Our own ‘noisy neighbours’ Tottenham Hotspur have closed the gap on us – that is the official line. You can’t argue with that, I suppose, if the pinnacle of their achievement is finishing just one place behind us in five of the last seven seasons – a marked improvement on their previous exploits – then yes, they have caught up with Arsenal.
What’s the reason for this? According to this article by Glen Moore, it’s a work of ‘genius’ by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. I’m not sure I can have that.
The article explains that, given our vastly superior income from playing a larger stadium and having Champions League football every season (now for 15 years), Spurs should really be miles behind us. Well, as the table at the end of the piece shows, we don’t really spend much of this money we make (much to the annoyance of a large group of supporters), while Levy continues to spend way beyond Spurs’ means. A net spend of £219m compared to our £30m over the last twelve seasons, in which time we have won five trophies to their one, and qualified for the Champions League every year to their one. Am I missing something? In what way does this make Levy a genius?
Spurs have been incredibly ambitious, which I admire, but they’ve blown a lot of money on a lot of useless players like David Bentley, Gio dos Santos, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Wilson Palacios, Jermaine Jenas and countless others. Even the successful signings have only managed to bring one Carling Cup and one season in the Champions League, and never once finishing above Arsenal.
Spurs have also been incredibly lucky that they’ve chosen to go after us now in perhaps our least ambitious period in living memory. We’ve been constantly selling our best players without replacing them and this has led to endless chopping and changing as we fail to find some continuity and cohesion needed to develop a winning side. It is our prudence in the transfer market that has allowed Spurs to go for players like Bale, Modric and van der Vaart, players we would almost certainly have gone for once upon a time.
You could argue that Levy’s only ‘genius’ really, is spending all this money now, at a time when he knows we’re keen to pay off stadium debt; if there’s ever going to be a time Spurs could finish close to Arsenal, it is now, so he’s taken advantage of that and has somehow got everyone to agree that finishing 4th or 5th a few times is a great success. Meanwhile, Arsenal spending much, much less and finishing in not too dissimilar positions (but with the vital difference of Champions League football) is painted as a failure.
I also don’t share this article’s opinion that they are ready for Financial Fair Play at White Hart Lane. In terms of spending, they’re closer to Man United and Chelsea than we are – but not in terms of league position. Once FFP comes in, or once we start getting more serious in the transfer market (and perhaps replace the manager), it’s unlikely Spurs are going to continue to get this close to us.
A work of genius? No – a happy coincidence for Tottenham, and one that still consists of being behind us in every respect.