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.
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.
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