Arsenal and Tottenham both built stadia, and each suffered the consequence. But…



By Tony Attwood

The consequence of building a stadium was for Arsenal difficulty in repeating the period of Arsene Wenger’s greatest success,  The problem for Tottenham with having built the stadium is that it was a more ambitious project which has failed so far to find a sponsor, built for a club that had not been having nearly so much success – and there was no previous success to build on.

Add to that Arsenal also had the benefit of one manager providing continuity.  Tottenham have had 12 permanent managers this century (Arsenal 3) and five caretakers (Arsenal 1).

But hidden behind these figures is the fact that if we look at Tottenham’s managers with the highest win percentage only one of those three is a 21st century manager.



Rank Manager Years games Managed Won Win %
1  Frank Brettell 1898–1899 63 37 58.73
2  Arthur Turner 1942–1946 49 27 55.10
3  André Villas-Boas 2012–2013 80 44 55.00



Rank Manager Years games Managed Won Win %
1 Mikel Arteta 2019- 169 101 59.76%
2 Arsene Wenger 1996-2018 1235 707 57.25%
3 Unai Emery 2018-19 78 43 55.13%


The fact is that Arsenal’s three most successful managers in terms of win percentages are the last three full-time managers, suggesting Arsenal are currently at a high point in their history.  For Tottenham the three most successful managers all managed under 100 games, one was from the 19th century, one did the first season after the second world war, and just one was a 21st-century manager.

Indeed the sacking of Villas Boas came after what was called in the media at the time a “humiliating home defeat”   They were seventh in the league at the time – a fact that makes an interesting comparison with Arteta who took Arsenal down to 15th before achieving the remarkable rise up the league as we have so often noted on these pages (see Key Data Tables 2020/21)

And now with Tottenham seemingly searching for their 12th permanent manager of the 21st century, the media is getting interested.   Indeed the Telegraph alone has four articles on the theme today:

So given they are our near neighbours we might be forgiven for giving a little space up, not to laugh at Tottenham’s misfortune, but rather to ask, what is it that Tottenham get wrong and Arsenal get right?

It seems to me (and obviously I look at the situation with Arsenal-orientated visions) Tottenham are a club who don’t win things (except the League cup in 2008) but who think they should be winning things.   So although it is true that many Arsenal fans got fed up with the run of third and fourth positions as the club paid off its stadium building debts, there were others who felt that a stream of third and fourths was a damn site better than mid-table obscurity from 1973 to 1986.

And the fact is that most clubs don’t win things most of the time – while those that do (Liverpool is a prime example) generally come unstuck in the end.

Yet Tottenham seem to have fallen into that trap of finding something that doesn’t work (like sacking the manager) and then doing it again and again in the vague belief that it might work next time.  “Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman over the past 20 years, has hired 10 permanent coaches, who, between them, have won 61 trophies before and after managing Spurs.

“Sadly, the combined total of trophies those same coaches managed to win with Tottenham remains at just one – the 2008 League Cup – and this will finish as another trophyless season for the club no matter who is in charge at the end of it.” (The Telegraph).

But there is a little more to it than this: for if every time there is a failure to achieve the demanded results the club sacks the manager, that means it is never having a chance to build a team around a manager’s vision and get them to flourish.  Each new manager comes to a club that has spent its budget.

Plus there is the fact that if players are at a club where they know the manager is going to be sacked soon, why should they put in all the extra effort for a man who is not going to last?  They know nothing is going to be won, so let’s just hold on, see who the new guy is, and then be transferred out at his request, and so pick up another huge signing-on fee.

In that sort of scenario the players start to hold the power.  At Arsenal on the other hand there was no feeling that this was happening under Wenger.  Under Emery it is harder to say what happened because he was sacked during his first and only bad run, but we know for sure that with Arteta at the helm, Arteta is running the show.   We only have to think of Aubameyang and Ozil to see who took control.

Of course, I don’t know if it is strictly true that as the Telegraph says, “Mauricio Pochettino briefly bucked the trend of the dressing room holding all the power, but when results dipped after the Champions League final, Levy eventually opted to do what he has always done – replace the coach and allow the players to dictate the culture,” but that is certainly what it looks like at Tottenham.

And if that is true, why does Levy allow the problem to continue?  Presumably because like most very rich and powerful men, he believes in himself too much.

Of course some clubs can win trophies while constantly changing their managers: Chelsea is an example.  But in the end that policy will crumble and not produce results: again Chelsea is an example.

Under Arteta Arsenal have finished 8th, 8th and 5th.  And he’s still there.  Tottenham have finished 6th, 7th and 4th – which is better throughout and have had Mourinho, Espirito Santo and Conte as managers.  But this season Arsenal will finish first or second, and Tottenham will finish fourth or fifth (given that Newcastle have two games in hand) and change managers again. 

Maybe that shows that ultimately a club really does have to have faith in someone.

28 Replies to “Arsenal and Tottenham both built stadia, and each suffered the consequence. But…”

  1. As a long time Spurs fan I expected the usual Derby bias from an Arsenal fan. But instead this is a balanced well reasoned summary which I find hard to disagree with. Well done and – Grudgingly- I hope your lot do see off City ar the end of the season.

  2. Well, as far as I am concerned, your title should read :

    Arsene Wenger and Tottenham both built stadia…and each suffered the consequence

  3. Interesting article and unfortunately I have to say spot on. There is only one constant in the failure of Tottenham as a football team and it’s not the players or the manager! Levy may be considered a success in building the facilities but as far as on the pitch is concerned he is a total failure. How can one man make so many errors in selecting or maintaining the management of the football team and seemingly escape any responsibility? He must know somebody important!

  4. Tony – and Nige – may I thank you both for your contributions. Inevitably when a supporter of one team writes about another the subsequent exchanges can get bitter, so I am really grateful to you both for taking the time to read the piece and respond in a most courteous manner. It reminds me very much that if I should stray onto a Tottenham blog, as I do occasionally, I should always do so with the same level of courtesy as you have each shown here.

  5. I’m a Spurs fan (masochist maybe?) since the mid 50s having been born in Tottenham (now living in Florida). Having said that……..I certainly started reading this article with a suspicion (as it was written by an Arsenal supporter) that it would be a one sided view BUT I believe that it was very well written, not biased (as I thought would be) and made some good points. I wish all articles were as well written as this one. Maybe Daniel Levy will read it?

  6. Tony,

    I went to Risley Avenue until 1958 when we moved to Potters Bar. My father was a London bobby for 30 years. He used to do ground control for home games. I remember going to WHL at around 5 or 6 years old and dad’s friend “Uncle Ray”, another bobby, picking us up over the wall by the players tunnel in the corner of the ground and sitting on a small bench next to that wall to watch the game from there. Good times looking back.

  7. Yes indeed a very good piece Tony, and some good replies from our neighbours.

    I too have put up some defences of Spurs over the years that are very similar in tone, with a couple of different observations.

    My biggest defence of Spurs is that at least they are TRYING to do things in what I see as the correct manner. By that I mean by the use of a ‘self sustaining’ model. yes they have a very rich owner, as do we. And both may put in some money, but they certainly don’t ‘bankroll’ their clubs al la Chelsea, Man City and now Newcastle.

    When it comes to success in the PL or anything else for that matter, this is a major handicap.

    Recent history shows us that 75% of all domestic trophies over the last 20 odd years have been won by the 3 wealthiest clubs, Man Utd, Man city and Chelsea. Most of the others have gone to Liverpool and Arsenal, hardly paupers both.

    The outliers being of course Leicester City in the PL and the odd FA Cup shock. But by and large it’s the rich, or rather the ‘mega spenders’ on players, that win things.

    And this is where the problem of ‘expectation’ comes in. It’s the same problem we had during Wengers austerity years. Expectation.

    Our ‘expectation’ was on the back of what Wenger had achieved in his early years, but things had changed. We had built a stadium that needed paying for, as per Spurs, and we now had to deal with the oil clubs as well as mega rich Man Utd, as do Spurs.

    For 10 years we had a ZERO nett spend on players. How on earth were we going to win anything whilst others were spending £30M plus on players per year?

    I managed my expectations to that, as did more importantly Arsenals board, which is why I never stopped backing Wenger, and more importantly again, why the club didn’t stop backing Wenger.

    I think Spurs ‘expectations’ come from some where completely different.

    1) A glorious distant history. And it was that. The first team to do the double and a history of playing wonderful attacking football, as opposed to their neighbours dour 1 nil football.

    2) The media. Partly due to what I believe is an inherent dislike of Arsenal, have I believe constantly talked Tottenham up. This is their season. New Kings of North London. Etc. etc. This constant bigging up of Spurs allied to the constant dumbing down of what Arsenal do sets a state of mind that puts Spurs at least on a level footing as Arsenal, when in truth they are not. That may hurt but one look at the relative trophy hauls over the last 20 or 30 years suggests that is a fact. It is not even Spurs fans fault. Again as I have said on here many times, I have many friends, work colleagues and family who support Spurs and let me tell you, they are very grounded in that reality, despite what they are constantly told.

    My conclusion has been that given Spurs business model and resultant Nett spend on players over the years, is that they pretty much perform to par. In fact, again as I said on here, Potchetino performed considerably over par, taking Spurs close to the title and the ultimate European trophy.

    But the New Stadium, the (relative) lack of long term high investment in players, allied to what in my humble opinion was Spurs biggest mistake of recent years of getting rid of Potchetino., was always going to bite them on the bum.

    We were lucky, we had Wenger. Alas for Spurs there aren’t many like him around.

  8. A well reasoned and written piece, the evidence for which is in the replies from our Spud neighbours
    I too have a few long-term friends who are Tottenham, through & through and they all relate to this.
    I would like to add that i think Arsenal’s success in the ’30s brought about a kind of ‘ABA’ resentment in many Spurs fans, which for them was finaally & gloriously undone in 1961. I was at school at the time and recall my pals’ revelling in that, calling Arsenal a club that dwelt only on memories.
    How times have changed

  9. Ando,

    Calling us “Spuds” is absolutely NOT in the spirit of this article. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  10. Today, with the evolution of the PL has made it into a global financial casino where every billionaire or state in need of publicity wants to be at the table. And even in the lower leagues, you find the same thing, or otherwise why do we see actors buying clubs… english football has this ‘romantic’ appeal that when combined with the potential financial return makes it a ‘must’ in these circles.

    So success can only come 2 ways :

    – you have so much money you buy your way into it even if it means changing players and managers like shirts – which may not be necessary if you find the right manager and back-office
    – you don’t have unlimited money, but have an academy that works and you have a good manager whom you give time and stability.

    Arsenal are definitely in the second category. Spurs are not, which for them is the more so frustrating that they had the right manager but, where Arsene Wenger (and the players) was able to take not winning the ultimate title and start again (it was a survival strategy), he and the team had huge dip after coming so close like a butterfly being burned after coming too close to the lamp. I’m convinced he would have turned things around given one season and Spurs would be in a much better place now.

  11. Chris

    “I’m convinced he would have turned things around given one season and Spurs would be in a much better place now.”

    I guess you are talking about Potchetino, and I have to agree.

    The thing is we are not under the immense pressure that Levy is at Spurs. But ultimately I think he made the wrong decision, all be it under that pressure.

  12. No one has mentioned Conte’s recent rant and the points he made. He referred to the side as 11 individuals not a team. Levy owning the team for 20years, changing managers often, keeping underachieving players and, not winning anything. Also, tellingly, accusing the players of not handling adversity. Ouch.
    I think there’s merit in what he says. The man has trophies. Perhaps Levy should extend his contract instead of sacking him and send a message to his squad. As Tony points out, the players might not put out their best effort if they know the manager is only temporary. Conte, Mourinho, Pochettino are winners, not the problem. But Levy will have to realise he knows nothing about football before anything changes.

  13. @Nitram,

    yep, exactly. People may criticize the owneres of Arsenal, but visibly, they are better at playing poker and the long game then others. Which is good for Arsenal. Long term investing that is what it is. And it must be said that the back-office, I mean the ‘organisation’ behind the manager and the team has been doing a real good job and has been built with care, profesionnalism and talent, which considering the foundations Mr Wenger and his team built in the naughties is the reason Arsenal are in the place they are in.

  14. It seems to me that there is a rift between the players and Conte. Whose fault is that? Hard to tell…..Look at Conte’s record though…2 years is his longest stay at any club. When he was appointed, my nephews (both Spurs season ticket holders) said he won’t be there long. I suspect that they were right.

  15. @Kevin,

    your nephews were right. Apart from Pochettino, no manager ever survived long at WHL. Not so much because he may not be good, but because expected results are unrealistic. Without Harry kane there would be no Spurs team to compete in the top of the table. As good as he is, he is alone. And unlike Haaland he does not have a team as good as him around him.

    With the pressure that is now on the ‘team’ – new stadium to be repaid – Spurs need an owner who can play the long game and if the past 20 years are any indication, he is not good at that. Sure, he’s been able to build a new stadium and this is no small feat. Shrewd business. But shrewd business. not shrewd football business.

    To me he is like the oil states with their clubs like PSG, City. Newcastle : the ‘big’ result is not the most important thing. Added value and marketing, PR are more important. And it shows on the field. Why do relegation teams get results against the big 6 teams ? The palyers need to feed their families and fight for their lives.

  16. Chris

    “which considering the foundations Mr Wenger and his team built in the naughties is the reason Arsenal are in the place they are in”.

    Perfectly put.

    I really hope and believe this is what history will eventually acknowledge. The foundations Wenger laid, at a massive cost to himself (not financially, he was well enough paid), in regard to trophies, will hold us in good stead for decades to come.

    I don’t expect the Wenger haters of the time will ever change, but I hope and expect history will know the truth.

  17. Nitram…..I don’t remember too much Wenger hating going on, but you may be closer to that topic than I am. I certainly thought he was a very good manager.

  18. @Kevin,

    you “dont’ remember too much wenger hating going on” ?
    How about a plane circling above the Emirates with a ‘Wenger out’ banner as starters ?
    How about a decade of ‘fourth is not a trophy’ criticsm coming from all sides.
    How about ‘specialist in failure’ remarks ? About the ‘who the hell cares about 7 FA cups’ attitude accross the deadwood press ?

    And I’m just scratching on the surface. The massive media manipulation Mr Wenger was a target from has to be equalled in the world of football.

  19. Kevin Evens and Chris

    Firstly Chris

    Thank you for that.

    There is more as you say, especially from one source you didn’t mention, our ex players. Turncoat and hypocrite Wright regularly advocated that Wenger should be sacked, as did Merson, Stewart, and many others.

    Also Talksport was a relentless Wenger abuser, especially Adrian Durham who had a ‘Daily Arse’ that involved finding something to criticise every single day, and this went on for years. Yes, everyone gets it in the neck from that mob at times but none in the way Wenger did.


    I’m not sure how you missed all that, but I’ll cut you some slack as you are probably, and understandably, embedded in all things Spurs.

    I will say one thing, the worst culprits were often our own fans, as indicated by Chris above, and our own ex players, as indicated by me above.

    And another thing, again with reference to my Spurs supporting friends, family, and work colleagues, although not universally, they by and large thought the abuse Wenger got from the media, and especially our own fans, was ridiculous. Similarly my Liverpool and Man utd supporting friends etc., thought our fans were a bunch of ingrates.

    It always seemed to me that there was far more appreciation from non Arsenal fans of what Wenger achieved, even in the trophy less years, than there was from the media, our own fans and ex players. That’s the feeling I got anyway, which is why you may not of seen it how I/we did. You sound like someone who could see what he was achieving?

  20. Anyone that was bought up in North London in the sixties had mates at school that were Arsenal and Spurs supporters and the mix was there in school teams as well. Personally I have never been a Tottenham hater , they are just our local rivals . Before away travel became the norm it was Highbury one week and The Lane the other , I had had the displeasure of Spurs in the early sixties but from a football perspective Watching Cliff Jones , Greaves and others was a football education. I used to enjoy watching Mackay come out of the tunnel in the corner and hoof the ball high in the air and then take it down near the centre circle when all we had at Arsenal was the occasional Irish international full back and the Police marching band .
    For reasons best known to themselves Spurs have never really kicked on and I doubt that this is because of the managers on the pitch . There must be something wrong in the upper management , it appears to have no cohesion . If you give a player a five year contract and persuade him to join a project , the least you can do is give him a manager for the same time .
    How many times do you see a player join into a vision and next week the whole plan changes.?

  21. “dont’ remember too much wenger hating going on” ?

    Forget what happened at home , what of the Paedophilia songs sung all over the M62 , the T shirts sold depicting Wenger with a bag of sweets and a wink , Wenger was a target for vile abuse from every Arsenal hating set of supporters .
    The stuff that went on at our home matches was borne out of frustration at the perceived demise of the teams performances .

  22. I completely enjoyed the article and the good comments from both sides under the article.

  23. porter

    I forgot those. Vile doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    “The stuff that went on at our home matches was borne out of frustration at the perceived demise of the teams performances”

    Fair point, but sort of half right. The fact we were finishing 3rd and 4th instead of 1st and 2nd suggests there was an ‘actual’ demise in the teams performance rather than a ‘perceived’ demise, but there were reasons.

    Even then the demise was not that much at times as some of our points tallies would of had us at least 2nd on occasion, but an overall demise non the less.

    The problem was context.

    We were committed to paying back the stadium loan, meaning for 10 years we had to break even on transfers whilst others spent 10’s of millions every season.

    Then out of the blue the oil money arrived. Without that we may of hung on to Uniteds coat tails at least, but having 3 mega spenders to contend with, as well as Liverpool and Spurs, was too much. We did remarkably well to maintain top 4 over this period.

    The media, cut Wenger and Arsenal no slack at all for this, hence the constant media attacks. I understand to a degree as from day one Wenger made them look fools and they were just waiting for payback. This was their chance.

    Why so many of our ex’s players turned on him I find harder to understand, or forgive. Maybe it was just for an easy buck, who knows? Unforgivable in my eyes whatever the reason.

    After that it was inevitable that certain sections of fans would buy into the ‘4th is not a trophy’ mantra, and in it’s wake the ‘Wenger out’ campaigns, but I still think they were wrong and it was very very sad.

    But that sad episode is passed and we have finally moved into a new era that hopefully will be as successful as Wengers glory days. I certainly think we have the man to do it.

  24. First off, well done Tottenham supporters for your measured responses and excellent transparency. Had I not fallen in love with the Arsenal, Tottenham would likely have been my alternate choice at the time. Despite all the criticism your team gets here, some of it justified, much of it simple tribalism, spurs can be an exciting team to watch BUT they clearly, from my psychologist’s viewpoint, suffer from a bad team chemistry. By that i mean a lack of cohesion and belief in themselves, their managers and certainly their owner.

    When I watch Arteta work with and manage his players and assistants, he seems both patient, passionate, empathetic, relatively calm for a Spaniard yet expressive and able to nurture collaboration, healthy competition and a sense of enjoyment from his team. This season, in particular has shown him to be in the class of Guardiola and Wenger. He also has that mysterious ability to develop youth and reserve players so that they fit into his teams without excessive difficulties. When considering the media bias, the poor officiating, the FA’s attitude and the injuries he’s had to deal with, imho it is a miracle that he has made us so competitive this season. Tottenham have many of the same elements that Arsenal do but can’t seem to gel into a title winning team and the constant change and uncertainty surrounding this club explains a lot.

  25. @Nitram, Porter et all,

    I think the following points (IMHO), were the main reasons all this hate was present from day one of mr Wenger’s tenure

    – he was SMART like not many managers.
    – he was a foreigner and was french
    – he managed teams by changing the lifestyle of the players : nutrition, no more beers….
    – he said : we’ll not lose a full season and did it. Talk about ‘perceive arrogance’ !
    – he had a style of play that was called ‘Wengerball’. The only other manager with his name to a football element I know is Ferguson with ‘fergie time’ which,. if you think about it is nothing more the ‘thanks referee for cheating the other team out of points’. There is no Guardiolaball, there is tiki-taka….there is catenaccio. Nothing else comes to my mind.
    – his vision of football was all-encompassing – he was the first one at that level, but others from Strasbourg were there too : Guillou, Gress are 2 that come to my mind
    – he did revolutionise football in England. Single-handedly.
    – he sacrificed his personal trophy cabinet for a club – he was not a mercenary. Name another manager who’s done that (apart from Ferguson who worked at the richest club in the world at the time)
    – he owns the FA Cup record and the record of successive PL qualifications both with the same club : this will most probably not be beaten
    – he (and his backoffice) had a knack for young talent
    – considering the treasons from his ex-players, he was damn right NOT to let them get involved in/with Arsenal. He knew them and knew he could not trust them
    – he was able to sense when a player was close to past his prime and was not scared of making a good trade with them. I read a piece one day showing how he pretty much paid for most of the Emirates via Barcelona and a couple of english clubs
    – have you heard him criticise his club ?

    That is a long list of reasons for all the jealous guys to keep on going after him. Deadwood players, deadwood journalists

  26. I shall always regard AW with all the awe and reverence that is due to him , and more ! That he walked with us during one of the most testing time in our history is a testament to his sincerity and loyalty .
    It does seem that some have forgotten his fine contribution to this club. That he has chosen to remain above all pointless arguments and silly assertions , is part of his legacy . I do hope that he gets joy and much enjoyment from this present crop of players , as they do reflect upon him immensely .

    That many of us stumbled upon this site was totally because , we felt that something was not right . That most of us stayed here is because we knew that truth was above reproach . Thank you , Tony , for this site .
    It has always been the only site that I read . But being an old un , I only read it at work , on my desktop computer . I still do not own a laptop , but my hand phone has improved

    Up the Gunners !

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