The curse of Transition Hotspur reared its ugly head yet again at N17 in December 2013 when chairman Daniel Levy decided to sack Andre Villas-Boas after just 17 months into the job.
While many fans were in two minds whether the Portuguese manager should be sacked, in their poor displays, their lack of goals and inability to put in a good performance against the bigger teams, really cost them.
Villas-Boas managed just one win in his previous six home games before getting the bullet, scoring just 15 goals in 16 games. The North London side conceded five goals at White Hart Lane to eventual runners-up Liverpool, conceding six away to Manchester City at the Etihad, and lost 1-0 away to their arch-rivals Arsenal.
Tim Sherwood was appointed as head coach in mid December, when the former Blackburn and Spurs player states he and Daniel Levy agreed that Champions League qualification would be an aim too far, but Levy wanted them to score goals and win games convincingly.
Sherwood did just that. In 22 Premier League games under Sherwood, Tottenham scored 40 goals.
Sherwood brought Emmanuel Adebayor back in to the fold, and got the best out of the Togo striker, who scored 11 goals in 20 Premier League games. Christian Eriksen arguably played his best football under Sherwood, scoring 7 goals and creating 7 goals under Sherwood (8 assists overall). While the attacking football was considerably better under Sherwood, the defence left a lot to be desired.
Tottenham had a meaner defence under Villas-Boas, despite conceding 11 to Manchester City and Liverpool. Hugo Lloris kept 14 clean-sheets overall in the Premier League, seven clean sheets in 16 games under AVB, 7 in 22 under Tim Sherwood.
Simply put, Spurs were easily one of the worst teams in terms of goals conceded, especially in the top six. Under AVB and Sherwood, Tottenham conceded 51 goals; only Newcastle United and Stoke City had a worse record than Spurs in the top half this campaign.
The most startling statistic of their goals conceded is due to the 27 goals conceded to the top four this season, scoring just two goals in the eight games against them.
Although, in comparison to last season’s defensive statistics, there are some areas where Spurs were better this season. Spurs attempted 750 tackles this season, winning 79% – whereas last season Spurs attempted 745 tackles, winning 76%; averaging 4 minutes per successful tackle this season compared to 8 minutes per successful tackle last season.
Tottenham’s defence was relatively easy to manoeuvre past. They were dribbled past 291 times, made 33 defensive errors (109 minutes per defensive error) and intercepted the ball just 613 times. In comparison to last season, the stats fall heavily in the favour to the 12/13 season where Spurs were dribbled past 196 times, made 28 defensive errors and intercepted the ball a total of 781 times.
Spurs conceded 46 goals last season to the 51 they conceded this season.
Whoever Daniel Levy appoints as Spurs manager this season, their first priority is to set up a defensively solid unit if they are to aim for Champions League qualification, or in the case of Liverpool this season – score a s***load of goals.
The trio of Daniel Levy, Franco Baldini and Andre Villas-Boas added four midfielders to their midfield this summer (Christian Eriksen, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue).
Despite this, their midfield throughout the season was underwhelming, with the exception of Christian Eriksen – who will be analysed in the next section.
In terms of possession and passing zones, there wasn’t too much in difference, but the most important statistic is the volume of times they were dispossessed; Spurs were dispossessed 599 times this season, compared to 466 times in the previous campaign.
Analysing the accurate passing zones between this campaign and last season, Spurs bettered their average in terms of passes compared to last season.
Tottenham played 6332 (total: 6977) accurate defensive zone passes this season; 8497 (total: 11802) accurate attacking zone passes and 3908 (total: 5573) final 3rd passes this season. Although, in terms of percentages of completed passes compared to last season, Spurs fall short of their 2012/2013 campaign again;
As stated earlier in the article, Spurs’ first 16 games under Villas-Boas were woeful in the attacking department (15 goals in 16 games), compared to 40 in 22 games under Tim Sherwood.
In terms of creativity, it’s dire again when comparing the two campaigns. Spurs created just 440 chances this season compared to 516 in the 2012/2013 season; resulting in just 33 goal assists this season – compared to 45 goal assists in the previous season.
Christian Eriksen recorded 8 of the 33 goal assists this season, just under a quarter of the overall assists this season.
The Danish international was a breath of fresh air after the departure of Gareth Bale in the summer; and while the former Ajax player may not have scaled the heights of the Welsh forward this season, if he stays at Spurs for the next campaign, he will be regarded as the player to build Spurs around, much like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric before him.
In terms of goals scored, Spurs fall behind last season’s total yet again. Under Andre Villas-Boas last season, Spurs scored 66 goals, averaging a goal every 55 minutes. This season under AVB and Sherwood, Spurs scored 55 goals, a goal every 66 minutes.
It’s the clear-cut chances missed that will particularly annoy the Spurs fans, considering last season Spurs missed 41 clear-cut chances, compared to 63 this season; as Spurs scored more clear-cut chances this season (29) compared to last season’s (27). Although it can be argued Gareth Bale scored goals, he simply shouldn’t have last season with audacious attempts from outside the box, compared to the inconsistent attempts of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor inside the box this season.
Reinstating Emmanuel Adebayor was a dash of genius by Tim Sherwood, and Adebayor repaid Sherwood’s faith in him, scoring 11 goals in 20 games, but when reports suggesting Sherwood would leave at the end of the season; Adebayor’s form dipped. It will be interesting to see whether Levy, Baldini and whoever comes in, whether it be Mauricio Pochettino, Frank de Boer or Rafa Benitez, decides to sell Adebayor in the summer.
Simply put, Roberto Soldado was not worth the £26m paid for him in the summer, but he had difficulties off the pitch with his wife losing their baby, which would have affected his mindset on and off the pitch, but I think the Spaniard will prove to be a hit next season unless Diego Simeone loses Diego Costa to Chelsea next season, with the Argentinian supposedly keen on the former Valencia man to move to Atleti.
Many pundits have stated that Spurs spent £100m on seven players (Soldado, Lamela, Eriksen, Chiriches, Capoue, Chadli and Paulinho) in the summer transfer window – but in reality they spent between £5-10m after the departures of star man Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and young centre-back Steven Caulker to Cardiff City.
Nevertheless, only one of the players bought in the summer can be seen as a success – Christian Eriksen.
Spurs gained just one point from the top four all season, and that point was against Chelsea back in late September under Villas-Boas.
If Spurs are to break into the top four next season, they will need to perform against the top four while adding stability to their defensive unit.