By Tony Attwood
I made a prediction a year back that Tottenham would struggle at Wembley this season, on the basis that all teams struggle when they move grounds. And I was completely wrong. They didn’t.
So it is with burned fingers that I venture cautiously back into the issue of Tottenham’s new ground. I’ve claimed their season tickets are more expensive than Arsenal’s when compared on a like for like basis, taking into account which games are included in the price (ie are any of the League Cup, FA Cup or European games included). That’s been questioned, but for the moment I am staying with my view on that one.
Now with it looking like the stadium will open for the start of next season (there was a doubt at one stage but that seems to have been set aside) what happens next?
For Arsenal, the problem was how to pay for the new stadium. Part of the was sorted by selling Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid, and Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit to Barcelona. Then there was the bond scheme (and incidentally those bonds still exist and are still traded). But despite this, and some funding from Granada, Arsenal had to look at cutting its wages bill as the cost of the stadium started to rise. There was a second bond scheme and a deal with Nike and ultimately Emirates Airlines, but as we all know there were also years of privation as Mr Wenger was forced to bring through the kiddies as he was without funding to compete with Man U and Chelsea.
So are Tottenham in the same position, or is it, as their manager said last December, “the time to say: ‘Now, we will win the title’.”
Tottenham’s early statement on expenses was that the ground would cost £400m – the same price as Arsenal. Prices at Arsenal rose along the way, but Arsenal were building a new stadium from scratch; Tottenham already owned the ground. But the last I heard it was a price quoted in various authoritative journals as circulating between £750m and £850m including some bank loans that have to be paid back over five years – a remarkably short space of time.
Recently Mr Pochettino has changed his mind a little saying, “The move to the new stadium is not suddenly going to change everything and millions of pounds will rain from the sky.” Which sounds realistic although he raised an eyebrow or two when he said that Tottenham would need a little more time to start winning things but it would happen either with himself in control or someone else – something that he then explained by talking about just how long term the stadium financing project was while at the same time suggesting that Tottenham needed to be fully involved in this transfer window.
He did also say, “We are the victims of our own success,” which perhaps was a slip of the tongue, and one must recognise he is not speaking in his first language. I think he meant “comparative success” at moving up from lurking in and around the Europa League positions, to the Champions League. That gives the club more money, but the demands of the stadium repayment – especially with the bank loan organised over such a short space of time – are going to be significant.
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have no such issues, and although there is no sign that the owner of Arsenal is going to let his new manager start a rush of speculative spending (£50m has been touted as this summer’s available cash), there will be some money for the much demanded new defence. As for Liverpool – their owner has told such porkies in the past it is always hard to tell.
For Tottenham the only step up is to get to a final, and retain that place in the top four, year after year. But leaving aside anything Arsenal might do (and it is hard to comment until one knows who is going to be manager and see what sort of money he has) there is every reason to think Chelsea will spend what it takes to get back into the top four. If Man U, Man C, and Liverpool can all stay there, it is Tottenham’s place that will be under threat. Doubly so if Arsenal become immediately resurgent with the new man at the helm.
The argument about Arsenal has for years been that he loves the idea of bringing through young players, and that when he can’t do that he wants to find a gem in another club whose talent has not been realised and bring him through. Only after both of these fail will he buy big. Those who helped force Mr Wenger out noted this and expect a new manager to buy big from the start – and maybe they will get their way – time will tell.
But Tottenham are, it seems to me (and it is just my view of course) one step behind in this process, as although they will be getting loads more dosh in the form of season ticket sales they will have two issues to contend with. First, the costs of repaying the loans, and second the rise in expectation, which in the end is what did it for Mr Wenger. Arsenal are now still way above the level that the club was in when Mr Wenger came along, but it feels to many like failure, because they either never knew what it was like under previous managers, or have forgotten.
If Tottenham sell another high value player this summer as they did with Kyle Walker, that will be a significant statement of where they are. I don’t know if it will go down well with Tottenham fans, but I think I can readily foresee what some Arsenal supporters would say if it happened this summer.
None of which means that I think everything at Arsenal is perfect and that at Tottenham it isn’t. Not at all. Rather I’m trying to suggest each club faces an issue. With Arsenal it is finding a new manager who will be willing to take on a club where discontent aimed at the manager and attacks on the club in the press seems to have become a central part of the club’s life. With Tottenham it is trying to maintain the current comparative success and build on it, while repaying the loans, and keeping the wage structure intact.
They are both quite tricky issues to handle.
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