For more than two decades, Arsenal have finished above Tottenham in the Premier League. It’s become such a regular occurrence, Gooners created a whole celebration around the day Spurs were mathematically out of the race to catch up to Arsenal.
This is the year it ends though. St. Totteringham’s day just isn’t going to be a thing.
Spurs are in a legitimate title race, and there’s an outside shot that they could lift the Premier League trophy. On the other side of things, Arsenal currently sit in sixth place, and they’re fighting desperately to avoid finishing outside the top four for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s 20-plus years as manager. Things have changed pretty drastically over the years, and Spurs now seem to be on the cusp of an extended run of success, while Arsenal look like they have a lot to sort out.
No self respecting Gooner wants to admit that Tottneham have done things right in recent years, but now that the tables have turned, what can Arsenal learn from Spurs’ recent success?
It’s not a novel concept, but it’s something Arsenal have gotten away from recently. Arsene Wenger’s teams have always played some of the most flowing, team-based football in the world, but in recent years, they’ve struggled in the face of real adversity. Too many times we’ve seen individual players forced to take matters in their own hands when the team hasn’t been good enough as a whole, rather than a collective effort from the squad as a whole. It’s mainly been Alexis Sanchez lately, but players like Olivier Giroud and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all stepped up to be the main man at different points throughout the year. It’s rare that we’ve seen the entire team come together and get it done as a unit.
On the other hand, while Spurs clearly count heavily on marquee players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, they’re getting production from across the board. Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and Mousa Dembele all have been phenomenal individually at different points in the year, but it’s been a team effort for Spurs throughout the whole season.
There’s value in English players, especially young ones
Arsenal’s academy is one of the club’s biggest pride and joys, but there’s been a real lack of young English talent coming through the club. 21-year-old Rob Holding is the only young Englishman to sniff the first team recently, and he wasn’t even an academy player. There are a few young players pressing to be included in Arsenal’s first team, but there’s a distinct lack of young Englishmen in that group.
Pochettino believes in English players, and he’s made that clear since his days at Southampton. “From day one, when we arrived at Southampton, we always said to you [the media], the fans and the coaches that the most important thing was to show belief and faith in the young talent in England. One of our challenges in the last four years was to show the English people that the talent exists here. I think Southampton and Tottenham are showing that, if you believe and work and spend time, they have the same talent as in Argentina, Spain and Brazil.”
Because of this, Tottenham have made a point of filling their team with young Brits. Now, Pochettino’s got more Englishmen in his first XI than Arsenal do in their entire first team. Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, and Danny Rose are all important players for Spurs, and Poch has given more peripheral players like Harry Winks a shot at the first team as well. They’ve repaid his trust, and the English national team is – and will be – better for it.
When and how to spend money
Spurs have seen both sides of this equation. They’ve made some mistakes on the transfer market, and they spent the cash accrued from Gareth Bale’s record sale extremely poorly, but since then, they’ve done some really good work to build up their team.
Moussa Sissoko and Vincent Janssen aside, Spurs have made some great transfer moves recently.
Dele Alli was snapped up for chump change just a couple years ago, as was Eric Dier, and those two have become the linchpins of Mauricio Pochettino’s team. Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Wanyama and Son Heung-Min have all been extremely successful as well, and they’ve been vital to Spurs’ success recently. Even their transfer misses have been in the right spirit, and although Janssen’s struggled in a Tottenham shirt, he initially looked like the right buy to challenge and back up Harry Kane. The end result hasn’t always been successful, but the intention to strengthen the team in the right areas has been on point for Spurs.
Arsenal have finally started to splash the cash recently, and Alexis Sanchez is by far the best purchase Wenger’s made in recent years. Still, their transfer strategy has been hit or miss to say the least, and they’ve started every year looking as if they still have legitimate holes in the team. They’ve needed a top class striker for years, they could still use another quality midfielder, and the attacking depth really just isn’t where a top team should be. That shouldn’t be the case at this point.
Mauricio Pochettino’s versatility
For years, Arsene Wenger’s stuck rigidly to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s been more or less successful throughout the years, but he hasn’t changed that formula one bit until injury and lack of results forced him to switch it up this year. This season, for the first time since 1997, Wenger changed it up and broke out a back three formation, looking to change things up somehow.
Bloggers trying to work out what formation Spurs are playing like: pic.twitter.com/v0tGajsyR7
— Rich Arrowsmith (@RichArrowsmith) April 26, 2017
Changing things up is just a way of life for Pochettino. His Spurs are equally comfortable in a back three or a back four, and when they’re healthy, there’s no predicting just how they’ll line up. Tactical flexibility is the new wave of the future, and the Spurs boss has made sure his team are ahead of the curve in that respect.
No one man should have all that power
There’s no doubting that Arsene Wenger is almost singlehandedly responsible for much of what makes Arsenal such a huge club today. There’s also no doubting that Wenger’s almost singlehandedly responsible for Arsenal’s stagnation in recent years. Wenger enjoys the ultimate power at Arsenal, directing transfer strategy, the every day running of the club, and a number of other tasks that are often delegated to a sporting director in modern football. At Spurs, while Pochettino clearly has a deal of freedom, he still has to answer to a board. Arsenal could use a measure of real accountability at the club, and their soccer dictatorship should probably be a thing of the past, no matter the success it’s brought in the past.