Are Tottenham just like Arsenal, 18 years ago?

By Tony Attwood

The timescales aren’t exactly the same of course, but there is an interesting parallel between Tottenham’s experience in the Champions League and Arsenal’s in 1998 and 1999.  In those years, as I am sure you will recall, Arsenal played Champions League home matches at Wembley, and for what I think were the only two occasions under Mr Wenger’s reign, Arsenal went out of the competition in the first round of matches.

Indeed Mr Wenger called the experience at playing at Wembley a “nightmare”.   Emmanuel Petit called it “a disaster”.  Ray Parlour said, “It was classified as a home game but we never felt properly at home. Highbury was our home. That was where we knew exactly what we were doing, how we were preparing, where we felt comfortable without giving it a second thought. At Wembley both teams were away in a sense. Maybe it even gave the away team an advantage. and, at the end of two seasons playing their Champions League home matches at Wembley, Arsenal ended up with the statistical anomaly of actually being better off away.”

It has not been quite like this for Tottenham but the net result has been the same – elimination after the first round of games – after five matches.

Of course the whole thing could be called a coincidence, or it could be evidence of just how powerful the psychological and sociological effects surrounding football matches really are.  If the situation doesn’t feel right to individuals, or if the group dynamics are not as they normally are, then difficulties can follow.

Interestingly (for me at least, and I try not to presume to know what anyone else might find interesting), neither club had to play at Wembley.  However I have always understood that the move helped Arsenal prove that they could get the sort of crowds that would be needed at the Emirates if the bank loans were to be repaid on time, and it is just possible that Tottenham have been doing it for the same reason.  They, like Arsenal before them, can get the big crowds, although it will be interesting to see how many actually show for the last game of the series.

But by and large the crowds turned up to see us lose three out of six Champions League games at Wembley.  18 years on and we have qualified with two games to spare.

Of course the parallel with Tottenham is not quite the same – but the events of this year’s Champs League campaign could cause a little concern about next season’s league campaign, if it is to be played out at Wembley.  Maybe Milton Keynes would suit better.

Tottenham have won one, drawn one and lost three in the Champs League this season.  What would it have been like had they played at the under-demolition WHL ground?   I suspect they would have done better, especially given the fact that they remain unbeaten in the League after 12 games.

Pochettino was, I thought, realistic in his assessment in the aftermath of last night, saying, “After two and a half years, we have reduced the gap at the top of the Premier League but to be competitive in that and the Champions League, we need to show more.

“Maybe we need to add more quality in the squad. We have quality, yes, to compete in the Premier League but, today, you could say we struggled a little bit…The challenge is not physical and tactical – it is to manage your mind.”

“To play Saturday and then Tuesday or Wednesday is like playing continuously in the Premier League. We struggled to be ready to compete in every game. Monaco had played their league game last Friday night whereas we played against West Ham on Saturday night and it was like a final.

“To be ready again was difficult. It’s not an excuse. We did not show enough quality but we need to improve our mentality.”

It certainly is good to see that unlike 16 years ago, psychology is no longer an excuse word, a word to describe delicate foreigners who don’t like it up ’em (as the inimitable Sgt Jones would say).

And my point is, if you look back at some of the things Arsene Wenger has said, there is a similarity.  The psychology of the players, and the group dynamics of the club.  It takes years to get right, and it is one of the big benefits of consistency at the top of a club.  Ferguson did it, Mr Wenger has done it, and maybe if Tottenham can finally stop their managerial revolving door policy Pochettino can do it.

But for the moment Tottenham’s performance has come in for the sort of criticism that used to be the exclusive province of Arsenal: “Lamentable doziness on the flanks by both full-backs allowed Monaco to go 1-0 and then 2-1 up 38 seconds after Spurs’ equaliser. What is the point of prioritising the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League, barely shake a leg when you get there and end up having to play on Thursday nights in the Europa League?”

That was the Telegraph.

Tottenham now have to avoid defeat when playing CSKA Moscow at Wembley if they want the Europa League and the Tottenham manager suggested that this was, indeed, what they wanted.  I wonder if they are forced to play at Wembley.

Mr Wenger on the other hand could afford to be more upbeat.   “Let’s finish first and at least we have the advantage to play the second game [in the next round] at home. If we do win it, it would mean we’ve done the job until the end in a convincing way.

“It’s a luxury to be qualified after four games. Last year we had to battle until the end. This season we can finish the whole job after five matches, which would mean we’ve done really well. So it is a cup final.”

Hopefully, for those of us lucky enough to be there, it will be like the last cup final we were at.  That one I particularly enjoyed.

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #11 complete with video evidence

Hector, I love you more than words can say

More options up front than we had over the last seasons

Arsenal prepare for PSG; Santi Cazorla off to Barcelona

How the use of downright lies and misinformation has spread from football into the world beyond

Arsenal in November. Exactly how bad are we year after year? You might be surprised.

Man United – Arsenal : 1-1 Our beach saves the day


From the Arsenal History Society  

The books

“Making the Arsenal” and “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed history” are available both via Kindle and in paperback.  For the Kindle editions please go straight to the Kindle shop, for paperback editions and more information about the books please click here.

The on line series

The current series are Arsenal in the 30s and Arsenal in the summer.  There is a full index to our various series covering much of Arsenal’s history, on the Arsenal History Society web site.

The latest article is February 1936: an early example of rotational selection


10 Replies to “Are Tottenham just like Arsenal, 18 years ago?”

  1. A few of observations:
    The Monaco shirts looking just like Arsenal colours from many of the tv shots (just felt good)
    Are they finding it easier to get penalties than stand up and score goals
    How did the ref not punish so many late tackles (what would UA ref review team have made of it?)
    There were many (also unpunished) shirt tugs that didn’t result in a player catapulting forwards like firmino did, not even falling over.
    I dare say even a neutral would have found it very entertaining. Had spurs not fluffed their lines up front at the last gasp would the press and pundits been heralding a completely different story.
    I will be supporting Spurs to get a pyyrhic draw and go quite far (in all senses) in the Thursday night competition.
    I hope Tony is not suggesting they will settle back in whl to then qualify for the CL for the following 16 years.

  2. Arsenal will beat PSG by 2-0 in tonight’s Ucl game at the Ems. That the final score-line that has appeared to me on the cards.

    Arsenal’s destiny to top the Ucl Group A tonight is in the hand of God and also in the hands of the Gunners who are going to fight this battle on behalf of Arsenal. I therefore implore them to pray privately and in group before kickoff, at halftime and after the match to ask God to grant them victory over the Parisans. And also return thanks to God.

    Tottenham Hs have tasted this season again what Arsenal have been tasting in the Ucl for years consistently and have therefore accustomed themselves to the ups & downs in the competition overtime.

    To participate successfully in the CL is not an easy task as Tottenham thought it’ll be when they hire Wembley to have mammoth crowd for their games and big receipts from the 3 Ucl matches they’ll play there. For the money, they could have gotten some and could still get more. But for the results, they have not gotten it right.

    Participating in the Ucl has always been a demanding task that’s involved right planning and getting it right and that’s need experience in the competition overtime which Arsenal have already vastly accumulated.

    With time, I think Tottenham Hs will learn and adapt correctly when next they get the chance to participate again in the Ucl. But for now, let them fight for Europa League ticket at Wembley if they can. For I suspect the Moscow clubside CSK, who themselves want this ticket too will not let go easily without a good fight.

  3. Tottenham’s whole strategy over the last few years has been designed to appease the banks lending them the money. Their aim has been to replicate, as closely as possible, the situation in which Arsenal found themselves in in the years leading up to what is now seen as the most (only?)successful self-funded stadium move in history.
    Playing at Wembley, as well as significant investment in academy facilities are just two of the ways that they have tried to do this. Employing a manager who can actually read and write to (eventually) replace one that couldn’t (see ‘Arry’s last court case) is another.
    Unfortunately for them the world is a very different place these days. To be able to compete on all fronts and at the highest level requires much greater strength in depth than it did 15-20 years ago and that involves much higher levels of expenditure that Spurs want or can afford. Their collapse towards the end of last season indicated that they didn’t have it then and the much earlier collapse in the CL this season shows that they still don’ have it. Don’t take my word for it – read what their manager has said after last nights game.
    I can remember a Spurs fan writing on a blog after their first game at Emirates that he realised then that they were 10 years behind Arsenal. If that was a reasonable assessment then they are 20 years behind now.

  4. @SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin Do your cards have any prediction about the post-Brexit prospects of UK that you can share with us? 🙂

  5. Off topic but the U19 team for this afternoon Keto, Johnson, Bola,McGuane, Da Graca, Bielik, Malen, Reine-Adelaide, Mavididi, Hinds and Nelson

    Subs Osei-Tutu, Virginia, Da Silva, Mourgos, Nketiah, Eyoma and Dragomir

    Arsenal get the game underway.

  6. Half time at Borehamwood and it’s one all. Arsenal the better team, PSG somewhat lucky should have conceded two penalties in the first few minutes and could well have had. A defender sent off as well but the Referee seems to have lost his yellow and red cards.

    PSG opened the scoring in the 18th minute with their first sustained attack. Arsenal failed to clear the ball and Keto was beaten at his left.

    Five minutes before the break and Arsenal were finally able to make their pressure count when for the third time a forward was felled in the penalty area. This time the referee gave the right decision. Mavididi made no mistake and we went in all square.

  7. Full time two all. PSG went ahead when they scored following a corner. They had been dominant for some time and somehow we stopped them scoring five minutes previously when a combination of Keto and our defenders pulled off a series of four or five saves in a minute so the goal was coming.

    Two minutes into time added on Arsenal at last put together one of our free flowing attacking moves which carved through the PSG defence and ended with Mavididi scoring his second.

    Probably not enough for us to qualify but at least we fought to the end.

  8. The U19s need to win their last group game against Basel. Currently three points behind them with the same goal difference so a win will see us through.

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