Does a club have a “mentality” or is it just a case of how much you spend?



By Tony Attwood

There is an article in the Telegraph that includes this interesting comment:

“Conte, just as others have done before him, believed he could change the mentality of a club and a chairman that have, for so long, settled for second best. Tottenham’s ambitions do not reach beyond qualifying for a lucrative competition they stand very little chance of winning, which tells supporters all they need to know about where the motivation lies.”

And I wondered if that was true.   For the same could have been said about Arsene Wenger once the costs of moving to the new stadium started to build up.  His trick was to make Arsenal a permanent fixture in the top four (and so benefit from the Champions League money each season) while finding players who were not too expensive, who could play for Arsenal and then be sold on for a profit.

Plus, at the same time (and this is rather an important element) Arsenal were able to go on winning trophies – or rather one trophy: the FA Cup.  Not as big a trophy as the League and certainly not as big as triumphing in Europe, but nevertheless a trophy that the club could celebrate.

The Tottenham problem is pretty much the same as the Arsenal problem was during that long period of coming third or fourth in the league, except for two things: they don’t seem to be able to find a manager who will just keep on keeping on, and they haven’t got a pet competition that they can keep winning.

The suggestion in the media is that “Tottenham live in the perennial hope of a miracle. Mauricio Pochettino almost produced one, going close in the Premier League and the Champions League, while Conte achieved a minor miracle by helping the club finish in the top four at the end of his first six months in charge.”

So I thought it might be interesting to see exactly what difference we can find between the clubs across recent seasons.  In this, I have taken figures from Transfermkt for Arsenal and for Tottenham and I have made one assumption: that the current position of the clubs in the league is where each club will end up at the end of the season.  Here’s the data.


Season Club Spend Income Balance Lge pos
2022/23 Arsenal €192.36m €23.80m €168.56m 1
Tottenham €177.90m €38.75m €139.15m 4
2021/22 Arsenal €167.40m €31.40m €136.00m 5
Tottenham €95.9mm €34.62m €61.28m 4
2020/21 Arsenal €86.00m €19.15m €66.85m 8
Tottenham €110.50m €13.30m €97.20m 7
2019/20 Arsenal €160.80m €53.65m €107.15m 8
Tottenham €150.50m €64.50m €86.00m 6
2018/19 Arsenal €80.15m €9.10m €71.05m 5
Tottenham €0m 5.35m €-5.35m 4


Arsenal spend: €549.61 – Europa League runner up, FA Cup winner

Tottenham spend: €378.28: Champions League runner up, League Cup runner up

Average league position: Arsenal: 5.4

Average league position: Tottenham Hotspur 5.0

Now on this basis, Arsenal have spent 45% more than Tottenham, and yet have on average a slightly worse finishing position in the league (even when adding in this season).  In terms of trophies Arsenal have won one and I expect they will win a second this season.   

Tottenham don’t do trophies, but Tottenham have finished above Arsenal in four of the last five seasons.

So what is going on?   Why are the newspapers getting agitated with Tottenham?  They have spent less than Arsenal, done better in the biggest competition by reaching the final, and (again assuming that the club’s stay where they are at the moment) got three top four finishes to Arsenal’s one.

However we can also see that Arsenal backed Arteta and gave him the players he wanted, Tottenham didn’t.   They say that “Right-back Spence was signed in a deal worth £20m and yet six months later, the 22-year-old was loaned out to Rennes and Tottenham signed 23-year-old Pedro Porro, who plays as a right wing-back, on loan with an obligation to buy him for £39m at the end of the season.”  

But Arsenal have also had players who have not worked out – Pepe is a prime example.  So that’s not really the difference.   But then what has caused the different trajectories of the two clubs this season?

The overall argument seems to be that Arsenal have backed their manager, while Tottenham have never had complete faith in their manager.

And if that is so, that is odd, given that Arsenal sank to eighth for two seasons – something that Tottenham have not done. since 2007/8.

In the end it does look like Arteta and co knew what they were doing, and yes the owner backed them totally.   But it could also be argued that one approach that doesn’t work in football is constantly changing the manager.   Arteta has money, yes, but he also has had the time to implement a total change in the way Arsenal play.  That perhaps is the biggest difference of all.

6 Replies to “Does a club have a “mentality” or is it just a case of how much you spend?”

  1. There’s nothing that jumps out about Arsenal this season. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain their level next season. Are they going to be challenging City going forward or is this a Leicester City season ? We have no way of knowing at the moment. Every club bar Newcastle are having to punch above their weight financially to compete with City, up to this season Liverpool were the ones doing it best. Over the past few seasons I would argue they’ve got more bang per buck for their net spend than any other big club, although perhaps not quite at the Brighton level. In terms of scouting neither Spurs nor Arsenal are in the same class.

    The one obvious advantage of keeping the same manager is it makes recruitment easier, you buy players the manager wants and he has time to make them better players. It happened at Spurs under Pochettino and is happening at Arsenal under Arteta. Spurs have more recently bought players specifically for Conte, now he’s gone, what happens to those players ? There’s also the problem that both Mourinho and Conte won things with unlimited budgets, not going to happen at Spurs or most other clubs.

    Maybe the most important thing to take from Arsenal’s season is you don’t need a superstar manager, just someone who knows what he’s doing and is given enough time. It would be interesting if Spurs changed strategy and appointed Franks or de Zerbi and let him get on with it for a few years. They’ve both shown what they can do in the premier league on limited budgets, could they do more with a few more resources ?

    The problem with the FA Cup is that winning it no longer changes anything, if Arsenal win the league (as they should from here) the FA Cup wins will almost be forgotten.

  2. Spurs supporter coming in peace. I thought your article would be different based on the title.. I do believe that all clubs and organizations have a culture -and even sub cultures.. As a Spurs supporter I wonder if many of the players are just contented.. They have a wonderful life, great facilities, earn well etc etc. So maybe many of them are just contented with this.. I find cultures in many govt organizations in my country where there is general “someone will do it” attitude that ends up bordering on laziness. I call it the big C – aka culture and it is the most difficult thing to change.. Sometimes it needs luck – other times the right people and in other cases maybe things need to shaken up. personally I think a builder like Potter would have been great for Spurs but they needed to be patient and stick to a plan. Mourinho and Conte were never going to work.

    As for Arsenal this year. Yes backed Arteta but he also is committed. Conte was not. We signed lo Celso and Ndombele and they flopped. Partey and Ordegaard have done great. But in general Arsenal have been quite lucky with injuries this year – and that can make a big difference too. gabriel and saliba have been fantastic.

  3. Apart from last years top scorer Smith Rowe being out all season you mean?

    Apart from Gabriel Jesus being out for 3Months you mean?

    Apart from his replacement Nketiah getting injured you mean?

    That’s a lot of goals.

    That’s the equivalent of Kane and Song is it not? If not who then? Because that’s our 3 primary goals scorers, orat least it was then all of a sudden it wasn’t as Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard stepped up.

    That’s not ‘good luck’ with injuries, that’s having a squad so good they wasn’t even missed. There’s a difference.

    Now Saliba is out and Holding steps in.

    Partey has been out.

    The problem is people were so eager to dismiss our squad as weak they refuse to admit it was completely the opposite.

  4. While I always appreciate a different perspective, especially the cogent, respectful comments posted here by Spurs fans, I wonder why you are commenting on an Arsenal supporters site? It also seems that there are more of you the closer we get to the end of the season. A Season in which AFC may win the title. I’m not going to be negative or critical, I’m just curious.

  5. @abe,

    Peace to you as well !

    Personally, I am impressed by the way that new stadium was built, the original concept of using it as well for NFL games and the technical prowess that enables it to have 2 pitches on rails and maintaining both in parallel. The fact Spurs played rather well at Wembley is another thing that Pochettino and the team got right. Keeping Kane when he could have walked into any other team was another impressive thing.

    But, from my vantage point, the organisation itself lacks what Arsenal has. I get the impression Mr Levi is in charge, not the the manager on the field and that his fears, hopes, feelings are more important then any analysis. Arteta would have been sacked at WHL last season after 3 defeats. recruitment is another issue. Spurs cannot show a silverware cabinet that is ‘uptodate’. Arsenal can. So that creates the first problem : they cannot select, they need to convince. Quite a different take then Arsenal who must have far fewer issues convincing playrers to come to the Emirates or the academy.

    Look at Pool how it ‘dipped’ from last year – same thing happened to Spurs. Well Klopp is still in charge. The management is keeping its nerves, and they will eventually rebound. Had Pochettino stayed, the situation would be completely different.

    To me the organisation is the failure first and foremost.

  6. Personally, I think the FA should be a gateway to the Champions League, instead of 4th place. That would restore some of its former lustre.

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