How Tottenham have declined while Arsenal have progressed


We’ve been looking at how Arsenal have progressed in terms of goals scored and conceded year on year in recent seasons. and concluded that improving these numbers year on year is the true way for a club to progress, rather than spending the summer talking about players that might (but probably won’t be) signed.

And so having reached that view I thought it might be interesting to compare Arsenal with Tottenham.  After all it was only seven months or so ago that we had the headline “Spurs are unbeaten and top of the league.”

That Guardian article was almost orgasmic in its praise of Tottenham saying, “Even with the departure of the club-record goalscorer, Harry Kane, Spurs have scored the fourth most league goals (18) in the league. To lose a striker of Kane’s pedigree as the campaign kicked off was a blow, yet the Australian has taken it in his stride, putting together a side the fans love watching. No wonder they’re loving Big Ange [Postecoglou] instead.”

Indeed from 2015/16 to 2022/23 Kane scored from 24 up to 41 goals a season.

And at the start of that period tottenham had four consecutive seasons finishing in the top four.

But after 2015/16 in the following five years, despite still having Kane up front, Tottenham slipped out of the top four, only reaching fourth once between 2019/20 and 2023/24.  (Still Kane did make third this past season with Bayern).

Indeed Kane’s goals don’t seem to do his clubs much good.  In his top two scoring seasons in recent years (33 goals in 2020/21 and 32 goals in 2022/23 Tottenham finished seventh and eighth).  

Now if you have been reading my ramblings regularly you will know that of late we’ve been looking to find how Arsenal and Manchester City have differed from other clubs statistically in the recent past through consistent improvement year on year in both defence and attack.

So seeing that Guardian article (“Spurs are unbeaten…” I watched to see if Tottenham also could generate consistent improvement in the same way.  But now the headlines are that “head coach Ange Postecoglou plans a major clearout”.  And that’s not just a one publication view.   Tottenham ‘could sell 11 first-team players’ is Football365’s view. 

Now we know that manyTottenham supporters have argued that the new stadium is generating more money than any other club ground, and so not impacting on transfer spending.

But the recent reviews we have undertaken through the articles highlighted at the top of this piece, suggest it is a good idea to look not just at the opening matches of a season as the Guardian loves to do in supporting Tottenham and knocking Arsenal, but instead to draw conclusions across several seasons.  

So lookinig at 2015/16 we can see Tottenham outscored the top club by one goal, and had a better defence than the top club by one goal.  A very promising situation, and one that looked like it could lead to an assault on the title, for the third time in Tottenham’s history.

And indeed 2016/17 was even better, the defence letting in seven fewer than the league winners.

But then suddenly in 2018/19 it all went wrong – instead of matching or beting better than the champions Tottenham’s combined goal difference was 35 goals worse than the champs.

Now it is true in the last five years Tottenham have edged uptheir goal scoring year on year, although only by two or three goals a season on average.

But what they haven’t done is kept the tight defence that they had back in 2015/16 and 2016/17.  First there was the jump from 2016/17 to the following season which involved concieding an extra 19 goals.   Over the next three yearrs that edged back slowly but then in the last two seasons Tottenham have been letting in around double the number of goals in 2016/17.

Now when we analysed Arsenal’s year on year performance in terms of goals conceded we noted the steady improvement in the defence.  Likewise when we analysed Arsenal’s performance in terms of goals scored we saw the numbers growing year on year.

With Tottenham the goals scored year on year have edged up, but the big leap upwards in terms of goals conceded two seasons ago was hardly changed last season.

So for two years running Tottenham has conceded almost double the number of goals of the most effective defences in the league, and it seems extraordinary that the leap from 40 goals conceded in 2021/2 to 63 in 2022/23 was simply not addressed in 2023/24.

Overall I remain convinced that the key to seeing how a club is doing is not the by viewing a single season, but by comparing key metrics (goals for, goals against and of course points) over several years.

In fact the departure of Kane was irrelevant, as Tottenham scored more without him than they did in his final season at the club.  What mattered was the increase in goals conceded in the last two seasons, to levels not seen since 2008.  That is what has been screwing Tottenham and rather strangely it has not been mentioned much in the media.  I can’t imagine why.


One Reply to “How Tottenham have declined while Arsenal have progressed”

  1. i can’t imagine we haven’t seen the usual “why are you talking about Spurs on an Arsenal blog” as yet. They must be sleeping.

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