By Tony Attwood
I was in a furniture shop in Market Harborough – a charming town in south Leicestershire – last weekend, and wandering around found this gigantic hearth rug covered in Tottenham emblems.
Away from the games and the shouting I do try and have a moderately civilised life, so I went over to the owner and we had a chat about our respective clubs. I know some people might be shocked, but the truth is, many of us are perfectly able to stop the tribal warfare outside of designated areas.
Being of similar ages, we spoke of the time of joining the support of our clubs in the 1950s and it turned out we actually lived quite close to each other in north London for a while, (the area of Devonshire Hill Lane, and across the Cambridge Road being a mix of Arsenal and Tottenham families) and of course we spoke of Bale, the spending of the Bale money, the problem of Mr Levy, and the new stadium.
Which took us to home form and home fans. I’ve never looked closely enough to know if Tottenham have their equivalent of the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal who criticise every move of the club, and, it is suggested, actually cause some players to think twice about coming to the club, or at least in one or two cases, force players to leave early.
Maybe they don’t, but I think they have another problem: an absolute dislike of the chairman. Our conversation was before Sunday’s defeat to Newcastle, but even so there was so frustration in the guy’s talk, particularly about home matches. He said that moving might help, but I pointed out it had not helped Arsenal – it had taken quite a while to get used to the new ground. Then he brought up Andre Villas-Boas comments on the ground in Tottenham High Road.
Now I mention all this because I have been reading that the new man this season and his comments on the size of the pitch in the High Road. In the press (which may not be accurately stated) he is quoted as saying, “Our style means that we need a bigger space to play, because we play a positional game. It is true that White Hart Lane is a little bit tight, no? It is better for the opponent to play deep.
“On Sunday, two shots from Newcastle They played deep, West Bromwich played deep, Liverpool played very deep, and it was difficult for us. We need time to adapt in our new set-up and try to understand better our positions on the pitch.”
I haven’t seen any statements about the size of the pitch when the new ground is built, but then it struck me, I didn’t actually know what the regs were about pitches any more. I mean, I knew them as a child, when we did them in yards, or maybe furlongs, but not in this new-fangled continental approach.
But from what I can tell, the regs changed in 2012 with all Premier League pitches having to be a standard size of 105m x 68m, which is the Uefa standard. However for matches in general the old rules still apply: 100 yards (91.44m) to 130 yards (118.9m) long, 50yds (45.7m) to 100 yards (91.44m) wide.
In the PL exceptions are allowed for clubs that don’t have the extra room, but new pitches, and this will include Tottenham, have to be this new standard size. As the chart below shows, 10 clubs obey the new standard. Tottenham are 5m short on the length and 1m short on the width at the moment.
I wonder how much difference that makes. After all Tottenham play there in all home matches, while other teams only get one bash a year.
|Arsenal & 9 others||105||68||7140|
Pochettino is, as I understand it, a manager who like Mr Wenger focuses on the mental approach as much as the physical, and Pochettino said that, “The mental process is always more slow than the physical or tactical. This is maybe a difficult period, but it is the process we have to go through. We did a lot of work in groups, and as individuals. In the training ground, in meeting rooms, in my personal office. But you need more time to change the habits.
“We are the psychologists. The players want to hear the manager, the staff, the assistant manager. We can help them. Football is a collective sport and we need to help them because we are a family. When you are on the pitch you always need your team-mate. If I love my colleagues maybe my job is better, or I can help him in difficult moments.
I thought that was a very open speech. Many managers shy away from talking of psychological issues, and some don’t recognise them. Can you imagine a psychological seminar with Arry Redknapp???
In Arsenal’s history it would be hard to imagine a man as economical with the truth as Leslie Knighton talking psychology, and I am not sure George Graham got it, but both Herbert Chapman and George Allison wrote a lot about the importance of psychology in football, and in doing so, changed Arsenal.
Which leads me back to Daniel Levy and I wonder if he wakes up each morning and thanks the Lord for Leeds, who at least manage to sack managers faster than he does.
From what the guy in the shop said, Levy is the problem and absolutely not part of any solution. Only Levy’s departure will change anything. Levy was the man who spent the Bale millions on Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Étienne Capoue and Christian Eriksen etc. I can’t say if Levy agreed those deals or merely signed them off.. but if he did presumably he has to take some of the blame. As we know at Arsenal, if an Arsenal transfer fails, it is Wenger’s fault. Mind you for many supporters everything is Wenger’s fault.
There are even doubts it seems as to whether he is the great negotiator that he claims to be. I made my point (oft made here) about the way the Bale to Real Mad transfer got tangled up with the Ozil from Real Mad to Arsenal transfer, and the conditions Levy tried to put in place on the former to stop the latter. That was a failure for Levy, and neither of us ended the chat really certain that Levy is as good a negotiator as he likes to tell the world.
Of course that led on to the issue of finance for the new ground, and here we did agree – neither of us knew where the money was coming from. And indeed to my amazement that concept of lack of certainly over the funding of the stadium has started to appear in the press as well (although it probably means the reverse is true!)
Arsenal had the money from the banks – aided of course by the selling of Highbury – but it was the repayment of the debt in those first seven years or so that made life so difficult. Tottenham might still be lucky and find the owner coughs up the dosh, but if he were doing that wouldn’t he have said so?
West Ham will soon have their state-funded ground, rather like Man City, Arsenal were shown that there was a ground just around the corner (by AISA as I recall), and the banks and the property deals helped us through, but how are Tottenham going to do it?
I know a lot of people say, “The money is all fixed up,” and announce a source, but it would be interesting if that source, whatever it is, or indeed the club, came out and made a statement. I always feel, just saying it, doesn’t make it so.
After the Newcastle match Pochettino said. “I think there was a lack of concentration from us. We need to work hard on our mentality because it is not tactical, physical – it is concentration and mentality and this is our challenge to improve. It is not something where you can analyse the action, sort the tactical situation and move the players. With mentality, we need to work hard. It is not easy. We need to be more strong, like a team. This is our challenge.
“We need to speak, we need to create a different situation on the training ground and work. We know how, but always you need to spend time to work in this area. It is not the same as in physical or tactical situations. It is a different area.”
It was a very open speech, but Levy said nothing. I suppose he has nothing much to say. But if he ever publishes an autobiography I would love to know how he explains Chris Houghton, Christian Gross, David Pleat, George Graham, David Pleat, Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat, Jacques Santini, Martin Jol. Clive Allen and Alex Inglethorpe, Juande Ramos . Clive Allen and Alex Inglethorpe, Harry Redknapp, André Villas-Boas, and Tim Sherwood.
Actually that may be unfair for I am not sure when Mr Levy moved from Rangers to Tottenham so he might not be responsible for all of those – but I think he was there for George Graham.
Anyway, the man in the shop and I finally parted. He didn’t say, “you’re fixated with Tottenham” and “why don’t you write about your own club instead of worrying about other teams?” We didn’t call each other names. I think we both learned a bit too.
We will continue to travel to north London on different weekends to see our teams, and will do so I think once again a little reassured that despite tribal differences it is still possible to talk with each other and learn a bit more.
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