Emotional Conte-nt

Steff, Milo and Ricky look back at Turf Moor lows, Elland Road highs, dynamic duos and Antonio Conte’s potentially menopausal media modulations which have seen him both violently throwing handbags and showering the squad with kisses within days. So not only do we drill into the matches that matter, this week you’ll also get a dose of aural HRT!

Oops!…We Did It Again

This week, Steff, Milo and James look back at the monumental win over Man City at Eastlands, purr over Kane’s perfect performance, wax lyrical for the umpteenth time on why we love Eric Dier, creates acronyms from that 95th winner, looks at mis-contextualising Antonio AND finds time to celebrate the legend that is Benoit Assou Ekotto. The patch is fixed and it WAS all real as you will hear…

The streak…and what it means

Should Spurs get beaten at Manchester City on Saturday night (and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to suggest that this seems quite an inevitable outcome for most Spurs fans) it will be a 4th successive league defeat; the first time Spurs have suffered such ignominy since 2004.

This may not be the end of it – the cliched tough trip to Burnley awaits the following midweek and then Spurs travel to Elland Road for a fixture in which they were thoroughly outplayed in last season and were somewhat fortuitous to win the home game back in November. That said, the streak could end at The Etihad – after all Southampton and Crystal Palace have all taken points home this season and Spurs ourselves have held our nerve to collect points there recently too.

A streak of 4 successive wins or losses is to some extent an arbitrary number but it is enough games to highlight a particular trend. The fixture list can throw up kind or nasty runs of games but it is unlikely that an upper half team, should face 4 successive horrible fixtures and with the relative strength of the Premier League it is improbable that you would have 4 absolute gimme’s. Thus to win 4 games in a row you probably have to be quite good and to lose 4 indicates some not insignificant concerns.

Taking this run of 4 fixtures for Spurs included the perennial graveyard that is Stamford Bridge and is bookended by a trip to the reigning Champions Manchester City. In between, presented two fixtures that Spurs could have expected, based on recent results against the same teams, to collect at least 4 points. To lose twice at home against teams lower in the table was largely unthinkable but when sandwiched between the two away trips presents an unfortunate opportunity to create unwanted history.

The last time Spurs recorded 4 or more successive defeats came in Autumn 2004. The run is split evenly between the end of Jacques Santini’s inauspicious spell in N17 and Jol’s spell – a 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth, followed by 1-2 home defeat to Bolton and then a dismal 2-0 loss at Fulham. Santini resigned on the eve of the home game with Charlton which Spurs lost 3-2 despite a gallant second half comeback; then came an incredible but fruitless 4-5 home loss in the North London derby before succumbing 1-0 at Aston Villa – a fixture that Spurs rarely picked up many points.

In fairness to Jol, and that Spurs team, it is worth noting that Spurs would then go on a 5-game winning streak (more on that follow) where results then evened out through the remainder of the season.

For Spurs, a club, who throughout the Premier League, have an (median) average end position of 7th, you would therefore expect to see a fair amount of inconsistency neither winning or losing in particularly long streaks in the same way that you would expect of Manchester City – who jointly hold the record of 18 consecutive PL wins in the early part of the 2017/18 season on route to their 100-point season (Liverpool equalled this in Winter 2019). By contrast, Sunderland, hold the infamous losing streak of 15 in 2002-03.

Looking back through Spurs’ list of results from 1992 until well into the 21st century you see lots of inconsistent results. Displayed as the standard RAG table there is plenty of green, orange and red connections.

Prior to this weekend’s match with Manchester City Spurs have been on the wrong end of a 4-game ‘L’ streak on 5 separate occasions. The most recent is the aforementioned run in 2004. As perhaps you would expect the other occasions occurred in seasons in which relegation was a very real possibility (2003/04 – 2 times; 1997/8 and 1993/4). The latter provides Spurs’ worst ever streak of 7 consecutive defeats from New Years Day 1994 until a home draw with Aston Villa on 1st March. During that period Spurs were also dumped out of both domestic cups only getting past 3rd tier Peterborough on penalties in a replay at White Hart Lane).

7-game loss streak Jan – Feb 1994

1/1 Coventry HOME 1-2
3/1 Sheffield Weds AWAY 0-1
15/1 Manchester Utd HOME 0-1
22/1 Swindon AWAY 1-2
5/2 Sheffield Weds HOME 1-3
12/2 Blackburn HOME 0-2
27/2 Chelsea AWAY 3-4

Spurs have achieved 4-game winning streaks on 20 occasions which may be slightly more than you’d initially thought. This sort of run of good form is, as you’d imagine, very sporadic throughout the first half of the Premier League era. A Teddy Sheringham inspired run of 5 League wins in Spring 1993 was the first and the next followed in the early part of 1995/96 when Gerry Francis’ hit peak form. Spurs hit the unheralded heights of 3rd place in the first part of that season before predictably falling away after Christmas.

You then have to go forward 9 years until the previously mentioned rollercoaster of results under Santini and Jol. Following defeat to Aston Villa Jol’s team recorded 5 wins which included a then customary win at Manchester City (then just ‘Eastlands’).

It is from this point in the mid 00’s that Spurs started to take themselves more seriously and over the next 15 years would shifted the average league finish from 10th (1993-2005) to 5th (2006-2021). This, by nature resulted in better, and more consistently better results.

From 2009/10 until 2018/19 Spurs would achieve at least one 4-game winning streak in all bar 2 seasons. In the 6 ‘Top 4’ seasons they would record a run of 4 straight wins. The famous 2016/17 season which culminated in 86 points and an unbeaten home record contained a run of 9 successive victories as we attempted to chase down Chelsea between February and May. Additionally that season saw a 6-game and a 4-game winning streak.

The 9-game winning streak (PL games only) Feb – May 2017

26/2 Stoke City HOME 4-0
5/3 Everton HOME 3-2
19/3 Southampton HOME 2-1
1/4 Burnley AWAY 2-0
5/4 Swansea AWAY 3-1
8/4 Watford HOME 4-0
15/4 Bournemouth HOME 4-0
26/4 Crystal Palace AWAY 1-0
30/4 Arsenal HOME 2-0

The last of the 20 ‘W’ streaks to occur was during the 2018/19 season. In fact there were 3 throughout the season – you may recall this as the ‘undrawable season’ in which it tool until March for Spurs’ first draw. What preceded this was largely a run of wins with a loss thrown in for good measure only to be repeated by a string of wins. The most recent came in January 2019 with four fairly stodgy victories over Fulham and Watford (both stoppage time wins), Newcastle and Leicester (who missed a penalty).

Spurs slept walked into Champions League qualification that season whilst also reaching the final of the same competition in what became, unbeknown at the time, the beginning of the end for Pochettino.

From analysisng the trends there is a very direct correlation – when we have recorded 4-game winning streaks we have at least seriously knocked on the door of Champions League qualification. In the years in which we have recorded 4-game L streaks we have usually flirted with relegation.

The one notable exception was that 2004-05 (the only season where Spurs have had a positive and negative 4-game streak) spell of results where one rather counteracted the other and the net result was a 9th place finish.

Therefore studying 4-game streaks is quite a useful tool in analsying where we are and what might happen. I’m pretty sure that even the most Eeyore of Spurs fans will not be contemplating away trips to Rotherham and Preston next season should the inevitable happen at Manchester City at the weekend. However, 4-game streaks are invariably a decent barometer; perhaps we will follow up with an equally positive run of results – away trips to Burnley and Leeds, home to Everton and then away at Old Trafford could feasibly return 4 wins.

Having looked at other clubs data its very clear that recording a 4-game streak is indicative of a consistent season. Going back to 2011 every team that has finished in the top 4 positions has recorded at least one 4-game win streak. The last not to do so was Arsenal in 2011. Whilst researching this I was reminded that Leicester won 8 successive games in 2019/20 but still only finished 5th.

Therefore the conclusion is that until we can put together 4+ wins on the bounce I do not expect to hear Champions League music blasted around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Both Arsenal and West Ham have done so already this season. It is this pursuit of consistency that is most needed.

The most average of Spurs 

When you think of Spurs in the premier league era what do you consider to be the average? Not the best of spurs and not the worst – just that smack bang in the middle Spurs. Therefore, don’t be drawn to the peak Pochettino era of league title challenges, unbeaten home seasons and Champions League football. Equally, don’t let your mind take you to the relegation scraps of 1994 and 1998, 2 points from 8 games or 6-0 defeats at Sheffield United. Think about the players who occupy that middle ground – not Klinsmann, Kane, Gary Doherty or Jason Cundy. 

Statistically you should be thinking of the current iteration of Tottenham Hotspur – or more specifically (as far as league performances go) the last 3 calendar year cycle from 2019 to the current day. 

Let me first explain the significance of a 3-year cycle as it is essentially an arbitrary time period. I always felt that 2018 becoming 2019 in hindsight saw a dramatic downturn in results and performances; taking the Champions League run aside the last really great performance under Pochettino was the 6-2 victory at Everton on 23 December. A result that in hindsight remains the swansong of an incredible era. 

Although the early part of 2019 did see some good results (four successive league wins against Fulham, Leicester, Newcastle and Watford in spite of some fairly turgid, if not determined performances) the team sleepwalked into 4th spot following this. It is therefore convenient on my part to start and end cycles at this point. Additionally a ‘3 year cycle’ is often discussed, even if it is not scientifically tested as a definitive period of time in which a team, under one or multiple coaches evolves with players travelling through natural physical peaks. 

I have therefore retrofitted the last 30 calendar years into ten 3-year cycles calculating the average number of points won per game and how that translates into a 38 game season. 

Table 1: breakdown of 3-year cycles with average number of points in a 38-game season calculated

YearsAve pts per gameSeason points equivalent
1992-19941.2547.57
1995-19971.3350.67
1998-20001.3250
2001-20041.2647.84
2004-20061.5157.33
2007-20091.3551.45
2010-20121.7566.67
2013-20151.8168.60
2016-20182.1180.30
2019-20211.5960.59
ALL (1992 – 2021)1.5357.99
The bottom row shows the average across the entire 30-year period – that is 1.53 pts per game which accounts to 58 points per season. 

Graph A – average points gained per season based on 3 year cycle

Graph B – average points per game as a full 38-game season equivalent 

The teams of the 90’s produced mediocre results despite the likes of Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton and Ginola being part of them.

If you look at the breakdown of 3-year cycles you’ll notice that the period closest to that overall average is the most recent one – 2019- 2021. 

Time will not fondly recall the 2019-2021 period but perhaps more due to the contrast to the cycle immediately prior – for the last 3 years we have undoubtedly been coming down the mountain. Indeed 2.11 – 1.59 (0.62 difference) is by far the biggest variance, positive or negative over the 30-year period covered. 

This blog is not intended to be one to judge the merits of ENIC but the trajectory from 2001 (when they took ownership of the club) had, until 2019 been a largely upwards one. 

Therefore it is fair to say that over the long-term this current team is an average reflection of Spurs in the Premier League era which prior to Pochettino was mostly a struggle to break out of mid table and a holy grail of finishing anywhere near European qualification. 

In trying to present an objective argument I’ll now talk you through some subjective thinking that perhaps backs up what the data is telling us. Dier, Davies, Sanchez, Winks and Lucas Moura were peripheral members of the peak Poch era starting XI. Whilst some of these have improved and/or fulfil functionary roles they are definite starters when available now (or at least towards the end of the 2019-2021 cycle). We know that recruitment has been poor and quite simply this team is nowhere near as good as its immediate predecessors. 

However, the data tells us that this current team is closer but slightly better in performance to it’s 2004-2006 version. This was the Martin Jol period. Of course tactically its very difficult to compare but this is roughly the strongest XI based on appearances made. 

2004-062019-21
RobinsonLloris
StalteriAurier*
YP LeeDavies
DawsonAlderweireld*
KingSanchez
CarrickSissoko*
JenasWinks
BrownDele*
LennonLucas Moura
KeaneSon
DefoeKane

By chance the 2004-06 team is virtually the team that played through most of the 2005-06 Lasagnegate season where you’ll recall we were desperately unfortunate not to finish in 4th place albeit the 67 points Arsenal eventually gained is below the average of 71 pts usually required. 

Because many of the players still exist who had been part of the golden Poch era it is easier to compare the current group to them but actually we should be taking ourselves back in time and asking what we would have expected when looking forward to a match circa 2005. 

On the whole though we have a squad available that is limited and like its 2004-2006 equivalent should be occupying the positions somewhere around 5th/6th spot. A team that finishes in these positions will by nature have flaws and will remain inconsistent – I suspect two home defeats to Wolves and Southampton is below par; draws with Liverpool and a win against Manchester City would be an overachievement. 

As ever hard date provides entirely objective outcomes. The eye test and those visceral emotions can provide just as useful answers. For me, trying to combine both, what is stark is the drop off seen over the last cycle which we are still feeling now. Whereas in the 2004-2006 period (especially once Jol took over) there was undeniably a feeling of a young team in development that hit an upward trajectory. The vibe around White Hart Lane on 31st December 2006 was significantly more optimistic than it had been on 1st January 2004. 

We are now into the next cycle (2022-2024) and the data sample size is of course just too small (for the record we are recording just 1.2 points per game) to draw any conclusions. We do not yet know at what point we will plateau from our fall from grace – one suspects the sheer force of nature that Conte provides plus the financial support provided by the stadium income means that we should start to `build a base to climb from again soon.  

Perhaps it should be some encouragement that 4 of the Cycle of 2019-2021 have been moved on at the club’s will (Alderweireld, Sissoko, Dele, Aurier). Romero and Bentancur should prove to be upgrades on Alderweireld and Sissoko respectively (at least based on their 2019-2021 form and ability). It is clear that a new right back/right wing back and a creative midfielder are urgently needed. 

We must hope that Skipp and Reguilon continue to improve but by the end of 2024 Kane, Son and Lloris (if still at the club) will be past their best and will need to have been replaced. 

This is without doubt the biggest on-field challenge facing ENIC since they took over in 2001 in addressing the slide. It would not require a hugely significant upturn in performances and results to be up and above 1.8 pts per game again and with a world-class Coach at the club this shouldn’t be impossible. However, the painful rebuild, is well underway and that will mean some uncomfortable times ahead. 

A Glitch In The Matrix

This week Steff, Ram, Ricky and Milo reveal the truth behind Spurs alarming home stand slump against Southampton and Wolves. The Matrix has a glitch. The 7 years olds in control need to stop squabbling every few minutes. James Brown needs to stop dragging out his encores and every Spurs supporter needs to stop worrying because none of this is real. So, for the TRUTH, as seen via an existential Tottenham lens, tune in right now.

Kulu Shaker

This week, Steff, Milo, Gareth and Simon take a look back at the fine 3-1 win over Brighton in the FA Cup 4th Round, discuss the transfer window holistically, get the full run down on Spurs new super Swede signing Dejan Kulusevski and discover what Rodrigo Bentancur and Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman have in common. Plus Milo commits to a firm prediction. Fancy Hitchen a ride into that lot? Welcome and come on in…

Spurs In The 00s

This week Steff, Milo, Ricky and Gareth have a Jol(ly) good time talking about Spurs in the 2000s. What was it like being a Spurs fan in the 00s? Which players typified 00s Spurs? Our best and worst games of the decade? Did Jacques Santini ever smile?

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