Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur: the difference
- How Arsenal finally benefitted from the attitude of the football media
- Unrest down Hotspur Avenue. The trajectories of the top four clubs
By Tony Attwood
In the articles noted above I have been arguing that Tottenham Hotspur have of late taken a number of false turns which have caused them difficulties but offered little progress, while, hardly noticed at all by the media, Arsenal have year on year been following a plan.
For while Arsenal dropped down to 8th in the league and have since been fighting their way back up (and picking up yet another FA Cup en route) Tottenham, having reached the high point of a Champions’ League final and four seasons of coming second, third and fourth in the league, have dropped away somewhat. Their push for the top resulted in no trophies, and now there is decline.
For although last season’s fourth place in the Premier League with 71 points was their best since 2017/18, rather than going forward, they have this season been operating at a level below that of last season, rather than making any progress.
Arsenal on the other hand brought in a new management group in December 2019, and have had faith in them – evolvinig a programme of reforms of the playing squad and its style of play which have taken the club up the league. It took several years to see through, and indeed there have been numerous media-promoted calls along the way for Arteta to be kicked out, but thankfully the club had more sense and stayed on track with the overall plan.
Meanwhile, Tottenham have been chopping and changing endlessly, with people like Simon Bamber having passed away, and John McDermott, Trevor Birch, Steve Hitchen, plus members of the legal, media and marketing departments, all leaving.
Now sometimes a “big clear-out” and a programme of “removing the deadwood” can work in an organisation, but those who have commented on each of these changes have generally not seen those leaving as “deadwood” but rather as a club that a) was not a place people wanted to work in any more or b) a sacking policy instituted on the grounds that someone had to be to blame for the failure to get the club permanently into the top four.
But the fact is that if we start from 2010/11 and work through the next 12 seasons, Tottenham have finished in the top four, six times. In fact in the last four years they have achieved that twice. Exactly as happened between 2009/10 and 2012/13 – four seasons and twice coming fourth. It has been in fact, more of the same, not a period of progress.
Now of course that is understandable given that they have built a stadium that many people admire – but now having failed to find a sponsor for the ground (perhaps in part because of their erratic hire and fire behaviour and up and down results) they are feeling the pinch.
And here we have the huge difference between Arsenal and Tottenham. Arsenal with their new stadium stayed in the top four. Arsenal under Arteta transformed their playing style and their squad and have advanced each year – exactly as happened under Wenger in his early years. Tottenham on the other hand are not moving. They are qualifying for the Champions League half the time, and not qualifying for the other half the time. just as before.
Where this is discussed in the media, the blame is put on certain people within the club, but not on the issue of the overall plan for progress. Because if there is such a plan, it is not working.
|Season||Arsenal points||Tottenham points|
|2022/23 thus far||75 (max 90)||54 (max 69)|
Arsenal’s decline in points totals came at the time of a total reworking of both the playing style and the squad. Tottenham’s seems to have come about probably because there is no overall plan, rather just some tinkering. They have Kane as an eternal top scorer but have no trophies since the League Cup in 2008. Arsenal have won the FA Cup four times since then.
Over the most recent years I believe Arsenal have had a much clearer vision of what they are doing than Tottenham, a vision brought in by Arteta and seen through by him and his team. A vision which oversaw a complete rebuilding of the style of play, and a drawing on Arsenal’s youth system to bring players through quickly.
Indeed let’s not forget Ethan Nwaneri who became the Premier League’s youngest ever player at 15 years and 181 days when he came on for Arsenal against Brentford.
In short, Arsenal seem to have had a plan all the way through the Arteta era and we see it coming closer to fruition. Of course the club is not at the Manchester City level yet because the club is not sponsored by a country, but City’s dominion cannot last much longer under the legal threats it now faces.
But for Arsenal we can see individual issues faced and resolved. For Tottenham it appears to be a bit of this a bit of that. A step up, a step back. Is there a plan beyond building the stadium? I’m not too sure there is.
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