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. 

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