Neil Humphreys: How Spurs put the EPL big spenders to shame
Spurs have finished above both Manchester clubs and Liverpool twice, with a net spend of $1.8m in last 5 years
In some quarters, Tottenham Hotspur are being dismissed as nearly men for crumbling in consecutive seasons.
But the criticism makes less sense than a Jose Mourinho interview.
Spurs' 2-1 home win over Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time) saw them seal second place in the EPL table with two matches to spare.
They are progressing at an impressive rate and their performances shame all the big boys except Chelsea.
1) MONEY DIDN'T BUY SPURS LOVE
A popular refrain among rival supporters is that Tottenham need a trophy to confirm their status among the elite.
Not surprisingly, this argument invariably comes from fans in red - Man United, Liverpool or Arsenal.
These free-spending powerhouses are currently light years away from the title, so the odd pot in the trophy cabinet at least offers a straw to clutch.
But, any secondary silverware, past or present, is immediately negated by the 30 pieces of silver thrown around in a failed bid to buy the title.
The most damning statistic of all is also the most irrefutable. Tottenham's net spend in the last five years is £1 million (S$1.81m).
It's a figure worth digesting.
Their back-to-back title challenges, which they sustained until the closing weeks of both seasons, cost the club just £1m over five years.
The sale of Gareth Bale in 2013 for £85m, along with Luka Modric (£30m), obviously boosted the coffers.
Nevertheless, a prudent spending policy in the last five years is testament to the club's youth programmes and Mauricio Pochettino's astute purchases and selections.
It's also an indictment of Spurs' fallen rivals.
In the same period, Arsenal's net spend was £205m (embarrassing), Chelsea's was £192m (justified), Liverpool's was £121m (wobbly) and both Manchester clubs' was around £400m (utterly humiliating).
Tottenham, on the other hand, have made a little go a very long way.
NET SPEND OF TOP SIX CLUBS (LAST FIVE YEARS):
- Man City — £402.6m
- Man United — £368.7m
- Arsenal — £205.9m
- Chelsea — £192.3m
- Liverpool — £121.5m
- Tottenham — £1m
*£1 = S$1.8
2) DOING A UNITED ON UNITED
Man United's trips to Tottenham were always a showcase of hand-reared kids and experienced mavericks and so it proved again yesterday morning. Only the roles had reversed.
Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier were either homegrown or spotted early, recruited and fine-tuned, the way United used to do it.
While Mourinho's men were a rogue's gallery of overpriced superstars, erratic thoroughbreds and ageing legends, the way Tottenham used to be.
Despite their financial limitations - or perhaps because of them - Spurs are promoting nascent talents to the first XI and keeping them there.
Mourinho picks the kids only as a form of petulant protest.
Liverpool and Man City continue to shuffle their packs in the vague hope of pulling out an ace that suits their systems and Arsenal keep signing the same, diminutive midfield dynamo.
At Tottenham, the kids are all right.
3) BUYING A ROUND PEG FOR A ROUND HOLE
From Leicester's N'Golo Kante to, er, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante, round pegs in round holes win titles.
Victor Wanyama performed a similar role for Tottenham.
Not a title winner, obviously, but the right man for a specific job and arguably one of the signings of the season.
As transfer strategies go, it's hardly reinventing the wheel, but City and Liverpool are both guilty of imposing playing systems on the wrong players.
Arsenal spent a season stubbornly not signing a striker and United supporters deserve a prize for guessing who does what at Old Trafford from week to week.
At Tottenham, each footballer has an obvious sphere of influence. Each signing has a clear role and responsibility.
They haven't all worked (Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko), but Wanyama has undoubtedly improved the line-up.
4) STICKING TO THE SCRIPT
Chelsea won the league in 2015 with a regular 4-2-3-1 and near-identical personnel.
Leicester's title triumph had 4-4-2 and quick counter-attacking in their DNA.
And Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 was a happy accident turned into intelligent design. The Blues' line-up, approach and delivery are generally the same.
As Ryan Giggs pointed out, footballers are simple creatures that thrive in familiarity.
If they play regularly, in regular positions, they typically play more consistently. It stands to reason. But reason was a one-sided quality at White Hart Lane yesterday morning.
Pochettino's 4-2-3-1 was typically straightforward with duties clearly delineated.
Mourinho's United was another schizophrenic incarnation of man-markers, with even Juan Mata and Michael Carrick tasked with tracking key attackers.
Asking poor Carrick to track Alli was like asking a much-loved shaggy dog to chase down a greyhound.
Spurs' midfielders were quicker, stronger and more fluid in attack. They pulled United's ragged defence out of shape, a hallmark of their season.
In Manchester, and Liverpool to a degree, the respective campaigns suffered with a potpourri of selections and tweaks.
Spurs do exactly what it says on the tin. And, for the most part, it works.
5) NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE
One title challenge can be a fluke. Two is a subtle shift in power.
Tottenham fell short, certainly, but they have now finished above both Manchester clubs and Liverpool twice - with only a fraction of those clubs' resources.
They will finish above Arsenal - who play in a stadium twice the size, generating twice the revenue (from the most expensive tickets in the EPL).
Tottenham also earned a new club points' record for a single season - on a net spend of just £1m across five years.
Spurs' progress shames all but Chelsea. They haven't joined the big boys. They have surpassed them. And for United, City, Liverpool and Arsenal, that's unforgivable.