Arsenal and Tottenham, last season and this season. Is the gap closing?



By Tony Attwood

An article in the Athletic dated March 28 (ie today) has caused some interest in that it reads at the start…

“Since Daniel Levy took over as Tottenham chairman shortly after ENIC’s buyout in December 2000, he had three main ambitions: make the club competitive on the pitch, build a state-of-the-art training ground, build a world-leading stadium.

“He and Spurs had already achieved two of these and now, after a gruelling, prolonged, hugely expensive process, they had finally pulled off the third. A remarkable achievement and the thing that would transform Tottenham’s finances and wider standing in the game.”

I won’t comment on the training ground or the unsponsored WHL stadium, since I have not been to either (I used to do away games, but old age is slowing me down, so now it is home games only for me), but that “make the club competitive on the pitch” bit caught my eye.

Let’s try this from a range of perspectives.

League goals  In the first eight seasons starting 1999/2000 Tottenham scored between 47 and 57 goals per season..  The last eight seasons up to last season they have scored 61 and 86 goals, so that is an improvement.

In those first eight seasons they conceded between 38 and 54 goals per season.  In the last eight seasons, it is between 26 and 63.   So some improvement, some decline.

What about points?   In those first eight seasons the total was between 38 and 62.   In the last eight, it was between 26 and 63   Some improvement but some decline.

Then league position.  5th to 14th was the range in the first eight.  In the last eight it is second to eighth.   But to be quite fair the last group has seen a second, two thirds and two fourths.

In the FA Cup the first eight years had one cup semi-final.  The last eight has had two.

The first eight years had a runners-up place in the League Cup and to be fair in the ninth year they did win the League Cup – their only trophy since 1999-2000.  In the last eight years it has been two semi-finals and a runners-up place in the League Cup.

In the last eight years Tottenham have been in Europe each season and were runners up in the Champions League.  In the first eight years they were in the Uefa Cup twice, once going out in round two and once in the quarter-finals.

So yes we can say that Tottenham have become more competitive on the pitch.  Results in the last eight years have certainly exceeded those at the start of the run from when the statement about improving on the pitch was made.

And Tottenham did win the League Cup in 2008 – their one trophy so far this century.  But it is notable that after the three seasons ending in 2017/18 when Tottenham came second once, third twice, fourth twice, sixth once,seventh once, and eighth once

Now this of course makes us think of Arsenal’s record in recent years.  During the last eight seasons Arsenal have finished second twice, fifth three times, sixth once, and eighth twice.

So that is five top four finishes for Tottenham but only two top four finishes for Arsenal.   So on the basis of that Tottenham are ahead.  On the basis of trophies Arsenla have the one, to Tottenham’s none.

But we might notice also one other difference.  Tottenham had the same top scorer in each of these eight seasons – obviously H Kane.  In four of the seasons we have looked at Arsenal had no one in the 20+ goals bracket.

Last season for example Kane scored 32 goals for Tottenham.  Arsenal’s top scorer got under half that number.  But Arsenal had three such players each on 15 goals.

So here we have two north London teams each struggling to start winning trophies, but in these eight years Arsenal won the FA Cup twice, and Tottenham had no trophies.  Tottenham had the top scorer throughout, and Arsenal’s top men last season each scored under thalf the goals that Kane got.

But after all this battling where are we now?   Last season finished


Team P W D L G A GD Pts
2 Arsenal 38 26 6 6 88 43 45 84
8 Tottenham Hotspur 38 18 6 14 70 63 7 60


This season it currently stands


Team P W D L F GA GD Pts
1 Arsenal 28 20 4 4 70 24 46 64
5 Tottenham Hotspur 28 16 5 7 59 42 17 53


On this basis Tottenham are getting a little bit closer to Arsenal and indeed Tottenham certainly should exceed their last season’s points total (four wins in the last 10 games will do that) while Arsenal need eight wins in the last ten games to match last season’s points.  Although both clubs have a better goal difference than that achieved by the end of last season, at present.

Are Tottenham closing the gap on Arsenal?  Yes, as things stand, a little bit, but not so much that one really would notice.  Yes they have their stadium, but I am not sure that they are yet as competitive as they were a few years ago, which of course is the object of the exercise.


One Reply to “Arsenal and Tottenham, last season and this season. Is the gap closing?”

  1. Tony

    You conclude with:

    “Are Tottenham closing the gap on Arsenal? Yes, as things stand, a little bit, but not so much that one really would notice. Yes they have their stadium, but I am not sure that they are yet as competitive as they were a few years ago, which of course is the object of the exercise.”

    Which sounded about right to me, but me being me I thought I’d have a look for myself. I’ve had a look at 2 things. Pre Levey compared to post Levey and then across his 20 odd year Tenure.

    For ease I’ve broken Spurs finishing positions into blocks of 5 seasons starting from their promotion back into the top Division. So we have 78/79 to 82/83 then 83/84 to 87/88 and so on. 5 blocks of 5 takes us up to the end of season 02/03, so just into Levy’s tenure. These are their average finishing positions for each of those blocks of 5:


    So, over those 25 seasons prior to Levy’s arrival Spurs average finishing position was 9.12. So basically 9th.

    The last 4 blocks of 5, so Levy’s 20 year Tenure, their average finishing positions have been:


    So that’s an average finishing position over the 20 odd years of Levey’s tenure of 5.9. If you count just the last 15 years that improves to 5.0. So, Levy did have an almost immediate impact taking Spurs from a top 10 team to a top 6 team.

    But the big question is, has Levey improved Spurs over the duration of his 20 year tenure? Arguably not. Spurs average finishing position over his 20 years has been 5.9. Over the last 5 season it has been 5.8. Last season it was 8th. That doesn’t look like much improvement to me. Yes they may finish in the top 4 this season, but this is now what Spurs do.

    If they do finish 5th or even 4th it will be nothing new, not really an improvement, and certainly not an indicator of things to come. They finished 5th in 05/06 – 06/07- 12/13 – 14/15 and 4th in 09/10 – 11/12 – 18-19 – 21/22 and 3rd in 15/16 as well as a 2nd in 16/17. But history says they cannot sustain it. Spurs simply flatter to deceive.

    And lets dismiss the myth that Spurs don’t Spend money. This is the premier Leagues top 6 net spenders over the last 20 years:

    Liverpool £789 Million – At least 4 major trophies
    Spurs £800 Million – ZERO major trophies
    Arsenal £990 Million – 6 major trophies
    Man Utd £1.6 Billion – At least 14 major trophies
    Man City £1.7 Billion – At least 14 major trophies
    Chelsea £1.8 Billion – At least 14 major trophies

    That is damming.

    So the other question was, have they got closer to Arsenal? Well as far as trophies are concerned that’s a big fat no. But how about the league.

    Over the last 5 seasons Spurs average position is 5.8 Arsenals is 5.6 so yes they have, but that is not really down to any real improvement on Spurs part. It is basically their average finishing position for the last 20 years, it is more down to Arsenals 5 year average of 5.6 being their worst period for over 20 years.

    if you correlate spend to premier league position Spurs play to about par, but when it comes to actually winning things they are a disaster.

    In conclusion I think You summed it up about right Tony.

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