Arsène Wenger has warned Tottenham Hotspur that they will find it very difficult to remain a competitive force in the Premier League while also adjusting to life at a new stadium and that the settling-in process could take two years.
The Frenchman’s comments came on the day Tottenham confirmed they will use Wembley as a temporary home next season as work is completed on a new stadium, estimated to cost £800m, on the current White Hart Lane site, which will increase Spurs’ capacity from 32,000 to 61,000 and is scheduled to open for the 2018-19 season.
Before Arsenal’s last visit to White Hart Lane for Sunday’s north London derby, Wenger offered a bleak outlook for their local rivals – who currently sit four places and 14 points ahead of Arsenal and know a 16th consecutive home victory will guarantee they finish above them for the first time since 1995 – drawing on his own club’s experience of moving from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium 11 years ago.
“It will be very difficult [for Tottenham],” he said. “Much more than you imagine. First of all because you face financial restrictions, as we did, although it may be less in future because you have more income. And secondly because you don’t feel at home like you were before and need to recreate a kind of history to feel comfortable and to feel like you play at home. I would say it will take two years [for Spurs to adjust].”
Tottenham’s last game at White Hart Lane will be against Manchester United on 14 May and then for the next 12 months they will play their home matches at the national stadium, something which has not proved a happy experience for the club this season. They won only one of the four Champions League and Europa League matches there as well as losing last week’s FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea.
In a statement to confirm the move to Wembley, Tottenham’s chairman, Daniel Levy, said: “This marks a momentous day in our club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.
“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years. We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”