Tottenham’s Wembley woes assessed

Last season Spurs boasted the best premier league home record going the whole season unbeaten at white heart lane. At the lane Tottenham picked up 53 points winning 17 and drawing two. Away from home they only managed 33 points on their way to second place. Spurs managed to turn White Heart Lane into a fortress and this became the backbone of their title bid.

Interestingly last season when Tottenham played their Champions League home games at Wembley they were unable to transfer their home form from the lane to Wembley. In their four European ‘home’ games at Wembley last season they has a 25% win record winning one of their four games. Compare this to the 89% win record they had at the lane and the size of the issue becomes clear.

So why have Tottenham struggled at Wembley?

Part of the answer may have been given to them from North London rivals Arsenal who used the old Wembley for European matched between 1998-2000. After two unsuccessful seasons using Wembley Arsene Wenger explained the difficulties in playing at Wembley. Wenger remarked,

“It was a nightmare. In hindsight, it was the wrong decision.

We decided to go to Wembley but we didn’t feel at home.

The pitch was bigger, the ground was different and for the English players it was something completely unusual.

We were used to a tight pitch. It was a disadvantage for sure.”

– Arsene Wenger           

Highbury and White Heart Lane were both famous for their smaller and narrower pitches. White Heart Lane was so small that it didn’t meet the pitch size requirement set by the premier league. However, they were given special dispensation due to the touchline being so close to the spectators making it impossible to make the pitch any bigger, QPR and Chelsea have both been granted a similar dispensation by the premier league.

Spurs high intensity pressing was perfectly suited to the narrow confines of White Heart Lane and is something they have initially struggled to replicate at Wembley. Opposition players have more time on the ball and are less hurried to pick a pass.

Although Wembley is having a negative effect on Tottenham it could just be that it is having a positive effect on visiting teams. Playing at Wembley the home of football is a dream that could only be previously attained by playing international football or reaching the later stages of a domestic cup. Now that Wembley has been opened up to every team in the premier league when playing spurs it has given the chance for players from lower clubs who are unlikely to play internationally or reach a cup final to perform on the hallow turf of Wembley. The effect of this is for opposing players to up their game for a trip to Wembley and unfortunately for Spurs making their job just a little bit more difficult.

For Tottenham to compete for a champions league place this season they’re going to need to somehow replicate last seasons home form, and after Sundays 2-1 defeat to Chelsea they have gotten off to the worst possible start.