Tag Archives: Champions League

Can Spurs afford to finish 5th?

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With 13 games to go in the 2016/17 Premier League season, just four points separate second place and sixth.

Only Chelsea have managed to pull away from this almighty scrap: eight points clear and with no European distractions, John Terry can surely start dusting off his full kit and boots in preparation for the trophy celebration.

Two of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs are going to miss out on Champions League football next season — who it will be, however, is anyone’s guess.

An air of manufactured perma-crisis has haunted the top of the table, with one manager continually forced to be “the one under pressure”. Jurgen Klopp felt the heat in January, but in February the spotlight appears to have shifted to North London and Arsene Wenger.

After a dip of form since the hammering of West Brom on January 14, and the ongoing inability of his Spurs team to perform well in Europe even against modest opposition, Mauricio Pochettino has also experienced a frustrating month. But averaging two points a game over 25 matches and into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, this hasn’t been a campaign where the bad moments have lasted long.

Thanks to the excellent work of Pochettino, Spurs are defying Premier League gravity in terms of the resources they can bring to bear. But in a long, attritional campaign where no team is showing signs of relenting, this may be a season where depth is more important than ever. When Man City lose Gabriel Jesus, they have Sergio Aguero and Kelechi Iheanacho able to come in; when Spurs lose Harry Kane, it’s either an out-of-position Son Heung-min or Vincent Janssen, who has yet to score for the club from open play.

Combining a club’s wage bill and annualized transfer costs (amortisation, FY 2015) gives an idea of the “real football spend” at the top six clubs, and how hard it is for Spurs to compete:

Man Utd — £302.3m
Chelsea — £285m
Man City — £264m
Arsenal — £244.1m
Liverpool — £227m
Tottenham — £139.4m

Spurs, quite simply, are in a different league to the other five in terms of the amount invested in football. While disappointing, it therefore shouldn’t be a surprise if Spurs were one of the the two teams that eventually slipped down into the Europa League spots. This isn’t trying to create an excuse for failure, but rather establishing context: when Pochettino talks about the limitations he faces, it’s all true.

Leicester have shown money doesn’t always equal success, but most of the time it does. Per analysis by Michael Caley, 80 percent of top four places from 2000/01 to 2014/15 were secured by teams with the top four wage bills at the time.

With a £750m stadium project to finance, can Spurs afford to miss out on UEFA’s Champions League millions at this crucial juncture in the club’s history?

With Premier League TV income soaring to unimaginable levels and Europa League income increasing, Champions League football is no longer quite the silver bullet that it once was.

Last season, Spurs earned £95.2m from the Premier League TV deal, while the club’s share of UEFA’s revenue distribution — the governing body’s mechanism for dishing out TV money — was £17.7m. In 2014, Spurs took in £88.8m of PL money, and just £5.5m in UEFA revenue — that’s a jump of £12.2m year-on-year under the BT Sport deal.

This season, Spurs should bring in around £140m from the new Premier League TV deal, while UEFA revenues will be approximately £36m. The exact numbers will be known at the end of the season — the UEFA number is based on what Manchester United earned last season, after crashing out of the Champions League in the group stage, and then making an early exit from the Europa League knockout stages. Spurs are on course for a similar performance — but the 3rd place Premier League finish in the prior season may mean a little more.

As a percentage of club revenue, here’s how UEFA revenue distribution income has varied in recent seasons:

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(Note: Currency conversion throughout this piece is at current rates)

As you can see, Champions League remains a huge financial incentive. However, while in previous season the Europa League has been an irritation with marginal financial benefit, under the current deal, participation is much more lucrative.

By way of contrast, when Spurs were forced out of the 2012/13 Champions League by Chelsea, this was a crushing blow. Spurs took in just £4.6m in UEFA revenue in the following season, while Chelsea scooped £26m for finishing 3rd in their group (and another £9m for going on and winning the Europa League).

Of course, UEFA revenue distribution is just one part of the picture. Matchday income is much higher for Champions League than Europa League — Spurs sold out Wembley for the three home Champions League ties, while Europa League matches are less of a crowd draw — plus there is the potential commercial uplift that comes with appearing in the more prestigious of the European competitions.

As regards the new stadium, this project is not contingent on Champions League football — in fact, the aim of the new stadium is to enable Spurs to put out a sufficiently strong team to qualify for the competition on a regular basis.

In the Viability Report for the project, “better than estimated on-field performance” is listed among potential factors that may increase return on investment in the scheme — alongside reduced construction costs, player costs dipping below 45 percent of revenues and the club securing an NFL franchise (eyes passim).

Spurs have been prudently run for years, and budgets are based on the expectation of Europa League football, not the hope of Champions League football. This refusal to gamble frustrates some segments of the fanbase, and pleases others — but as long as Daniel Levy is controlling the purse strings, this approach won’t change. There’s no gamble being made about Spurs being able to overachieve on the pitch through the stadium construction phase — two seasons of CL football in a row would be a tremendous bonus.

But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a price to be paid were Spurs to miss out on Champions League football next season.

For fans, it will mean missing out on Europe’s elite competition yet again. This year’s campaign never caught alight, starting with an extremely boring draw that meant no “big” team coming to Wembley in the group stages. Gareth Bale’s heroics against Inter Milan were six and a half years ago — even the most patient of fans need fresh inspiration to feed the soul.

For the players, the Europa League represents a step back. Pochettino has nurtured a hungry group with a solid core of Champions League calibre players. With so many key players signing new deals and a palpable sense of excitement at the club as the new stadium takes shape, there’s little danger of losing players this summer. But footballers who make the top level are by nature ambitious, and Champions League is the benchmark.

However, for both fans and players, there are other ways to square this circle — the FA Cup would give fans a moment to savour, and demonstrate to the players that it’s possible to win trophies at Spurs. Judging by the performance at Fulham, the team is focused on the competition, and lifting the trophy in May would represent an important yardstick for this group.

That’s not to say the FA Cup is a panacea — for the team, there’s still a development cost to missing out on the Champions League. In three years under Pochettino, Spurs have been consistently poor in Europe. It’s hard to put a finger on why: Squad limitations? Focus on the Premier League? Tactical issues? The only way Spurs are going to get better is by playing quality European opposition on a regular basis, and figuring it out. It took Manchester City several seasons to find their way in the Champions League after the club struck oil, but they reached the semifinals last season and it’s not impossible to see them going a step further this time.

Then there’s the cost of one of the other teams sneaking into the Champions League at Spurs’ expense. At every other club, a far greater sense of crisis will be felt if they miss out — another season of failure at, say, Manchester United, has the potential to have repercussions that could open doors to Spurs in years to come. Maybe that’s getting a bit tangential, but to put it another way, it sure is enjoyable making Jose Mourinho squirm.

Hopefully, this is all moot: Tottenham’s run since the West Brom win is simply just a dip in form, an inevitability in a long old slog of a campaign, and the team starts purring like the fine-tuned machine we’ve resembled at times this season. The performance at Craven Cottage suggests as much.

However, if Spurs do end up missing out on Champions League football next season, it’ll be disappointing, but not disastrous.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

Good problems: Five questions facing Spurs this summer

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Nabil Bentaleb is a problem — but a good one.

A full-blooded draw at Stamford Bridge ended Tottenham’s slim title hopes, but the point ensured that Spurs will finish in the top three for the first time in the Premier League era.

Various mathematical possibilities remain, but at the very least Spurs have secured qualification for the Champions League qualifying round. A win on Sunday against Southampton and we will wrap up second place given our unassailable goal difference.

It has been an extraordinary season, and once the disappointment of being pipped to the post by Leicester fades, I’m sure we will look back on the campaign as one of the finest in the history of the club.

While us fans drink it in, and mull over what might have been, there is no time for Premier League clubs to rest.

The combination of the new TV deal and new eras at some of the richest clubs threaten an arms race the likes of which we haven’t seen in the Premier League era. Spurs and Leicester have usurped the elite, and they will be gunning for both clubs. At Spurs, we are used to it, but you sense Leicester are going to be in for an almighty shock next time around.

Champions League was the hope for Spurs in the 2016/17 season, but not the expectation. The potential to now compete for higher calibre players adds both potential, and pressure, to the business ahead. Meanwhile, Champions League football may necessitate new contracts, wage bumps or bonuses to ensure the players and their representatives are happy and focused for the campaign ahead.

As far as problems go, these are brilliant ones to have.

Put yourself in Daniel Levy’s shoes. What would you rather be doing this summer — fending off calls from Ed Woodward and Florentino Perez, or topping up a few contracts and shopping for a couple of new stars?

The wage issue is just one of a number of “good problems” facing Tottenham’s key decision makers. With such a young team, the scope for natural progression is evident. The strong team identity — the philosophy, if you will — provides a framework for strengthening that certain other teams lack.

This summer offers an opportunity to make a number of smart moves that can push us to the next level. In most cases, the choice will between something good, and something potentially even better. We are in a strong, and happy, place right now — that perspective is important in the months ahead.

I am going to sketch out a number of these “good problems” below. One thing that isn’t a “good problem” is the striker situation — we’ve walked the Harry Kane hamstring high wire once, but there is no way we can risk it again. Our forward options are just a problem, pure and simple.

Do Spurs stick or twist with Nacer Chadli?

Of the “Bale money” signings, if there is one who continues to defy judgement, it is Nacer Chadli. What is he? Is he a productive player who contributes when given the chance — seven goals and five assists this season in limited minutes? Or is he a player with tremendous physical and technical gifts who has never quite found the intensity to reach his potential?

After showing little promise in his first season at White Hart Lane, Chadli was widely accepted as having a fine campaign in 2014/15. He played just under 3,000 minutes overall — the amount a first-choice player would play — and contributed 13 goals and five assists in total, one every 163 minutes.

This season, he started the first five games — in which Spurs secured five points out of a possible 15 — and played 90 minutes in each (against Everton he was subbed off just before the end). But since then Chadli hasn’t played the full 90 minutes in a league game.

In all competitions, Chadli has played just 1,650 minutes — although an ankle injury in the autumn meant he was unavailable for two months. When he has played, he has often appeared off the pace and even listless. And yet, he has been extremely productive — with seven goals and five assists in total, one every 137 minutes.

Chadli is a walking, talking “good problem”. On the one hand, he is a squad player who has proven that he can produce goals and chances when called upon. On the other hand, he has done nothing in the past six months to put pressure on Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela for a place in Pochettino’s strongest XI.

With his scoring record and the fact that, at 26, he is in his prime, Chadli is sure to have suitors. Spurs paid £7 million for him from FC Twente — given Andros Townsend, a far less productive player, went for £12 million, Spurs should comfortably command something in the £15-20 million range for him. This is money that Spurs could re-invest in, say, a young talent with a far higher ceiling.

On the other hand though, Spurs need productive squad players. The Europa League campaign highlighted the shortage of quality options in the squad, but Spurs did not need to prioritize the competition. There is no such room for easing off in the Champions League, and certainly not if the club is trying to sell out Wembley. A player like Chadli — who seemingly is happy to be part of a squad and playing limited minutes, yet contributing when he does — may be far more useful for Spurs next season.

It is a “good problem” if ever there was one.

How to add a new dimension to the central midfield?

Against Bournemouth and Liverpool, Spurs fans watched every Eric Dier tackle with trepidation knowing that he was one yellow card away from a two-game ban.

Dier’s transformation from makeshift to mainstay has been extraordinary, and is a testament to both Pochettino’s coaching and Dier’s intelligence and technical ability.

His adaption to the role is illustrated by the yellow card issue. In his first seven games as a Premier League central midfielder, he was booked five times, ruling him out of the home match against Liverpool. He has been booked five times In the 28 games since.

Dier has played 35 out of 36 games in the league this season, racking up 3,088 minutes. Along with Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris, he has been the rock this miserly Spurs team has been built on.

In Dortmund, a Spurs midfield anchored by (and I still can’t believe Pochettino tried this) Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll was brutally and predictably taken apart. It showed that we sorely need at least one other strong midfield option in case of injury, suspension or need for rotation.

This isn’t a straightforward task though. The midfield trio of Dier, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli offer a wonderful balance, and whoever comes in is likely to see limited minutes as a starter. In particular, both Dier and Alli have proven themselves durable in their early careers. More likely, the minutes will be in place of Dembele, who is never at his best playing back-to-back games.

While someone like Victor Wanyama is frequently linked, and would appear to offer value entering the final year of his contract at Southampton, Spurs would still be spending a lot in transfer fees and wages on a player who may see strictly limited action as a Dier replacement, or someone brought on alongside him to stiffen up the midfield and preserve a lead in certain games.

Likewise, Spurs may not want to sign a midfielder who primarily plays “forward” as this player may not offer quality cover for Dier when needed. Spurs already have Ryan Mason in the squad offering cover in that sort of box-to-box role.

You may be thinking, just buy two. But we have been down the road of expensive squad players, and it wasn’t pretty. Pochettino spent most of his first 12 months clearing out the likes of Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Benji Stambouli.

Pochettino doesn’t want depth for depth’s sake, judging by his statements on wanting a smaller squad than he inherited. He wants first-team quality options, and if there are minutes going spare, he would rather give them to youngsters. The days of the “Mourinho mantra” of two experienced players in every position may be over — Spurs have tried it, and not only did it fail but it was expensive. Spurs will be looking at highly-targeted versatility, rather than a Redknappian “we need to get a few more bodies in”.

Spurs ideally would be looking for someone who can play in the deep role, but also provide some of the attacking thrust of Dembele (there won’t be anyone exactly like Dembele, he is a one of a kind). This isn’t an easy piece of recruitment by any means.

But if I was Paul Mitchell, this is exactly the sort of recruitment puzzle I’d get out of bed for. There will be quality players out there who can do both. It’s just a case of finding them.

Why is this a good problem? We already have a midfield that works, and there are all sorts of interesting ways Spurs can approach the task of making it even better without breaking the bank.

What do Spurs do with Nabil Bentaleb?

Of course, it may be that Spurs already have the central midfielder they need to cover Dier and Dembele in the squad. Step forward…Nabil Bentaleb.

In his first 18 months at Spurs, Bentaleb showed serious potential. While far from the finished article, he showed tenacity and looked like he may in time develop the tactical nous to be a quality defensive midfielder in the league. With that beautiful left foot and athleticism, he also offers something going forward.

However, something has gone seriously awry in the past 12 months. Do we even know what? Public demands for a new contract? Concerns over his representation? A falling out over an injury? None of them, in isolation, seem anything more than run-of-the-mill issues and far from enough to discard a young talent. Along with facts, what has also been noticeable in its absence is any significant leaking from Bentaleb’s camp about his unhappiness and desire to move on.

It is all highly curious. It makes me wonder, perhaps, if an olive branch, or promise of a blank slate, has been quietly offered. Maybe, it has all been some jedi-style mind training from Pochettino, a deliberate crushing of Bentaleb’s soul in order to harden him for the dreary defensive work that lies ahead as a deep-lying midfielder.

Honestly, I have no idea, like everyone else. But either way, Spurs are winning. They’ve either got a quality midfield prospect hungry to get his career back on track, or they have a midfield prospect with huge potential who will fetch millions in the transfer market. That’s a “good problem” alright.

Where should Spurs look to find an understudy for Eriksen?

If Eric Dier has been irreplaceable at the base of the Spurs midfield this season, so has Christian Eriksen at the pointy end. After a mid-season dip, Eriksen has hit top form in recent months.

Eriksen has played 33 out of 36 league games this season, notching 2,762 minutes. He has also played seven Europa League games. Last season, Eriksen played in all 38 Premier League games.

Spurs are a physical and intense team capable of blowing the doors off an opposition defence. But when more subtlety is required, Eriksen is the man to pick the lock.

He is comfortably the most creative player, averaging 3.7 key passes per 90 minutes, according to WhoScored. The next closest is Erik Lamela with 2.7 per 90. Chadli in limited minutes has 2.3 per 90.

We don’t really know what would happen to Spurs if Eriksen was out for an extended time, or needed to be rested in a big match. This season, the three games he missed came during Spurs’ slow start to the season — against Leicester (a), Everton (h) and Sunderland (a). But the team was in the early stages of its evolution then, and there were myriad reasons for the underperformance.

As previously mentioned, the Champions League won’t offer the same chance of rotation as the Europa League. Eriksen, surely, will not be able to play every Premier League and European game season after season. We will need another creative midfield option. The question: Do Spurs look to the academy, or do they use Champions League qualification to attract a world-class talent?

The three most likely contenders to fill Eriksen’s shoes as creator-in-chief in the current squad are all homegrown — Tom Carroll, Josh Onomah and Alex Pritchard. Onomah would appear to have the most “upside”, but has yet to provide any real end product. Pritchard was surely the understudy-designate before walking under a ladder and enduring a year from hell that last saw him lumping it about in the West Brom U21 squad.

A driving principle of the Pochettino philosophy has been about giving homegrown talent the same chance as expensive imports. But let’s not be naive: with Champions League football on offer and money to spend, Spurs could have some serious fun shopping for an attacking midfielder.

Go and Google “best young attacking midfielders in Europe” — you’ll land on a bunch of clickbaity galleries full of future superstars. Now, because of what’s been achieved, Spurs may be able to buy some of them — we’d be crazy to rule it out.

Do we need to talk about Kevin?

One of the many benefits of a strong season like Spurs have had is that it makes retaining key players that much easier. Of course, if Real or Barca coming knocking, that’s one thing, but the entitled talk coming from Old Trafford sounds frankly delusional.

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If there is one player that I am concerned about keeping hold of, it is Kevin Wimmer. I should probably explain why.

When Jan Vertonghen went down against Crystal Palace, Wimmer didn’t so much as blink upon stepping in as his replacement. In the 10 Premier League games Wimmer played, Spurs conceded seven goals (0.70 goals per game). With Vertonghen at the back, we conceded 18 in 24 (0.75 goals per game).

Is Wimmer better than Vertonghen? I don’t even begin to know how to judge it — defensive stats such as tackles and interceptions seem pretty meaningless, especially in context of a high press.

Vertonghen’s ability to carry the ball and his distribution may give him an edge, but in pure defensive terms, Wimmer perhaps is better in dealing with aerial balls and physical strikers.

Paul Mitchell obviously had Wimmer up his sleeve from the moment he arrived at Spurs, black box in tow. While the club was cautious in doing business early on, presumably waiting for as much data as possible to be gathered before making decisions, Spurs were always moving for Wimmer.

So why am I concerned about keeping Wimmer? It is a combination of the fact that he has proven his quality, the fact that he is unlikely to unseat Vertonghen as first choice, and the fact that there is a shortage of ball-playing, left-sided centre backs in the Premier League.

If you are wondering why Spurs are where we are, Wimmer is a pretty good illustration. He is our back-up left CB, yet would be first choice in that position at Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool.

The way Spurs split the CBs is oh-so trendy, and works a treat, and every Premier League side is going to be trying to do it next season if they aren’t already doing so. Wimmer has proven he can play out that way, while keeping things tight coming the other way. This makes him an extremely valuable commodity in the Premier League in 2016/17.

Why is this a good problem? Because if you are worried about losing a player, it is way better that it is your back-up centre back than, say, your only striker. And this whole potential scenario arises from the fact that Wimmer has been such a successful signing,

I hope Spurs keep hold of him, and use him more. The last thing we want to be doing is messing around with a settled and solid defence. But if that is not possible, we will at least get a massive wodge of cash — far more than the £4 million we spent.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more articles. This article was first published on Spurs Stat Man.

The business end of the season: How much is a league place worth for Spurs?

Spurs head into a crucial Premier League weekend seven points off Leicester with six games to play. If the Foxes win four more games — and they have deeply winnable fixtures against Sunderland, Swansea and Everton ahead — they win the title no matter how Spurs finish.

The fat lady isn’t singing yet, but she’s in her dressing room and she’s warming up.

Looking the other way, we are nine points ahead of Manchester United in fifth, and we play them on Sunday. They also have a game in hand — if they win both, well….gulp. And then there is the small matter of finishing above Arsenal. There is an awful lot still to play for and no excuse for Spurs to ease off, even if Leicester march on relentlessly.

But forget glory, local pride and enjoyment — we all know what really matters in modern football is money. And where we finish this season will make an enormous difference to the bottom line.

How big a difference? I’ve done some quick and dirty calculations to show how much Spurs can expect to bring in, depending on final league position.

Here’s how it works:

Premier League payments

For the Premier League, 50 percent of the TV money is split equally among teams. After that, 25 percent is paid out in “facility fees” — payments every time a team is picked for a televised UK game. The other 25 percent is the “merit payment”, which is paid out depending on where you finish.

Last season, Spurs were shown 18 times on TV, earning £14.8 million. This time, Spurs will be shown 21 times. Essentially, each game broadcast live above the minimum 10 (everyone gets paid for 10 games, even if some teams, like Leicester last season, aren’t shown that many times) earns a team an additional £747,176. So for Spurs, we will be bringing in an extra £2.24 million regardless of where we end up.

The merit payments are very simple: They increase by £1.25 million (or as close as) per place. First place receives £24.9 million, last place gets £1.25 million.

UEFA payments

For UEFA funds, the principle is similar, but it is harder to project. It is often assumed that teams qualifying for the Champions League receive the same share of the TV money (before being paid for how they progress). This is NOT true — it varies, and quite considerably.

Champions League money is divided into two pots — the “market pool” and the prize money. The prize money can be seen here: quite simply you get a guaranteed EUR 12 million (£9.66 million) for reaching the group stages, and then the money rolls in depending on how you do.

The market pool is the share of the TV money that is awarded to clubs from different associations, depending on how much their TV deal brings in. This is divided into two equal pots, the first of which is awarded based on Premier League position, and the second based on how far the clubs progress in the Champions League itself.

Per football finance blogger Swiss Ramble, these two pots were each worth EUR 46.8 million (£37.85 million) in the 2014/15 campaign. For the first pot, the team that finished first in the Premier League receives 40 percent, the team that was second receives 30 percent, and so on.

With the huge new BT Sport deal kicking in, the share of the market pool that goes to British clubs is going to get a lot bigger from the 2015/16 season. How much? A reasonable estimate is that the TV money will jump by around 50 percent.

With the actual amount not yet known, for the purposes of this article I’ll use a 50 percent increase — at the very least, it makes the maths straightforward.

And now, some tables

In the table below, you can see how that revenue breaks down. As you can see, the difference between finishing 1st and 4th could be almost £17 million — for the initial market pool share alone. On top of this, you have the other half of the TV money to dish out depending on how well you do against Messi & Co.

Market Pool

By way of reference, Spurs brought in £4.73 million from our Europa League campaign last season, including both TV money and bonuses. The season before, when we reached the last 16, it was £5.27 million. It is very hard to project the market pool share, particularly as not every English team that qualifies wants to reach the group stage. Let’s take last season’s amount as the “baseline” amount, with anything that comes in on top of that considered a performance-related bonus.

So, including Premier League merit payments, UEFA market pool payments and minimum bonus payments, what sort of money are we talking about for Spurs this season? I’m talking purely the performance-related elements of the TV money — the part that varies depending on how well, or badly, we finish the season.

Performance Related

As you can see, we are talking about a difference of £7 million per place for the top four positions.

If the music stopped now, and Spurs finished in 2nd, we’d be on course for £25 million* more in performance-related payments than we earned last season for our fifth place finish.

That’s a lot of money for a club with total revenues of £196 million. By way of comparison, per our latest set of financials, we receive about £16 million per year from our new sponsorship deal with AIA. And that’s before any UEFA bonus money, extra gate receipts and shirt sales.

If we contrived to swap places with Arsenal — and let’s be honest, we have form in this department — that would cost us £7 million in performance-related cash. And possibly a bit more in therapy costs.

Of course, we want to finish above Leicester because we want to be champions for the first time since 1961, not because it means a bigger slice of the UEFA market pool. We want to finish above Arsenal, because it’s about f**king time we did.

But when the pundits call this “the business end of the season”, this is why.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

*Update 17.15, April 8: An old version of this article stated that the difference between 2nd and 5th place amounted to about £15 million. In fact it is closer to £25 million.

Liverpool offer useful guidance for Spurs on and off the pitch

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Regardless of whether Spurs go on and lift the Premier League title in May, or fall just short, comparisons are inevitably going to be made between the season we are having, the one enjoyed by Liverpool in 2013/14.

While Leicester are a bolt out of the blue, Spurs and Liverpool both vaulted out of the pack and mounted title challenges after years of promising but failing to deliver.

The title challenges carry a similar “vibe” — a sense of team cohesion and a clear tactical philosophy, but also a strong enough core of players to suggest a whiff of sustainability in terms of future success.

Liverpool’s struggles since that superb season, when Messrs Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling routinely shredded opposition defences, offer some useful pointers to the hierarchy at Spurs as the club plans ahead both on and off the pitch.

In his latest piece, football finance blogger Swiss Ramble makes a number of interesting observations about the situation of Liverpool, and the importance of the Champions League, that are relevant to Spurs.

Also, some of the facts and figures in Liverpool’s accounts offer useful reference for us: there is still a huge amount of work to be done at Spurs to ensure our feeling of progress is built upon something more sustainable than the underperformance of others.

 

1 Don’t sell your best players

Liverpool’s transfer strategy since qualifying for the Champions League has been little short of a debacle. The £60 million profit the club reported in its latest accounts sums up the difference, as put by Brendan Rodgers, between a business model and a winning model.

Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling were one of the deadliest attacking trios in Premier League history. Suarez and Sturridge combined for a whopping 55 goals, while Sterling contributed nine goals and seven assists. Yet two years on, both Suarez and Sterling have been sold, while Sturridge has struggled with injuries that are testing the patience of Jurgen Klopp.

Barcelona may have triggered a release clause for Suarez, although reports at the time suggested Liverpool were happy to be rid of him. But selling Sterling, the most talented homegrown player since Steven Gerrard (albeit via QPR) to a Champions League rival in Man City was in many ways insane. In both cases, the club’s decision-making became clouded — whether that be by weird disciplinary problems, or snotty agents.

With Champions League football, Liverpool should have become stronger, but instead they became weaker. Their huge profit this season feels hollow, as they couldn’t sustain the success.

Spurs are going to get big offers this summer for the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Daniel Levy needs to resist any reptilian urge to turn a massive profit, and just say no. I’m pretty confident our chairman has now learned this lesson after the Bale money trauma, but the only way we’re going to shake the tag of being a “selling club” is by not selling our best players over a prolonged period.

 

2 Take the chance to buy Champions League calibre players

This is the list of players Liverpool bought ahead of its Champions League campaign:

Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli, Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi.

The combined cost? £117 million.

For years, Liverpool had been held back in the transfer market by the inability to offer Champions League football — a feeling Spurs know all too well. There is only so much elite talent out there, and all elite players want to play in the Champions League.

Finally, Liverpool had a chance to break this cycle and bring in genuinely world-class players — and they missed it. All eight of those players bought by Liverpool would have been available if Liverpool were only offering Europa League football. Sure, they were rejected by Alexis Sanchez, but there were other possibilities out there.

Spurs need to be smart this summer. Yes, the club is building for the long-term and around a homegrown core. Yes, there is only a finite amount of money to spend on transfer fees and wages while the stadium is being built. Yes, there is a risk of upsetting squad unity by bringing in stars on huge wages. But there is also an opportunity to buy the sort of player we’ve not been able to attract in the past, and that should at least be explored.

So HYPOTHETICALLY (this is the key word), let’s say the club’s analysts feel that Spurs are struggling to create enough “good” chances, and that with Mario Gotze in the number 10 role, as opposed to Christian Eriksen, Spurs would be a much more dangerous proposition.

Gotze’s star may have waned a little since the 2014 World Cup, but he is still a player who will command Champions League football. This summer Spurs may be able to lure a player of that calibre, whereas in previous seasons it wouldn’t have even been worth trying.

I’m NOT saying Spurs should sell Eriksen — I’m just giving an example of the sort of talent we may be able to attract if there is Champions League football at White Hart Lane.

It was in the Sun on Sunday, so there is a 99.9% chance it is wrong, but there was a nugget of this sort of thinking about the speculation that Spurs may move for Jordan Henderson. I’m not sure he is the right player, but if the club is seriously engaged in some sort of “game theory” approach to strengthening ourselves while at the same time weakening potential rivals, I find that quite encouraging. I mean, if Man Utd miss out on Champions League, why not stick in a bid for Morgan Schneiderlin?

 

3 Where we finish matters in terms of Champions League money

Should Spurs falter in the coming games, and Leicester roll remorselessly on, the temptation may be for the players to take their foot off the gas with Champions League football all-but in the bag.

However, I did not realise that the final finishing position makes a big difference in terms of how much Champions League money is awarded. See this graph from the Swiss Ramble:

Liverpoool_champsleagueTV

Champions League money is split in two ways: where you finish in the Premier League, and how you perform in the Champions League itself. Under the previous TV deal, the difference between finishing 1st and 4th was £14 million. This is far greater than the performance-related proportion of Premier League TV money — the gap between payouts for 1st and 4th is £2.5 million.

Under the new Champions League deal, the money on offer is up 40 to 50 percent. If the allocation is the same, the difference between finishing 1st and 4th could be approaching £20 million. That is a significant amount of money.

Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t seem like the sort of manager to allow his team to coast. But should Spurs fall out of contention for the title, there’s still millions at stake for finishing second as opposed to third or fourth.

 

4 One more reason why the Europa League sucks

A common misconception about the Premier League TV deal is that the money is divided equally. This is not true — while it is more even than, say La Liga, there is considerable range. Last season, champions Chelsea brought in £99 million, while relegated QPR brought in £64.9 million. It is a phenomenal amount of money for QPR to receive, sure, but that is a big difference.

While 50 percent is divided equally, the other half is split among “merit payment” (where you finish) and “facility fee” (what you get when you are shown live).

Last season, while Spurs finished ahead of Liverpool, the Reds earned £4 million more from the TV deal. The reason? They were shown more often — seven times more in fact. While 25 Liverpool games were broadcast, just 18 Spurs games were shown — less than half the fixtures.

Part of this is legacy — Liverpool have a bigger fanbase. Also, having competed for the title in the previous season, it was reasonable to expect them to be shown more early on. But Europa League also has an impact — as Spurs were forced to play on Sundays for at least eight fixture rounds, this meant our matches couldn’t be selected for the two Saturday TV timeslots.

While Spurs had 18 games shown live, and our fellow Europa League travellers Everton had 17, Newcastle had 20 games shown live, despite one of the most miserable seasons the club has endured.

When you see Spurs bring in just £6.1 million in TV revenue from the Europa League, and the pain in the balls it is having to play Thursday-Sunday and cope with the huge distances and demands on the squad, you can see why West Ham in particular this season basically told the Europa League to go shove it and focused on the league. It feels like a good call by Slaven Bilic.

 

5 Liverpool are still miles ahead of Spurs commercially

Champions League qualification boosted Liverpool’s bottom line tremendously. Broadcast revenue was up 22 percent, matchday income up 16 percent, and commercial income up 12 percent.

While matchday and TV income is likely to come crashing down to earth in its next accounts (although the endless replays this season may have helped at the turnstyles), the gap between Liverpool and Spurs on the commercial front is more like a chasm.

Liverpool’s commercial (so sponsorships, merchandising, etc) income stood at £116 million: this is almost double the £59 million Spurs brought in per its last accounts (the club is due to report soon).

Liverpool’s shirt sponsorship with Standard Chartered is at least £20-25 million annually, while its kit deal with New Balance is £25 million. Currently Spurs get £16 million from AIA, and £10 million a year from Under Armour. A reported £30 million deal with Nike can’t come soon enough, likewise a naming rights deal.

Meanwhile, we’ll just have to punch above our weight. Liverpool’s wage bill is £144 million, compared to Spurs’ £100 million. Since 2011/12, LIverpool’s net transfer spend is £148 million — Spurs have made a profit of £39 million since then (this season’s accounts should show us breaking even).

For stadium costs, Spurs intend to borrow £350 million from banks, while Liverpool’s owners are providing a £100 million interest-free loan for the expansion of Anfield’s main stand.

Liverpool’s owners get a lot of stick, especially after the ticketing fiasco, but they’ve put their money where their mouth is, and achieved sustained commercial growth. They just need to sort it out on the pitch, but that’s the difficult part.

For Spurs, we’ve gotten it right on the pitch at long last — but we just need to look at Liverpool to show how hard sustaining that success can be.

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