In north London’s great rivals, we find two managers in Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho who represent a star on the way up and one burning out.
Jose Mourinho has done it all.
He’s won just about everything there is to get your hands on in the game. In contrast, Mikel Arteta has won the FA Cup and managed but a handful of games. He’s a managerial infant when compared to Jose Mourinho, against that there can be no argument.
But Spurs fans don’t care for the trophies Mourinho won with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United. In all, the ‘Special One’ has won eight league titles, four national cups, two Champions Leagues, the Europa League and a ton of other lesser trophies. Why would they care about any of those when their own cabinet sits unattended for so long?
What they do is look up the road and see Arsenal, in the greatest difficulty for 25 years. They wonder how our new manager, who was appointed to his first job in management exactly one month after Jose Mourinho took over the greatest Spurs side in living memory, has some silverware while they still have nothing.
The signing of Gareth Bale couldn’t be any more a Mourinho signing if he tried, right down to adding to the severe financial pressure already on a club wondering how they’re going to pay for their new £1bn stadium when they haven’t been able to let any fans in.
And they’ll have to spend because they have to keep Mourinho happy. That’s the only way he knows how to manage – by buying. Tottenham pay him £15m a year and it would cost them £45m to sack him as they gave him a deal until 2023.
A bitter Mourinho is a destructive one.
Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, earns £3.64m.
Bale is 31 and Spurs are agreeing to pay half his wages, an amount that totals around £250kpw for their share. He played 1,260 minutes last season and ended the campaign with fewer goals and assists than Bukayo Saka for Arsenal by some distance.
Given the choice of Saka or Bale, who do you think Mourinho would opt to pick?
Of course, we can point to Arsenal bringing in Willian, a player even older than Bale. But that was done with an eye to the future. Willian was brought to the club permanently, not on loan. He’s at Arsenal to perform, something he’s done consistently every season (can you say that about Bale when he’s reportedly going to need a month just to get fit?) but also to mentor the likes of Saka and his fellow Brazilian, Gabriel Martinelli.
Do you think Mourinho has any plans for the future?
Do you think he’s bringing Bale back to London as a signing that will help Tottenham over the longer-term or simply as the ready-made, experienced attacker he can slot into his team so he doesn’t have to worry about attacking tactics? A shiny signing to deflect from his own failings rather than to fix his team.
Do you think he once looked at the youth ranks to see what was available there instead? Of course not. Given the choice between spending money and promoting youth, Mourinho has always opted to spend money because he doesn’t know how to develop youngsters.
Or, if he does, he keeps that talent well hidden.
Mourinho is a man-motivator. That’s his trick. Once people saw through that there suddenly wasn’t that much ‘special’ about him.
The two managers have met just once and Mourinho won that game, guiding Spurs to a 2-1 home game in July when football returned. We can’t really take much from that. This next encounter, when the two sides meet in December, will be much more telling.
Not only will Arteta and Mourinho both have had a year with their squads, enforced break aside, we will have a far better idea of how both teams are shaping up and where they are likely to finish at the end of the season.
Back in September, I’d have put money on Arsenal being a good few points clear of Spurs by this point, but therein lies the shades of football. Arsenal have not played well, but they have also been unlucky. Spurs have also not played well but have had the rub of the green. This head-to-head will tell us more than the table does currently.
Arteta has brought something special to Arsenal – a sense of excitement and potential, and although that has dulled a little with the defeats by Villa and Wolves, before that Arsenal had won nine of their 12 games, losing only to Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Compare that with Spurs just up the road, losing on the opening day to Everton, just about scraping past nine men in Bulgaria in Europa League qualifying and needing their old penalty friend to help scrape a draw against LASK, all while playing football that would give you flashbacks of Unai Emery at his finest.
Do they look like they’re having fun in N17? Yet they sit up top.
Football is funny like that.
Spurs have had their ‘glory years’ under Mauricio Pochettino, who managed to get them above Arsenal. How much that had to do with Arsenal’s implosion rather than Spurs themselves is up for debate.
Even in a season when we had three different managers, however, they still couldn’t win more than us. They still haven’t won anything. Not for a long time. Even through their ‘glory years’ when we had to listen to non-stop talk about power-shifts, Arsenal were the side winning things.
The last five years have been, perhaps, some of the worst most Arsenal fans can remember and all Spurs have to crow about is finishing above us. Plus that Champions League final they lost.
With Mikel Arteta installed at Arsenal and Jose Mourinho sure to rot Spurs from the inside out, we might be best advised to get the St Totteringham’s Day bunting out of storage sooner rather than later…
It might not be this season, but it’s coming back. On that you can bet your house.