Well, you’ve gone and done it, Tottenham. You went and finished above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years. Congratulations. Well deserved. You have the better team, which is better prepared, worked much harder, and simply kicked our Arsenal. I can’t hope that you go on to win the League but I can say that what your club is doing is in stark contrast to what Arsenal are doing and we should be using this as a lesson.
I’m fairly certain Arsenal won’t take the lesson. We will simply announce a 2-year deal for Arsene Wenger and us Arsenal supporters will be here next year with yet another “rebuilding” plan that feels a lot less like rebuilding than it does “rebranding.” Arsenal seem to have moved away from being a football club which focuses on football and onto a marketing club which focuses on marketing football to gullible masses. Kind of like how Brexit isn’t an economic plan and Trump isn’t a President: both simply marketing to tools to consolidate wealth and power in the hands of the very elite few.
I thought about being petty toward you Tottenham. I was going to write a piece about how I “now know what it’s like to finally lose to a better team” and then mention how you can “get back to me when you do this for 20 years straight” but I’m not. I’m just going to say, congrats and well deserved. You’re the better team and frankly have been for at least two years. Last year’s finish was quite lucky on our part and the way some fans celebrated our 2nd place finish like we had accomplished something was unedifying.
While us Gooners were over here arguing about how far Özil runs, how much Arsenal’s “net spend” was, how much “dry powder” Wenger has to spend, whether Jackson Martinez is 28 or 29, and building our Arsenal Fan TV media empire, you lot were quietly putting together a pretty decent team!
You started with a striker. That’s where I would start if I was building a team. A top quality striker papers over a lot of cracks. For example, one of the things Arsenal supporters spent the last two years yelling into the void about is the number of turnovers our forwards have and whether Giroud is any good. Harry Kane coughs the ball up all the time, just like all forwards, but he also scores lots of goals and is a huge threat both on counter attacks and in open play. While Arsenal have Giroud defending set pieces, Tottenham have Harry Kane making counter-attacking runs.
Arsenal have tried to buy a striker but have failed every season since letting go of Robin van Persie. Wenger is already claiming poverty again and I’ve seen some Arsenal supporters arguing about how much money Arsenal have to spend so if I were to guess, I’d say that Arsenal are probably going to spend another two or three years “just missing out” on a star striker.
On either side of Kane you’ve got speedy wide players who put in a shift both offensively and defensively. Son and Alli are a great compliment to Kane in attack but it’s Alli’s work rate that is most impressive. He actually doesn’t get a bunch of tackles or interceptions but he is part of the unit which presses high up the pitch and tries to kill the game off through defensive pressure.
Tottenham’s defensive scheme is designed to kill the game, they don’t want a flowing football match, they want a staccato rhythm to the game. While some managers obsess over “stringing together passes” Pochettino is interested in getting his team forward with bursts of pace. The only problem for this type of attacking/defending scheme is that it sometimes struggles against other teams who want to do the same: Chelsea, Palace, West Brom, Liverpool, Leicester, and Mourinho’s Man U. This isn’t a criticism of the style of football you play, just an observation.
Watching the way that your team played yesterday actually reminded me a lot of the Invincibles Arsenal team. You have two center mids who are strong on and off the ball. But crucially, Wanyama isn’t just a destroyer, he can and does do what Patrick Vieira did for Arsenal back in those days, and start the Tottenham attacks with power. I’m obviously not calling him “the next Patrick Vieira” but rather just saying that he’s playing that role. Let’s not get silly.
The whole team just sets up nicely, there’s a good balance to the various parts, the counter attacks are swift, and when they have the ball in the opposition final third, they attack like hell. It’s not perfect, no team is, and the defense looks a bit suspect at times, and you have a long way to go to get to the level of Wenger’s greatest ever team but it’s the highest compliment I can pay to even compare the two teams.
So, it’s a well deserved win for Tottenham and congratulations finishing above Arsenal this season. Arsenal will not be finishing in the top four this year and need to focus on the FA Cup final against Chelsea. It would be a great sending off for Wenger if we were to win the FA Cup and then retire. The way I’m feeling today, I’m more thinking that we will lose the FA Cup final and the club will announce Wenger signed a new four-year deal a week later.