In Depth

Why Wembley is the least of Spurs' woes as Levy faces mutiny

Pay and a lack of transfers are biggest headaches for Tottenham as they await Chelsea visit

Spurs face Chelsea on Sunday in what looks like an increasingly pivotal game for their chances this season.

A lack of transfer activity this summer has taken the sheen off their second-place finish in the Premier League last season. This, allied with fears over how they will perform at Wembley plus rumours of discontent over money in the squad, could mean trouble for Mauricio Pochettino and questions for chairman Daniel Levy.

It means that despite an opening day win over Newcastle, Spurs have endured what Jermaine Jenas of the BBC calls a "strange and probably quite stressful week".


It's become something of a cliche to raise concerns about the Lilywhites' form at the national stadium, but it's also true that they have lost six out of ten matches there since it was rebuilt, including three out of five last season.

Pitch size is said to be a key factor. "White Hart Lane had the smallest dimensions of any Premier League pitch last season, measuring 100m x 67m," says Sky Sports. "In comparison, the Wembley field is marked out at 105m x 68m. That's a 440 square metre increase.

"But playing on a pitch of that size shouldn't be unusual to Tottenham's players. It's the size of 15 out of 20 Premier League clubs' pitches this season."

The statistics show that attacking wise the pitch size made little difference to Spurs last season. But they "conceded 50 per cent more goals on the bigger pitches – and were also almost twice as unlikely to win the game", says Sky.

Playing away would have had something to do with that, but the Spurs defence will be under increased scrutiny during Chelsea's visit.


The reason Spurs are playing at Wembley this season is that White Hart Lane is being rebuilt. That could also explain why money appears to be tight for manager Pochettino and why Spurs are the only side in the top flight not to have signed a player this summer.

Ajax defender Davinson Sanchez is said to be close to joining, but he would only serve to replace the departed Kyle Walker, who left to join Manchester City.

A chorus of discontent is growing over the lack of new arrivals.

"The danger is not that they risk standing still – more that they could fall behind if they don't strengthen properly now or, even worse, keep this group of players together," says Jenas of the BBC.

But chairman Daniel Levy has a track record of doing his business late. And Jenas isn't overly concerned about the Lilywhites' overall strategy. "It has always been very well thought out when it comes to bringing players into the club, because in terms of the ability, age and price of their signings, they often seem to get that right," he says.


A bigger concern is the state of the current squad.

Defender Danny Rose spoke out in a surprisingly frank interview with The Sun about his future at Tottenham, making it clear there was discontent at the club over the current pay structure.

"Tottenham are in the Champions League for a second straight season and are trying to establish themselves in that competition but, when it comes to wages, it feels like their level is more of a club challenging for a Europa League place," says Jenas.

Walker, who quit the club in the summer, is now earning twice what Rose gets paid, says the Daily Mail.

The paper picks up on the comments of Sky pundit Graeme Souness who sees long-term trouble ahead for the club.

"Imagine this scenario," he says. "This season Tottenham don't do well – and it would appear there is a mental block with some players at Wembley – so they don't have a year anything like the last two years. Come the end of the season, does Dele Alli, or the other big players, still want to be there?

"It's not like they are paying 10 or 20 per cent less wages than other teams. They're a good 50 to 100 per cent less."

Daniel Levy

At the heart of the matter is the approach of the club chairman, who can be a divisive figure among fans.

"As football administrators go, it is certainly difficult to think of anybody else with Levy's reputation for driving the people with whom he is negotiating to the point of spontaneous combustion," says Daniel Taylor of The Guardian, who claims that Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson gave up trying to do business with him.

Last season Levy was "the subject of acclaim for the way he had managed to combine a healthy balance sheet with a team that could potentially win the league", says Taylor. He's a man "who gets a lot more right than wrong".

But the lack of signings and the pay structure are leaving him with a problem.

Danny Rose was fined for his comments about his salary, but the interview contained "a number of home truths and Levy has badly misjudged the situation if he did not envisage a scenario where his players, after successive third- and second-placed finishes, would eventually start to ask these kind of awkward questions".

The future

Taylor's conclusions aren't happy reading for Spurs fans.

"Spurs have been dramatically punching above their weight under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. The Argentinian has shown it is possible to take on the super-rich but Levy surely needs to have a long, hard think about significantly increasing the club's wage bill unless he wants to risk a more widespread mutiny."

Jenas of the BBC warns that Spurs will have trouble getting their current stars to sign new contracts without pay increases, and says that if they then leave, the club won't be able to replace them with a similar calibre of player.


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