Tottenham and their shiny stadium have fooled us all. Spurs don’t merit Big Six membership…
The Mailbox wonders why Tottenham have become as revered as they are. Also: England’s right-backs, Mikel Arteta’s effect on Antonio Conte; and plenty on Thierry Henry…
Get your views in to email@example.com…
Spurs: a middling club with a nice ground
Because I’m 1) a human being, and 2) a football supporter (and therefore sometimes fallible and petty as said human being / football supporter) I often think about people I know or have encountered in any context of my footballing supportership. I try not to subscribe too much to tribalism and schadenfreude but sometimes it does get the better of me.
A few things occurred that had me paying attention to Tottenham hotspur the past half decade or so. A few yrs ago we matched in the european cup final which will instantly put an opposition club on your radar, all the art of war stuff comes out and you try on enemy boots and what not… you get in your head a bit and wonder if Poch was running a masterclass in psychology having players run over hot coals in the buildup to that final, and why wasn’t klopp doing similar ?
Randomly, a silly thing happened a few yrs before that final; I went to a Spurs-Barca exo at the Rose bowl and on the post-match coach ride back to the city centre, one of the spurs fans saw my wife and I in Liverpool shirts and inquired drunkenly, loudly, incessantly in front of a busload of match goers whether scousers still stole wheels off cars round Merseyside. The petty, fallible, human me duly filed that memory away in the recesses of my football brain archives which I had forgotten about until that CL final.
Then also around that time my step daughter started dating an otherwise nice young lad who happened to be a Spurs supporter; she quickly nailed her colors to the cockerel mast and hasnt looked back. So when that new stadium went up i had to go have a look myself, we did the tour, got the lanyard, cheekily asked the tourguide about a cheese room, privately made a mental note there were no trophy cabinets to speak, no mention of silverware or medals, just that they had the world’s longest bar serving every conceivable draught on tap and that you could bungee cord off the top of a viewing deck.
I was becoming a fully engaged observer of this football club while it also occurred to me then and there that perhaps bulldozing of the old White Hart lane was seen as viable since it wasn’t a structure housing any true footballing heritage.
In any event one doesn’t talk about Spurs these days without mentioning that new stadium, the NFL, Beyonce, go karts. Not that the club were a non-entity before, but it’s effectively put them on the map and is maybe the primary thing keeping them there. It’s also allowed them to essentially level up, offering a mirage of destination to capture Mourinhos and Contes of the world, names that a half decade ago would never have been linked.
But taking a step back, the ramp towards this leveling up of the club into a modern golden era (if you can call this era golden) was paved with so much luck and happenstance as to be rather papery on closer inspection. Tottenham have shot well above their proverbial xG, if you will. Take the year they reached the Champions league final… how fortunate were they to get a VAR call against City (that likely doesn’t stand today) ? And downing Ajax in stoppage time in the subsequent match that if played 100x, Spurs probably lose 99.
Drawing the likes of Marine fc to reach a mickey mouse cup final, not to mention with additional walkovers along the way (only to fire their manager the eve of). Having the gunners spectacularly collapse down the stretch last season to hand them qualification for a european place they did not deserve. And from a macro standpoint the club struck a once in a lifetime lottery with a certain academy striker which in all likelihood doesn’t happen again for generations.
So much, too much, broke right for this club just to take them close… but Spurs really never reach any kind of true footballing destination.
After these recent years having paid an extra eye to this club I’ve come away getting quite philosophical and granular about them. I didn’t understand them. Why is there a Big six and why exactly were Spurs included ? I see a Big Five.
Historically, on merit, by class, by weight, by any measure I see five. Before that, just four. Then two. If you say six, why isn’t it Leicester ? Or Everton, Villa, Forest, Newcastle. Why then not a Big Eight. I just don’t get it. The better part of me has always tried not to get sucked into the banter (though I love banter) and god knows it can come for any club; my club are sat deep in it now. But looking across stanley park I did always wonder why at their lowest ebb, Everton were called Tottenham of the north.
I wondered why Charlie kane was a punchline, whether spursiness was a measurable, perhaps tangible thing and if clubs really could have losing dna. I thought about St totteringham and the Dulux paints dog. I wondered if it were true a club such as Spurs would settle on a 10th choice manager in Nuno; i didn’t know short lists got to be that long. But maybe i get it now. No, I don’t get why they make up a Big six, but I do get the story of the Tottenham now, the lads its tottenham now, the history of the tottenham now. I get it all.
And I conclude Spurs supporters are deluded to think Conte was the bad guy here. He is no saint, but by equal measure it is an absolute snake pit there, a destroyer of careers and reputations, a poisoned chalice wrapped up in beautiful blue faux glass and sheet metal in north london with a really long bar inside. Honestly I don’t believe Nagelsmann wins a single trinket there, he’ll just lose luster before going to PSG or something. It took me awhile but I think I finally get it.
Eric, Los Angeles CA (here’s hoping the Tottenham supporters in my life don’t catch wind of this but just in case– COYS to you lot)
Right-back where we started
I dropped this comment elsewhere but didn’t actually get a response about the issue at hand and I think it bares scrutiny so thought I’d bother the mailbox with it. Should we be a little concerned that our apparent “surfeit of right backs” is actually flattering to deceive? Many great players in that position sure, but they all come cursed in some capacity…
Walker: 32 going on 33, so short of a miracle only really has one major tournament as a regular pick you’d say even if he’s already defying the odds to remain spritely if not more so.
Trippier: 32 going on 33, so short of a miracle only really has one major tournament as a regular pick you’d….
James: Seems to be really struggling with those legs of his. Looks like a genuine talent but how often is he going to be on the physio table
TAA: No matter your allegiance, his performances for country have never matched his best for club and even then, it’s an understatement to say that his performances for club have notably deteriated
White: Unlikely to play again under Southgate while Holland is assistant you’d imagine
Walker-Peters: Just hasn’t stepped on for Southampton despite a promising start
Wan-Bissaka: Seems very far from the squad given his inconsistent form for United
Livramento: Has yet to recover from a year out following doing his cruciate
I just find it strange that the right back position is seen as a safe bet when it’s actually easier to pick most other positions as to who will likely be an option for for the 2026 World Cup. Historically it’s been my opinion that it’s the duty of an International manager to have half an eye on the future and by focusing so heavily in that position on two full-backs well over 30 and seemingly hoping a regularly injured talent will find a stretch of good health, I worry Southgate may be guilty of short-termism.
Harry “doesn’t know what ‘dearth’ means” Hooler
(P.S: with credit to Andy S for the note on ‘surfeit’. Great word.)
Cho for England
I enjoyed the feature on multinational players eligible for England, but felt that Mohamed-Ali Cho was worth including. Yes, he is currently miles away from breaking into the England set up, but is still far more likely to (eventually) make the grade than Chuba Akpom or Tosin Adarabioyo.
Cho was born in France, to an Ivorian father and a mother with Moroccan heritage. The family moved to England when Cho was one week old.
Having previously played for Everton and PSG at academy level, Cho become the second youngest player to sign a professional contract in France (behind Eduardo Camavinga) when he joined Angers, in May 2020.
He made 53 appearances for the French side in two seasons before joining Real Sociedad for a few in the region of €15m, last summer.
Cho can play anywhere across the forward line and is comfortable with both feet.
Eligible to represent four nations, the 19-year-old has played for England at U15 and U16 levels before switching his allegiance to France, appearing for Les Blues’ U19 and U21s.
Neither England or France are short of wide forwards at the minute and Cho is hardly setting the world alight in La Liga, but is worth keeping an eye on.
John in Glasgow
Read more: The multinational players whose eligibility England must secure before they lose to another country
France are in the top three sides in the world and Ireland are 48, but we scared the bejeesus out of them. That was the best defeat I’ve seen in years.
Disappointed but encouraged.
Liam utd and ireland.
Arsenal and Conte’s downfall
In reply to John Matrix. From my perspective it has nothing to do with Arsenal and everything to do with our own performances from the last year or so.
I quite liked Contes outburst after the Saints draw, he was right. It can’t always be the fault of the manager, the players need to take some of that responsibility and if they can’t have the fear of being sacked then maybe the publics ire is the next best thing. It accelerated Conte leaving his job though.
For me it’s the stubbornness that Conte has brought, the football is tough to watch and when struggling the changes he makes are predicable and always too late to really be an effective strategy. Maybe it’s that the players aren’t really designed for his system, but then maybe the system needs to pragmatically change depending on the opponents, and I think that criticism is firmly at Conte’s door.
The performances against Milan and Sheffield United were the real straws though. Ironically we were ok against Southampton and would have deservedly won had that shocker of a pen not been awarded.
We’re not serial winners so I don’t think the expectation of silverware is really at the forefront in the minds of our fans. Decent football has pretty much always been what we’ve been renowned for and sought, blunt decent football may I add. Just want a team we can relate to and who appear to be working as a unit.
It all went downhill when Dembele left.
…What an arrogant and stupid question from John Matrix in the morning mailbox.
I don’t judge my feelings about Spurs by looking down the road. Unlike many on the mailbox, I’m one of the sad old gits who still actually goes to the football, I’m not just some smart*rse name on t’internet.
Antonio Conte has had a bad year in his life away from football, and in my more generous moments, I will take the view that this affected his performance as manager at Spurs. Since Pochettino was dismissed, Levy has been floundering around to replace the ‘magic’ that Poch brought to the club. In a period of austerity, brought about by the stadium (and Joe Lewis’s tightfistedness) Poch brought belief in the team, the CL Final was a bit of a fluke but who knows where we may have gone had he received some of the backing received by those who followed him.
The football style wrought by Poch was enjoyable to watch, worth the cost of the season ticket. Under Mourinho, Nino, and Conte the football has been execrable to watch. There are occasions when a good result has made this barely tolerable, but mostly over the past 3 years the most enjoyable element of the trip to Spurs is meeting my mates for a beer afterwards. Conte sacked off 3 Cup competitions and then threw away a 2 goal lead to the team bottom of the table with only 15 minutes to go, all in a matter of 3 weeks. None of it was his fault of course.
I suffered some arrogant Scousers over many years at work in the seventies and early eighties, the arrogance of the Ferguson years was mostly visited upon my sons by their schoolmates (who couldn’t have found Manchester on a map), and like many, anything won by City and Chelsea will always have an asterisk due to their source of funds, ( bit early to include the Geordies at this time). So it may surprise John Matrix, but despite my general antipathy towards anything from the Islington area, I’m less agitated at seeing them win the title, by comparison to the above, they at least have some credibility. They at least have built a stadium etc, and the management have left the football to someone who seem to know what the f*ck they are doing. Mr Levy, please take note. You’ve surpassed the Emirates mob in a business sense, now let someone at Spurs emulate their football sense.
If they do win the title, I’ll avoid red fans I know as best I can, if they fail I’ll search them out for a wind up.
However, what I really want is to see Levy appoint someone to steer our club forward, and I really couldn’t care too much who wins anything this season. I would be especially grateful if he could let us know who he is appointing before demanding the money for the season ticket renewals 🙂
Jim French (Spurs since ’59) Herts.
…In response to John Matrix’s mail about whether Arsenal made it impossible for Spurs I would just say this. That is ironically a very ‘Spursy’ question to ask. The gloating from Tottenham’s supporters last season seemed to come being happy that Arsenal messed up thus allowing them to reap the rewards. This has been a theme I have noticed over recent seasons of finishing below them. Despite their lack of actual tangible success they were able to cling to the idea that at least they were performing better than Arsenal, in league positions at least. For me though as an Arsenal fan I don’t quantify our success by finishing above Tottenham. So John, I think in answer to your question, yes I would imagine Arsenal doing well has thrown Spurs shortcomings into sharper focus, but lets steer clear of resorting to their mentality of gloating about it.
…Okay I’ll bite, reading the mailbox we are led to believe that Spurs sacked Conte because Arsenal are doing so well, in the same mailbox we have had off the scale fawning of Saka, how we must all love Saka and his direct no nonsense football as appose to having to support players like Rooney, Owen and Kane. Next we have an Arsenal fan wondering at Saka getting a freekick for being fouled and the defender being booked letting us all know the Arsenal conspiracy that is currently rife in the Premier League. This is why a lot of neutrals don’t want Arsenal to win the league, not because of the team but because of the insufferable fans and the weapons grade bullshit they spew out on a daily basis.
Badwolf your take on Carrick is so wrong it’s criminal, he wasn’t quick no, but he didn’t need to be, he had an excellent footballing brain and could pick a pass with the best of them. Lastly on to Rashford, with the best will in the World if both Rashford and Sterling were available for Southgate last week with each of them having their respective seasons you still know for a fact Sterling would be starting even though he is stinking up the bridge at the minute.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
At the risk of opening up Pandora’s box otherwise known as the net spend argument there is another huge factor to take in to account when rival fans (and websites) moan/brag/taunt about how much or how little a club spends in the transfer market……annual wage bill. Historically the wage bill of a club has far more bearing on the position they finish in the league than the amount they spent in the transfer market.
The wage bill is a known entity each year and when you see the size of them would definitely be a huge factor in how much the club can afford to spend on transfer fees.
From a bit of googling some estimates of the top 6 annual wage bills are:
Man U £222m
So if we factor these in to your 5 year Premier League Net spend table things would look very different. Granted those wages for each of those clubs haven’t been static at that rate for 5 seasons but considering Arsenal right now are spending £137m per season less than Man U we could afford to spend £137m more than them on transfers to reach a break even state with them.
So Arsenal up in 3rd place in the net spend table over the past 5 years only accounts for transfer net spend but you can see from the figures above that teams are dropping almost as much on wages each year as they are on transfers so should it not be considered?
Go down the wage list further and you have Brighton at £28m per season and Brentford at £15m per season truly emphasising what a fantastic job both those clubs are doing.
At the other end, Leicester are spending only £7m less per season on their players wages than Arsenal.
Finally, Aman, so the way you judge the ability of players, or their ‘generational talent’ is to rank them against their peers in their national team and if you rank 3rd for an excellent national team and were part of back to back world cup and euro champions you are therefore not as good a player who ranks 1st for his country who failed to get past the QF at every major tournament he played in? By this logic someone like Teemu Pukki (best Finish player for some time) ranks better than either Xavi or Iniesta because one of those is the 2nd greatest Spanish player of that generation depending on who you think the 1st is? Henry was a better footballer than Rooney. simple.
I’m going to take the bait here because there’s no chance this guy isn’t trolling but Aman’s email on generational talent is nonsense. What are you on about seriously?!
“We can all name a few French players that were above Henry including the like of Zidane, Makelele etc”
Who is we?! Nobody, and I mean nobody is having someone like Makelele above Henry! Makelele seems to get more overrated as the years go on. Also, you put “etc” in your comment. Go on, name all the other players that WE think are better than Henry.
Henry is probably top 3 players of the 00s. Ronaldinho being his closest competitor. Zidane finished in 06 and wasn’t exactly consistent in a lot of those years. R9 peak was before that. Henry was the f*cking man. You’re either too young to remember or to biased to admit it. Most people would consider him the best PL player of all time. This narrative you’re creating is not common opinion so don’t say “we”
…I love the condescending manner in which Aman dismisses Henry being labeled as a “once in a generation player” – which btw I don’t think this limited take on the subject is how it started in the first place. Someone said in a recent mailbox that Rooney was once in a generation unlike Saka and Henry who are just great players which is asinine for many reasons. To be clear, though, my main quibble is throwing Henry into a discussion of lesser players in the first place.
That being said, according to Aman’s logic, we need not lavish Henry with such superlatives as “generational” because England couldn’t produce players as good as Zidane et al to play with Rooney during his prime. Sounds like you’re talking more about reasons as to why England still haven’t won anything in decades than whether or not people can justifiably label Henry as “once in a generation”. Regardless of whatever context you want to put it in, Henry was a generational player, period. France, nor the league this rabble of random people on the internet come here to argue about, had ever witnessed a player in their ranks with the same gifts as Henry. That is not to say that there weren’t as good/better players with him or before him for France (on that note, I love how he got two players deep when naming “all” the more talented French players Henry played with) or in the English top flight. It just means, qualitatively speaking, he truly was a one-of-a-kind and never-before-seen player within those respective contexts. If you don’t believe me, here is an entire F365 article discussing exactly this.
Moreover, somehow this absurdly convoluted logic was taken further to imply that because Henry played with better players than Rooney – simply because the English generation of Rooney’s parents clearly weren’t making love with the same quality as the French generation of Henry’s parents in order to produce similarly talented footballers – Rooney is the better player than Henry. Wow. I almost have to applaud such mental gymnastics. My favorite part is how – after letting off a bunch of random, unqualified and biased statements – it ends with “Hope that helps.” No…no it didn’t at all.
We’ve somehow gone from debating the merits of Saka and Rooney comparisons to now debating how much praise we are allowed to lavish on literal, actual Thierry f***ing Henry relative to Wayne Rooney. Tell me it’s an international break without telling me.
MAW, LA Gooner
…While it feels futile to further engage in this, it is absolutely wild to me that TH14 is not considered a generational talent? Man is the highest scorer of goals for the 2000-2009 decade in the top 5 European leagues and somehow does not fit the criteria. Mbappe, Messi, CR7 have certainly elevated the level further. But all of them burst on to the scene at a time when TH14 was the standard to aspire for. And however one defines a generational talent, one can consider two or three players from a country as generational talent keeping in mind that France produced maybe 3-4 such talents in all of its footballing history till the 90s and 21st century rolled in (Zidane (so far the greatest french NT footballer imo), Mbappe, Benzema, etc).
Don’t take it from me. Look up what opposing defenders, managers, or even Mbappe or Messi have to say about Henry. On a different note, Henry may never be a great first team coach and honestly did not think too highly of him as a pundit but recently, besides being really funny, his analysis has been spot on. Especially with respect to strikers and analyzing attacking patterns. Highly recommend his analysis of Mbappe or Haaland over the last few months or how a good striker thinks about space and defense.
Lastly, as an Arsenal fan, watching Ozil retire fills me with sadness at what could have been. I truly believed that most of his Arsenal career he needed a stronger team around him rather than twinkle toed midfielders and calamitous defenders. He was a luxury player but sometimes he would literally take your breath away. I remember watching a game at Anfield which ended in a 3-3 draw. He plucked the ball out while being mid air and killed it dead. The whole anfield audibly gasped….And that partnership he had with Sanchez was absolutely incredible. Seems like he was a difficult individual sometimes but I do have a soft corner for people who need a bit more care and affection and it seems like from a distance that he was one of them. Based on Wenger’s remarks about him, it seems like he saw it the same too.
…I don’t watch England qualifiers anymore as I’ll leave that to the kids who shouldn’t rush to grow up and the people who really should. My last one was Wembley in the rain for the wally in the brolly game vs Croatia. A time which Southgate has magnificently moved us away from. There was a sentence in the match rating about Jordan Henderson that I think sums up the Liverpool midfield problems. “Really excelled at being exactly eight yards from Saka in the inside right space”. Sounds like where he played against France.
For me Clive (is this still/always funny?), Liverpool’s great Klopp side that was guaranteed a freak result against United every week, had Henderson in that position with Salah and TAA. On the left-hand side we had Robbo, Wijnaldum and Mane. The two teams didn’t pass to each other. There was no Xavi Iniesta style give and goes between GG and Hendo. Bobby and Fabs job was to move it side to side. All things end and GG went and Thiago came in. Thiago being that creative midfielder that Liverpool needed to unpark that bus who could spray left and right. But those left and right teams are gone and Liverpool is poorer for it.
For Amam’s take on generational players, mate even BadWolf doesn’t see this as a hill to die on. If Henry cant be a generational player because he played with Zidane then Rooney cant be as he played with Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Gary Neville, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard and Michael Owen. Henry is literally the best player the premier league has ever seen. Better than Ronaldo when he played here, better than Salah, better than Kane, better than Ryan Nelson (NZ’s generational player apparently) better than Rooney. And jehsus Rooney was a hell of player. Unless he played for England in a tournament of course…
Alex, South London
…Citing Rooney over Henry as a generational talent is a little strange when you are including Zidane and Makalele as comparators due to them playing in different positions. You could say they were thrice a generational talent.
I get the aspect of setting it at a National team level as that excludes the boring “what is world class” conversation.
I think that Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard may want a word on the single generational talent conversation on Rooney though.
Would you class Kane as generational or has he scored too many penalties?
To clarify I thought Rooney was a great player, Henry was better though on my unbiased opinion.
PS great start to the campaign from England, Southgate definitely IN.
Ask and you shall receive
Where’s the famous F365 Euro Ladder?
Asking for a friend.
Neil LFC, USA
The famous F365 Euro 2024 England ladder: Record-breaking Kane back on top, Saka climbs
I suggested Evan for Utd last week and we got a Johnny Nic and there were a couple of gossip columns, I’ll push my luck and suggest Mbappe and Bellingham also will join. If the monkey paw still works we will be awesome.
I’ll get my coat.
Liam, United and Ireland.