Tottenham and Arsenal, which club is progressing, which is slipping?

By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw

The last 24 games this season and last: not yet title winning form but getting closer

Tottenham and Arsenal have been using very different methods of developing their clubs of late, and as we ponder the notion of getting St Totteringham’s Day back this year (that’s the day when Tottenham can no longer overtake Arsenal in the league) it seemed a good idea to look at Tottenham’s chosen method of club improvement, to see how effective it has been.

Of course, we do this knowing it will take an awfully long time to get back to Mr Wegner’s triumph of 21 successive years of beating Tottenham in the final league table of each season  – something that looks unimaginable now the club is having to start building itself all over again, but we can hope that this is the year of the start.

Last season Tottenham beat Arsenal by one point.  In 2020 it was by three points.  In 2019 it was by one point.  In 2018 again it was one point.  One has to go back to 2017 to find a season where there has been a significant margin of difference: 11 points in fact – a reverse of what Arsenal arranged two years before.

But the reality is that prior to 2016 it had been Arsenal all the way – sometimes by just one or two points, or sometimes, as in 2009, by 21 points.  And even that was a bit disappointing because in 2008 the gap was 37 points, although to be fair some of that was down to Tottenham’s gross ineptitude on the pitch, rather than totally to Arsenal’s overwhelming brilliance.

As a result of this history, these last six seasons have been a little hard to take.  For not only have Arsenal slipped from the high standards of the previous 20 or so seasons, Tottenham have regularly risen above Arsenal.   Indeed even the days of 2014/15 when after 33 games Arsenal were ten points clear of Tottenham, seemed to have slipped away.

But let us not be totally negative, because since then things have improved, for in 2020 we saw the first chink of light, where after 33 games we were actually one point ahead.   Sadly last season we slipped again, but now today, we are two points ahead.  Maybe we might make it above them this time at the end of the season.

Thus the question arises, which of the two clubs is constantly improving and which is slipping back?

It sounds quite shocking to admit, but being fourth after 33 games is our best position since 2015 when we were third at this stage of the season.  Indeed it is also only the second time in the last seven years that we have been above Tottenham after 33 games – which is not just shocking but also rather frightening.

The worst position after 33 games came in 2017 when we were 17 points behind Tottenham after 33 games.  But what makes the whole thing about St Tots Day rather bizarre is that in 2017 we had 60 points – just as now.

However what is particularly odd about Tottenham is that they were doing rather well under Pochettino who stayed at the club for five years, an unheard of length of stay in recent times for a Tottenham manager.  Which brings me back to the point made so often on these pages.   Changing the manager does not usually result in positive change – rather it more often means the reverse.

The chart below shows Tottenham’s successes in relation to the comings and goings of their managers.  *Conte of course has not left – his figure of fifth is the team’s position as of today.

Manager Arrival Departure Pos on arriving Pos on leaving
Antonio Conte 02 Nov, 2021 Present 9 5*
Nuno Espirito Santo 30 Jun, 2021 01 Nov, 2021 7 9
Ryan Mason 19 Apr, 2021 29 Jun, 2021 7 7
Jose Mourinho 20 Nov, 2019 19 Apr, 2021 14 7
Mauricio Pochettino 27 May, 2014 19 Nov, 2019 6 14
Tim Sherwood 16 Dec 2013 13 May 2014 7 6
Andrew Villas Boas 3 July 2012 16 Dec 2013 4 7
Harry Redknapp 25 Oct 2008 15 June 2012 20 4
Juande Ramos 29 Oct 2007 25 Oct 2008 18 20
Martin Jol 5 Nov 2004 26 Oct 2007 11 18

So here we have ten managers over 18 years (itself quite a lot really) and just half of them have managed to take the club up a position in the league between joining and leaving.

Now considering that most of these worthy men were sacked, there would be compensation to pay for that, along with the fact that virtually all managers like to spend money bringing in the players they want to develop the team in their way.

Thus we have a process that is expensive and that has a 50/50 chance of success in taking Tottenham up the league.

But, you may be saying, it is not just about league position, what about trophies?  Well they won the league cup in 2008 along with the Vodacom Challenge (South Africa) in 2007, the Feyenoord Jubileum Tournament (Holland) in 2008 and the Barclays Asia Trophy (China) in 2009.

And so it does go to show… all this shuffling of managers really doesn’t guarantee success.  Not unless you have the money of Manchester City or Chelsea, and even then, as Chelsea have found out, a foreign owner can allow the away support to sing, “There’s nobody here, just the like old days, there’s nobody here”.  For Arsenal we just have to hope that Boris doesn’t fall out with the USA.

6 Replies to “Tottenham and Arsenal, which club is progressing, which is slipping?”

  1. Another round of games and more change. Arsenal achieved the requisite victory over United, meaning we both acquired the expected points returns this weekend with 3 and 0 respectively, and West Ham lost against Chelsea as expected.

    The only team to drop points against the required return was Spurs, who only managed a draw away to 14th place Brentford when a win was required. A tricky assignment yes, but a team hoping to finish in the top 4 should be winning at these places, and it could cost them dear as it puts the ball well and truly back in Arsenals court. I now make us slight favourites for the not a trophy trophy 4th place.

    But it still wont be easy because as you will see, due to a couple of things. Firstly Newcastle rising up the table makes our trip to the North East look a much trickier affair than it did when I first started these predictions. Our expected points return from that match is now just the 1 point instead of 3. And of course we still have to face Spurs away. The good news is though, now that they are out of the op 4 our expected return from our trip to the toilet bowl is to get a draw.

    As has seemed for a long time now, it looks like that match is going to be huge. As such the more latitude for error we have by the time we go there the better, meaning a victory away at the Bolin would be a massive help. Now given West Hams form, their European commitments, and the fact they have lost Dawson for our visit, we have a real opportunity to grab an unexpected victory.

    It’s an opportunity it really would be silly to pass up on !

    One final thing. Despite Uniteds trial and tribulations, due teams moving up and down the table, they are now predicted to finish closer to us than when I last did this. (70-62 now 69-64)

    Even so, unless we capitulate they should be out of the picture.

    This is my revised required points returns and final positions:

    This how I predict the points need to be gained:


    Against the 1st and 2nd placed teams = 0 per match
    Against the 3rd and 4th placed teams = 1 per match
    Against the rest = 3 per match


    Against the top 4 placed teams = 0 Per match
    Against the top 10 placed teams = 1 per match
    Against the rest = 3 per match

    As a result of that system this is how I see the run in unfolding:

    It consists of H or A – Team and Current League position – Expected points return against them.


    A West Ham 7th = 1 pt
    H Leeds 16th = 3 pts
    A Tottenham 5th = 1 pt
    A Newcastle 9th = 1 pt
    H Everton 18th = 3 pts

    Total = 60 pts + 9 pts = 69 POINTS


    H Leicester 10th = 3 pts
    A Liverpool 2nd = 0 pts
    H Arsenal 4th = 1 pts
    H Burnley 18th = 3 pts
    A Norwich 20th = 3 pts

    Total = 58 pts + 10 pts = 68 POINTS


    H Brentford 12th = 3 pts
    A Brighton 11th = 3 pts
    H Chelsea 3rd = 1 pt
    A C.Palace 14th = 3 pts

    Total = 54 pts + 10 pts = 64 POINTS


    H Arsenal 4th = 1 pt
    A Norwich 20th = 3 pts
    H Man City 1st = 0 pts
    A Brighton 11th = 3 pts

    Total = 52 pts + 7 pts = 59 POINTS

    So my final points prediction is:

    Arsenal 69 Points
    Tottenham 68 Points
    Man Utd 64 Points
    West Ham 59 Points

  2. Another thing to add that could come in to play should it, as we expect, go to the wire, is the nature of our respective last 2 matches.

    As said above, our penultimate game away at Newcastle now looks a much trickier preposition. How tricky could well depend on whether there is anything on this match for Newcastle?

    Of course there’s always pride to play for, but it could well be a dead rubber as far as Newcastle are confirmed. Could that help?

    Similarly our final match could also be a dead rubber for our opponent. It would certainly be a help if Evertons fate was sealed either way by the time they come to the Emirates.

    So how easy or difficult those last 2 matches will be, is perhaps more dependent on our opponents situation, than it is on us?

    As for Spurs, how difficult their penultimate match will be is similarly dependent on the situation of their opponent. If Burnleys fate is already sealed either way, that match could be a formality. If they have something to play for that is a whole different ball game.

    Spurs’ ace in the hole is their final match. Now we all know how ‘Spursy’ Spurs can be but surely even they cant lose to Norwich, who are very poor, will be already down, and have absolutely nothing to play for, except their pride.

    The nature of those 4 games is extremely hard to predict.

    A Roller coaster ride doesn’t even begin to describe what I think we are all in for.

  3. “Where’s the Brains?” – Harry Redknapp talking about Dele Alli.

    Redknapp recommended Dele Alli to Frank Lampard before his move to Everton.

  4. I am no fan of Spurs nor of Pocchetino. But the line concerning him is not really ‘fair’ i feel.
    He did get Sp*rs up for a few successive years and in all due respect it was good work. It was not just a one or 2 season thing like Boorinho.
    Sure he did not win any trophy, but he was quite successfull and turned his team around. and he survived a little more then 5 years, which may well be a Spurs record.
    Not his fault if the owners were not behind him like he would have liked.
    Then again this is typically a Spursy issue.

    Just felt that his entry lacked a little bit of credit.

  5. West Ham’s only chance is to progress by winning the Europa League, which, IMO, is emminently possible. Of the three remaining teams, only Leipzig is strong. Rangers and Frankfurt are quite pedestrian. This might affect the sides they put out.

  6. Chris

    Regarding Pocchetino I tend agree.

    Considering I put so much stock in the relationship between Nett spend and success, that is not entirely surprising.

    His Nett spend, taken over his entire tenure, was relatively low, and as such I have always said, and this is despite the fact he didn’t actually win anything, that he actually over achieved.

    Of course the fact that he, nay Spurs, never win anything, is always going to be a source of joy and ridicule for us Gooners, it would be rude not to, but never the less, as you suggest, credit where credit is due.

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