 13

    So ManUtd gifted the Mickey mouse cup……

  • Josif

    @finsbury

    Well, sometimes it happens. Thierry was the best striker in the world before WC 2002 and all he did in one-and-half games he was involved in was a red card against Uruguay.

    My point is, Kane has been a consistent performer for 2,5 years, he is yet to reach his peak and it is such a shame he has signed a contract with a club that releases DVDs of every successful throw-in. If he RETURNS to Arsenal he could become a real force.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    To think of it, Jose Mourinho not losing a trophy final at Wembley since his managerial career in England must be increasingly incredible with his Manchester United side beating the Saints to the lifting of the English League Cup at Wembley this evening with Ibrahimovic being the architect of the win by United.

    Should Arsenal have signed Ibrahimovic during the last summer transfer window on the free? I am one of those who have opposed the potential signing of him by Le Prof on the ground of old age and past his prime. But how wrong has he proved me wrong today in my assessment of him with his 24 goals in all competitions this season as of today in the ELC.

  • Norman14

    We all know what a mob of thick twats Spurs fans are. I don’t know why they have to come on Untold and prove it!

  • Norman14

    Wrong Samuel, the “architect” was the bumbling Andre Marriner. Plus an equally bumbling Assistant.

    Puel should be telling the press, “we still haven’t lost in the EFL CUP”

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    That my last paragraph in last comment posting has a sentence error in the last sentence of the paragraph. But since I’ve been told to desist from double posting my comment posting, hence I’ve decided not to correct the sentence and reposting it.

  • ossasa

    Norman

    Sounds like you are suffering there mate. Just don’t try and see how BM are shaping up for the return game. Here’s hoping the Foxes do us a favour.

  • Tommo

    Finsbury, I don’t think England’s failure to beat Costa Rica or Ecuador can be laid at ‘Spurs the cloggers’ door. Hodgson never took any Spurs players to the World Cup.

    However, Chamberlain and Wilshere did play in those games.

    I know facts are important on here, so I don’t know if this falls under false truths or just blind bias?

  • finsbury

    Josif

    Having watched this footballer in the CL and international football there is no indication or evidence to support the opinion that he can be a great striker. That doesn’t mean I think he is poor.

    An England international we can compare him to his Welbeck.

    Plenty of evidence consistently throughout his career at different clubs that Welbeck can be, alas he has had injury horrors so maybe not now. Welbeck form, actual goals scored, before injury makes him England best striker these past five seasons, however he’s not had the opportunity to show that in the PL.

    Kane is not poor, but has Kane ever managed to give a complete all round striker performance against a top level opponent in the league or CL and scored a hat trick like Welbeck scored (left, right, head), against the kind of opponent that just knocked Tottenham out of the Euros then one would have have to give him some more dues. But he hasn’t. To clarify that is a simple and humble comparison, and an appreciation for the understanding of Welbecks quality which means that the Arsenal crowd took him to heart very early on: as with Cazorla there are other measures alongside stats such as songs that we can use to judge how well they’ve done for the club, or impressed with limited game time.

  • You just can’t beat a bad loser . Smirk Smirk !

  • finsbury

    “Tommo”

    If you were honest you’d admit that Welbeck (who you omitted from your list, nice try!) have actually managed to score for England in tournaments where others have fluffed their lines

    An unfit chambo was taken as a reward for his previous contribution, didn’t play. And we acknowledged the high regard that showed for the player here. A hopelessly unfit Wilshere got more minutes in 2016 then 2014! Madness. He started a match after England were already eliminated!

    Perhaps England would’ve done better in that tournament with a fit chamberlain (who had been one of AFC super better midfielders this season, 4th best according to the data). If he hadn’t been clogged off he park during Apprentice Taylor’s audition to be Dean’s heir.

    After the introduction of more 5pur2 players England including their star striker who can’t score when it counts, England improved upon the those earlier results by losing to Iceland the biggest humiliation since colour television was invented.

    These are the facts. Cheers.

  • finsbury

    Wow the Groaning trolls in their own words show themselves to form supporters of Utd and the pgMOB over the club and sport that they say they follow.

    At lest the reader is left in no doubt of their dripping insincerity.

  • Tommo

    Finsbury, Welbeck was a Man Utd player when he was at the world cup.

    The point I was making was that no Spurs players were involved in our games against Ecuador and Costa Rica, whereas arsenal players were. You’re more than welcome to add Welbeck to the list if you like. You brought those two games up, not me. Just sounds a bit daft to blame Spurs players when there were none anywhere near the pitch, but there were arsenal players.

    By the way Chamberlain did play against Ecuador.

    I think you’ll find these are the facts.

    As for Welbeck being good for England, I agree. I always did like him for England even when he was at United.

  • finsbury

    Chambo played in the pre tournament match against Ecuador.
    Not even a nice try this time
    *sighs*
    http://m.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/27708705

    When the 5pur2s diving cloggers were added the record under the pgMOB for England got even worse! At least Costa Rica made it to the WC…In case you have forgotten the performances last summer.

    The arc for England under Riley is fairly strong and no amount of pathetic obfuscation can cover up the size of this stinking turd. Sorry.

  • John L

    Southampton robbed at Wembley, as we might well have predicted (in fact I did).

    One perfectly good goal not given. At least one clear penalty not given. Lingard given a little telling-off instead of a second yellow card…

    Plus, Man Utd lucky on occasions with favourable rebounds, including in lead up to 3rd goal and Southampton defenders guilty of a couple of decisive lapses of concentration.

    Also, Man Utd showed again their complete lack of class, with diving, rolling around feigning injury and pleading with ref to send a player off. I am glad that Arsenal are different.

  • Pat

    Don’t care what anyone says, St Totteringham’s Day last season was the most fun I have ever had at a football match! I will never forget coming into the refreshment area at half time to find it full of men singing ‘It’s happened again, it’s happened again ….!’

  • finsbury


    And to conclude Campbell was England’s best CB since their greatest team, as testitified by other coaches voting SC into two WC tournament select teams.

    I would not compare the player who tried to play as a striker last summer in the Euros with Sheringham let alone any others!

  • Tommo

    Finsbury, you’re losing the plot. You brought the Ecuador game up?

    If you’re not referring to the 2014 game where we couldn’t beat them, then please do tell what game you’re thinking about.

    Maybe I’m talking about a different Costa Rica game to you as well?

    Are you thinking about the Under 21 team?

  • Gaz

    That’s why you’ll always be small time, and get the piss taken out of you in the media.😉

  • JimB

    Tony, you’re better than this, surely? I’m assuming that spoilt child throwing toys out of the pram is not the look you’re going for? This site is increasingly gaining notoriety and attracting ridicule for its victim mentality. Enough.

    All clubs, at different times, seem to get a raw deal from the media. And fans of all clubs moan about it. But the truth is that those who think that their club is especially wronged do so only because they naturally read immeasurably more about their own club than they do about others. They miss the reams of negative stories and mocking features about other clubs.

    By all means, have a pop at the media for their declining journalistic standards. Just drop the “woe is poor, persecuted us” nonsense.

  • ossasa

    Jim b
    Superb summation and the fact is Arsenal are just another team and when decisions go in their favour there is no outcry and it only seems that this whining culture has coincided with the lack of trophy chasing. Tony himself admits Totts are on the up. It is up to Arsenal to attempt to stay ahead. The wallowing and sarcasm is becoming pathological. Nurse required to check patient 14!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I see some missionaries trying to convert us to the church of unhappiness. It’s not because you want to feel miserable that we want to feel that way. I think I can speak for a lot of the regular Untolders here. Wasted trouble.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ WalterBroeckx – 26/02/2017 at 10:35 pm – Walter , its true that they truly fail in trying to get us down and miserable . Or convert us . Most of us are just lost causes ! That their comparisons are so glaringly wide of the mark , they cannot see .

    Anyway we who always rejoice faithfully and mirthfully on St. Totteringham’s Day , truly believe that its our divine right ! Its almost like having no.., say , Christmas , or Easter , or even ,snakes alive – no St’ Patrick’s day !

    Fins , I’m looking forward to next years WC for more laughs . I was rooting for Costa Rica and Joel Campbell the last time around. Real shame that they dropped points against England . Was a real bummer for me .

    Maybe England might win it with their Spuds players . Unless of course , it is already been reserved for the USA ., as thanks from Putin to the Donald ?

  • Leon

    The link in the above comment activates my anti virus softwareto inform me that it is a fraud attempt.
    Proceed with caution

  • Leon

    Taken down by Tony now. Thank you.

  • finsbury

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/England_national_football_team_results_–_2000s

    Don’t worry Leon here you go:

    You can start with the 4-1 defeat against Germany and end with the defeat against Iceland.

    Previously we were being kind by not going back past 2014, no one likes to remember such humiliation, but you appear to have a hankering for consistent sado masochistic behaviour.

  • Leon

    Take it up with the person you’re trolling. Not my argument, but I do object to
    possible virus’ from a football blog.
    As for my “sado masochistic behavior”, how did you know?😎

  • finsbury

    You have a lot of objections about Untold in your comments. For all to read through (very transparent).

    Perhaps you would be happier on the racist Le Groan blog.

  • Leon

    Not ashamed to say that I read Le Grove. Did you know Walter used to comment on there? Also: Arseblog, A Cultured Left Foot, 7AM Kick Off, and I can’t think of any racism on any of them other than what I sometimes see on here.