Monthly Archives: December 2015

Bring on the crazy: Some gems from the public consultation for the new Spurs stadium

I’ve been reading some of the documents published by Haringey Council relating to the new Spurs stadium for a separate piece. But during this research, I found myself reading some of the Consultation Responses.

It is mesmerising.

Of course many were very conscientious: excellent examples of residents standing up for their local community, either in support or objection of the project.

But others? Not so much. Read for yourself here. I’ll upload a few below, starting with my absolute favourite:

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From an Arsenal fan:

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Some quality sarcasm:

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From a loyal Spurs fan, albeit one not likely to be wandering up from Seven Sisters any time soon…

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Some quality burn for Patricia Percy of the weird Tottenham Business Group:

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And the plain old crazy:

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Happy New Year to one and all. See you in 2016

 

 

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New stadium levels playing field for Spurs, but is no silver bullet

 

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The Standard via Google Images

After eight long years, many false dawns, and a marathon late-night session of the Haringey Council planning sub committee, Spurs finally have the green light to build a new stadium at White Hart Lane.

The design is spectacular and it promises to be a world-class home for Spurs fans, home being the operative word when so many clubs are forced to the peripheries of their communities and beyond in the search for space to grow.

The project is also a touch mad: building and operating a 61,080 seater arena in a densely populated and poorly connected part of London is going to be immensely challenging.

Daniel Levy has described the new stadium as a “game changer”, vaulting Spurs into the top tier of the Premier League. But there is a big difference between “game changer” and “silver bullet.” In the Premier League arms race, a new stadium is just the minimum requirement for what Spurs will need to compete in the long-term.

Football finance blog The Swiss Ramble is an essential read and his figures show just how far Spurs have slipped behind the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in the money stakes.

While all Premier League clubs have shared in the ever-growing broadcasting pot, match-day (tickets, corporate boxes, pies) and commercial (sponsorships, merchandise, etc) revenues vary hugely.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the last reported, Spurs’ match-day revenues stood at £44 million, and commercial revenues were £42 million. Combined, this is less than Spurs received in TV money (£95 million).

As the table below, taken from The Swiss Ramble, shows, this is puny compared to our “rivals”. Rivals seems barely appropriate — the other five are in a different league.

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While Liverpool struggle in match-day revenues (although this will soon change), from a commercial standpoint you see what they mean when they say they are a “big” club. They are finding a way to turn all those fans out in Asia and elsewhere into gold.

From Arsenal, you see just how stark is the disparity in match-day revenues. At £100 million, Arsenal more than doubled what Spurs brought in. Commercially, Arsenal also far outstripped Spurs even if they have ground to make up on the rest*.

For what it’s worth, I don’t particularly trust the figures from Chelsea or Manchester City as these were done at a time both were engineering a way around Financial Fair Play rules. But this just shows the lengths the owners of these clubs will go in the spending stakes — as I wrote recently, I’m not sure I even want Spurs to try to compete with that.

Moves by other clubs on stadia have added urgency to Spurs’ need to get the construction started at White Hart Lane.

Manchester City are expanding their stadium, which is up to 54,500 and will eventually reach 61,000 (presumably once they’ve rounded up enough fans to fill it). An expanded Anfield will host 54,000 from next season, as will the Olympic Stadium if West Ham manage to sell it out. Newcastle still hit close to their 52,400 capacity most home matches despite the misery of Mike Ashley’s reign. Chelsea have announced their own grandiose plans for a new stadium at Stamford Bridge with a capacity of 60,000 although huge planning tests await.

This is why Levy has been so hell-bent on pushing ahead with an enhanced stadium even as TV income has soared relative to other sources of revenue — it’s not about Spurs getting ahead, it’s about making sure we don’t fall even further behind.

I don’t know the precise estimates, but it would be reasonable to expect the new Spurs stadium to at least double match-day revenues — 25,000 extra tickets per game, greatly enhanced corporate facilities, and much better in-stadium revenue-generation. But even if this were to go as planned, add this extra revenue into the 2013/14 numbers, and Spurs would still be below Liverpool, let alone Arsenal.

Spurs lag in two key areas, Champions League TV money and commercial revenue. These two have a chicken and egg quality: If we can qualify for the Champions League on a regular basis, we’ll start attracting top-line sponsorship deals. But we need the sponsorship deals to sign the players needed to crack the Top Four regularly. How do you break that logjam?

Arsenal, loathe as we are to admit it, are the best example for Spurs. While Manchester United and Liverpool have huge advantages stemming from sustained periods of dominance, and Manchester City and Chelsea bought their way into the spotlight, Arsenal did it the hard way. They built a successful team in the late 90s and early 00s, played exciting football, and had superstar appeal in Thierry Henry. This in turn led to an increasing fanbase.

While the “Invincibles” generation of new Arsenal fans have gone to the dark side, permanently, there is nothing to stop Spurs from doing the same thing and winning over the next bunch of kids coming through, whether they be in London, New York or Kuala Lumpur. Harry Kane may not have the sultry “va va vroom” appeal of a certain Frenchman, but he is hugely likeable (I’ll let others use the term “marketable”) in his own way.

Spurs fans are optimistic now because we can finally see a “plan”. We’ve got world-class training facilities, and a youth set-up that seems to be bristling with talent. We have a core of young players who the fans can identify with, and who appear to have the talent to compete with anyone. Added to this, it appears the massive hole in the ground at White Hart Lane is finally going to be filled in and transformed into a world-class stadium.

But for the rest? It’ll take luck, patience and good management — three things that, until recently, have been in short supply at Spurs.

I’m excited to see the new stadium rise up from the ground. But let’s not get carried away just yet.

*Update at 12.30pm: Thanks to Twitter user  for raising issue of naming rights. As I was writing this, I just was factoring that in as just an offset of what Spurs would need to finance the project. Of course, this will be booked as commercial revenue — depending on what we could get, this will narrow gap on Arsenal. I’d venture £30 million a year though is v optimistic. This would still stand us a long way behind Liverpool and United, who don’t even have naming rights deals — so my broader point stands.

The Tim Sherwood Diaries: Reflections on Spurs, two years on

 

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December, 2015: The Keys Residence, Doha

It’s a warm winter’s day in Qatar. At the Keys Residence, host Richard has gone inside to spend an hour doing some public relations work on Twitter, leaving Tim alone by the pool to unwind. Our hero’s thoughts, as they so often do, turn to his time at Tottenham…

If I could pick two words to describe my thoughts on Tottenham, it would be “pride” and “anger”.

Pride, at the incredible work that I did there. Anger, that I wasn’t given the chance to bring my vision to fruition.

My successor, Mauricio Pochettino, has been receiving a huge amount of praise lately. I’ve got nothing against Pochy, he was a proper player in his day. And I’m pleased that he is continuing to give so many of the kids I brought through a chance.

But some of the praise has been a bit overboard in my view. You’d think Spurs were top of the league with some of the things people are saying about them. People talk a lot about stats these days, but in my view, there is only one stat that matters: your last result.

Last time I checked, Spurs were fifth in the Premier League. Where were they last season? Fifth. That doesn’t sound like progress to me. When I took over, the club was seventh, and I lifted them to sixth. That is progress.

Pochy is getting praised for make Spurs “hard to beat”. That’s all well and good, but I don’t need an analyst to tell me that there’s three points for a win and only one point for a draw. His win percentage was 50 percent last season, and is only 40 percent this season. Mine was 59 percent. You can’t argue with that.

Like many proud Englishmen, I’ve been very impressed with Dele Alli this season. It was a great bit of business by Spurs, and credit must got to the head scout over there, Paul Mitchell. There’s not many traditional scouts like Mitchy left in the game these days, but he is reaping the rewards for braving the wind and rain at MK Stadium, week-in week-out, while the laptop brigade were inside with their lattes trying to spot the next Spanish wonderkid.

While we were preparing to go on air with BeIN Sport recently, Brendan Rodgers told me about how Liverpool blocked him from signing Dele a couple of years ago, even though Brenders just knew in his gut that this kid could be the next Stevie Gerrard.

I don’t like to brag, so I kept quiet, but I’d known about Dele for a long time. I remember back in my Blackburn days, when we were looking to replace Paul Warhurst in midfield, I identified Dele as a guy to watch. He’d only just been born, but I knew, even then, that he was going to be a proper player.

A lot rests on Harry Kane’s shoulders this season for Spurs. He’s come through the hard way, and I know he will always be grateful for the opportunities I gave him. Spurs have been incredibly lucky with injuries, and Pochy will be hoping his luck holds or he is going to have a real problem up front.

I don’t buy this nonsense that somehow Pochy and his team have made this Spurs team fitter and this means that there are fewer injuries as a result. These are professional footballers — they are all fit. It’s not like the old days when it was a bag of chips and a cigarette before the match and half a dozen pints after. You really think the Spurs players can run further than the Arsenal players? It’s just bad luck that Arsenal have lots of injuries. Some of the criticism coming at Arsene Wenger is bang out of order, in my view.

Spurs can’t go through the whole season with one striker. This talk about how some of the players are versatile is nonsense. I’m a big fan of Nacer Chadli, but you may as well put Kyle Walker in midfield for all the good it would do putting Chadders up top.

Because of this lack of strikers, I was very surprised to see Spurs allow Emmanuel Adebayor to leave on a free. This is a guy who has played for Real Madrid, and has banged in the goals for Arsenal and Man City. Are you telling me Spurs don’t need a player like that?

When I took over at Spurs, Ade was out of favour and out of form. But he is a confidence player. I told him just to go out there and play, and the goals started flowing. Forget systems or tactics, a striker’s only job is to score. And a manager’s job is to manage. If Pochy feels he can’t manage someone like Adebayor, who I admit can be a bit tricky but is world class on his day, then that raises questions about him in my book. It isn’t fair to put so much pressure on a young kid like Harry.

It’s coming up for two years since I was appointed manager of Spurs. A lot has happened since then, but it still feels like yesterday. I sometimes wonder, “would Tim Sherwood tell Tim Sherwood to do things differently?”

Hindsight is 20-20. All I’ll say it this. When I do something, I do it at 110 percent.

Would Tim Sherwood rather still be at Hotspur Way than Richard Keys’ house in Doha? Of course I would. But I’ll be back — I still believe in myself 200 percent. There’s always a need for people who really understand the game.

I need to stop here: someone named “Mike Rigg” is calling.

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For more instalments of the Tim Sherwood diaries, and other random musings on Spurs, please follow me on Twitter.

Between the lines: Is Newcastle’s Ayoze Perez an answer to Tottenham’s forward puzzle?

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Ayoze Perez scores against West Brom. BBC via Google Images

Louise Taylor of The Guardian recently profiled Newcastle’s Ayoze Perez, drawing not one but one four intriguing comparisons. Praising the Spanish forward’s three dimensional, “between the lines” game, Perez, Taylor suggested, had shades of Jari Litmanen, David Silva, Peter Beardsley and Matt Jansen about him.

While Silva seemed a stretch, and more a nod to their shared Canary Islands roots than similar playing styles, the mentions of Litmanen, Beardsley and Jansen piqued my interest.

Per Taylor, a very reliable source of news from northeast clubs, Spurs had a bid turned down for Perez in the summer. Subsequent murmurings have linked him with excitement-averse Manchester United, and with renewed interest from Spurs.

Most Spurs fans agree that another striker needs to be purchased in January — we can’t walk the Harry Kane hamstring tightrope forever, especially not with a Top Four place in sight. But it isn’t a straightforward purchase — whoever comes in knows that they have little or no chance of superseding Kane as the club’s main striker, due to Kane’s high degree of awesomeness. Mauricio Pochettino appears to have little interest in expensive squad players who don’t really care if they play or not, and has said that he likes versatile players.

So, whoever comes in needs to be able to play in another position if they want to earn a regular place, and play the lone striker role if Kane needs a breather or gets hurt. Son Heung-min has showed some ability to do this — impressing from both right and left of the attacking midfield three, but also up front against Qarabag when he scored twice. Clinton N’Jie, on the other hand, had a good 15 minutes against a beaten Man City, but has done little else.

I recently took a look at Saido Berahino, arguably a more conventional Number 9, but who has also played from wider positions. But when I read comparisons like Litmanen, Jansen and Beardsley, my first thought was: “Spurs don’t have someone like that.”

So, I’ve spent a little time looking at Perez. I’ve seen him a fair bit, as I always try to watch Newcastle when they are on TV due to a long-held affection for the club. My bias before writing this article has been in his favour — he has always struck me as a classy player who scores important goals.

The goals

I’m not usually into video analysis as I’m the last person to spot stuff, but while refreshing my memory of his goals last season, something really obvious jumped out: defensive errors.

His goal against WBA, at the Hawthorns, a flicked back-heel from a low cross, was a wonderful, instinctive piece of finishing. He also scored a nice goal in the reverse fixture. But the rest? All were heavily helped by defensive errors.

Vs Swansea: Mix-up between goalkeeper and defender. Taps into empty net.

Vs Liverpool: Alberto Moreno mis-kicks clearance straight to Perez. Easy finish from 5 yards.

Vs Tottenham: No pressure on cross. Vertonghen asleep, Rose reacts too late. Simple header from close range.

Vs Arsenal. Zero marking on free kick, allows unchallenged header. Neat finish across keeper, but no defensive pressure

Vs Everton: Four defenders stand around him, fail to challenge ball but obstruct keeper’s view. Ball squirms in from edge of area.

Yes, there is the “but you’ve got to be in a position to capitalize on mistakes” argument, but five out of seven goals stemming from clear errors seems to be on the high side, and raises the awkward question of why there weren’t more “non-error” goals last season.

Basic numbers

I pulled together a few of Perez’s basic stats using WhoScored and Transfermarkt — goals, assists, key passes, shots per 90, that sort of thing.*  I would note, according to Transfermarkt, he played as a central striker in 19 out of his 39 appearances last season. Likewise he has been listed as a centre forward in four out of 14 appearances this term. The rest were either wide or in the “shadow striker” role behind the No. 9

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This is rudimentary data, so I don’t want to over-draw conclusions. But a few points:

  • Perez averaged 358 minutes per goal last season and had zero assists. Someone like Danny Ings, playing on a relegated Burnley team, averaged 283 minutes per goal and had 4 assists. No one is expecting Perez to bring Harry Kane (118 min/goal) or Berahino (172 min/goal) levels of fire, given he is playing more than half his games wide or deep. But that should be compensated, surely, by at least the occasional assist? This season, he has two assists (one was a corner).
  • Perez isn’t taking many shots. He was at 2.3 per 90 last season — lower than Berahino (2.6), Ings (2.9) and Kane (3.9). He is at 2.1 shots per 90 this season. Few if any are from inside the penalty box.
  • Perez dribbles a lot. He is going at 6.3 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes this season. By contrast, Kane dribbles at a rate of 3.0 per 90 in the league this term, while Son Heung-min is at 3.2 dribbles per 90 in his limited appearances. This is more than guys who you think dribble “a lot” like Andros Townsend (3.9 per 90 last season) and Erik Lamela (2.8 per 90). His dribbles are successful less than 50 percent of the time, so a lot of potentially wasted possession. Of course, systems (Pochettino has a good one, McClaren doesn’t think they matter) are a big factor in how players use the ball.
  • Despite often playing in what may be considered a more “creative” role than an out-and-out striker, Perez’s key pass stats don’t seem great. Last season he made 1.1 key passes per 90. At Burnley, Ings made 1.0, while Kane was the same as Perez at 1.1 despite predominantly playing as the main striker. This season, Perez is passing the ball more — up from 21.6 to 24.3 passes per 90, but his key passes are only up to 1.2 per 90.

I was slightly underwhelmed by these basic numbers, but I wondered if this seeming lack of production was some sort of symptom of the broader malaise at Newcastle?

(Newcastle were an absolute travesty last year, avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth, but are hardly any better under McClaren. When a manager says, like that McClaren did after the Leicester defeat, that “the problem was we were second best in all areas”, you can be fairly sure he has no idea what the problem is. But I digress.)

Digging a little deeper

Using Paul Riley’s tools**, I looked first at Perez (both key passes from open play, and on the right expected goals) and the key passes from open play of the two players who you would say form the bulk of Newcastle’s “creativity department”, Moussa Sissoko and Georgino Wiljnaldum.

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Once you strip out set pieces (Perez takes the corners), you can see both Sissoko and Wijnaldum are offering more in terms of key passes than Perez.

While (especially) Sissoko appears to be making a lot of key passes, Perez isn’t on the receiving end of many of them.

So, if Perez isn’t creating chances, and isn’t getting on the end of them, what is he doing all game?

I looked at some heat maps from Squawka to see if I could get any hints.

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These are the heat maps for Perez, Sissoko and Wijnaldum for Newcastle’s two “best” performances of the season — the 2-2 draw with Chelsea and the 6-2 win against Norwich.

Against Norwich and Chelsea, you can see Wijnaldum mainly playing from the left, and Sissoko rampaging up and down the right. Perez’s involvement against Chelsea was limited compared to the other two, but he got a goal and an assist from a corner and Newcastle mostly defended in the match. Against Norwich, he was much more involved. He appears in interesting spaces, just outside or just inside the box from the left, but he also pops up on the right as well. Is this an indicator of the “between-the-lines” drifting that Taylor was alluding to? At best, it is a glimpse.

I’d love to look at Perez’s movement, and the space he creates both on and off the ball, but I don’t have the skill or the resources. I’m sure Paul Mitchell and his Black Box team do. Is he one of these pre-assist guys, who you know are contributing when you watch them but whose work doesn’t really show up in the basic stats? Maybe, but I can’t prove it.

On a more anecdotal level, his “highlights” from the Crystal Palace debacle perhaps told a story. For the opening goal, Perez fed Daryl Janmaat then made a lovely run drawing a defender and creating space for a cross. He also made one attempted through ball that showed imagination and was almost well-executed. But then, he was seen dawdling instead of tracking when Palace surged forward for the third goal that all but sealed the game. McClaren hooked him off at half-time. Pochettino would love the run to draw the defender, he’d hate the refusal to track back. Which is the real Ayoze Perez, I wonder?

Conclusion

Putting this piece together, I was underwhelmed by the basic stats. If Perez is a 360-degree player, why isn’t he creating more chances? And if he is such a classy finisher, why isn’t he scoring more? But I was also intrigued: a between-the-lines player is bound to defy such conventional analysis.

I always wonder how someone like Beardsley would be seen in the modern age of analytics, unlimited camera angles and blanket media coverage. Did the often bleak football of the 1980s and early 90s in England exaggerate his moments of class, or did it serve to suffocate his talent?

Likewise Perez. Are an inept Newcastle holding him back, or is his flickering talent made to look brighter by the gloom that surrounds him?

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more articles.

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As previously mentioned, I’m not a number wizard — I’m just someone who loves writing about Spurs and wants to use all available resources to improve the quality of my arguments. I welcome any constructive criticism, and suggestions of how I can do better. In particular, my ability to find and gather data is very limited — any advice on how to improve that is particularly appreciated. 

** These don’t include the Crystal Palace game