For the first time in Andre Villas-Boas’ managerial career, the Portuguese entered a second season with a football club – Tottenham Hotspur.
A manager known for his intense tactical detail, compared to his predecessor Harry Redknapp, who told his team to ‘f***ing run around a bit.”
Interestingly, Villas-Boas’ start to Spurs life wasn’t appreciated by some of the the White Hart Lane faithful, with boos and chants of ‘AVB out’ across N17 after drawing 1-1 to Norwich and West Bromwich Albion in his two first home games.
A year later, Andre Villas-Boas is looked upon in a more positive light after working wonders in the 2012/2013 season with a team that lost Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and club legend Ledley King in AVB’s first summer in charge, and recorded their best ever Premier League points total.
This is very much now Villas-Boas’ team, with signings such as Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Mousa Dembele, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado featuring in the starting XI so far this season.
In this article I will analyse the defensive, passing, creativity and attacking statistics.
Tottenham Hotpsur Defence
Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembele have attempted the most tackles so far this season, with Dembele attempting a total of 16 tackles, winning 15 – a 94% tackles won rate. A lot has been said of Mousa Dembele’s performances for Spurs, last season he was seen as the rock of the Spurs side, this season he has been seen as someone who doesn’t contribute an awful. But in fact, he’s averaging a challenge won every 7.24 minute, averaging 36.2 mins per tackle won and 11.31 mins per ground duel.
Kyle Walker has attempted 16 tackles, winning 12 of those – a 75% tackle win rate. Full backs are seen as an integral part of the attacking phase of play in modern football, but some underestimate full backs’ defensive abilities. The full back has attempted more tackles than his defensive colleagues Michael Dawson (7/10 won), Jan Vertonghen (4/5 won), Danny Rose (6/10 won) and Kyle Naughton (3/3 won).
Only Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton have a better tackles won %, but until they reach the amount of tackles that Walker has attempted, it is hard to compare them.
Etienne Capoue boasts a 89% tackles won rate, winning 8 of his 9 attempted tackles. The Frenchman was a key component of the Spurs defensive midfield set up in the first three games, his 8 tackles won shows that Spurs will miss someone of his ability.
The Spurs back four boasted one of Europe’s best defences until their collapse at home versus West Ham United last weekend, and will need Dawson and Vertonghen back to their best for the game versus Aston Villa on the 20th, with both centre backs putting in poor performances against WHU.
Spurs have been playing a high defensive line for the last year now, and while Vertonghen, Walker and Rose/Assou Ekotto seem comfortable playing this way, Michael Dawson still massively struggles with Villas-Boas’ defensive structure. This was evident against Arsenal in the 1-0 defeat, and could also take defensive blame for Morrison’s goal on Sunday, although Vertonghen was also at fault. The pair need a better understanding, and while Spurs fans may not appreciate Dawson playing in a high defensive line, he does the jobs that Vertonghen doesn’t like to do. Michael Dawson has successfully attempted 51 total clearances, also attempting 36 headed clearances. He’s the man who puts his body on the line for the team, while Vertonghen has the intelligence to read the game, his (13) interceptions are an example of this. They have had a solid start to the Premier League so far season as a pairing, but I imagine there will be another catastrophe in defence, it wouldn’t be the Spurs way if it didn’t happen.
Tottenham Hotspur Passing
As a team, Spurs have attempted 3,551 passes, with 2,979 passes finding their target – an 84% pass rate. Kyle Walker tops the total passes played, with (392/458 accurate passes played), and because 42% of his passes were played to the left, he is establishing a relationship with Paulinho or Dembele dropping deep to start the play, or passing to his captain, Michael Dawson.
While Kyle Walker has attempted the most passes, it is Mousa Dembele who has the best passing rate in the Spurs side, with 320/350 accurate passes – a 91% pass rate. One criticism of Mousa Dembele is that his passing isn’t incisive enough, which is shown with the high percentage of passes left and right (both 29%) with his passes forward only 23% and passes backwards 19%. People forget that Spurs were so used to Luka Modric’s incisive passing, and because Dembele was seen as a replacement to Modric – which evidently is incorrect. What Mousa Dembele needs to do is pinpoint a specific characteristic for himself as a midfielder because so far, it’s hard to pinpoint what he does best, although he does retain possession well.
What has troubled Spurs so far is their lack of creativity in the final third, which will be covered in the next section.
This is shown in their poor accuracy in the final 3rd, with 832 passes accurate out of a total of 1,144 – a 73% final 3rd pass completion, which could affect their impotency in front of goal this season, with just 6 goals. But if they introduce a better game plan to help Roberto Soldado in front of goal, with Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Soldado forming a relationship, it could help their creativity and turn chances into goals.
Next Page: Tottenham Creativity and Attacking (please use the next page button below)
Tottenham Hotspur Creativity
Much was made of Spurs’ opening three games and their lack of creativity, having to rely on Roberto Soldado scoring from the penalty spot for their opening two wins, and their 1-0 loss to Arsenal just lacked incisive passing and any urgency whatsoever.
Christian Eriksen changed that against Norwich City, linking up perfectly with Roberto Soldado and Gylfi Sigurdsson to get Spurs’ first two goals in open play.
Eriksen has played just four games for Spurs, but has created (9) chances, with (6) of those in open play.
Spurs have completed 116 out of 176 dribbles, 48 of those 176 dribbles coming from winger Andros Townsend, with a dribbling accuracy of 69%. The England debutant has also created (9) chances, with (7) of those in open play.
The sheer amount of crosses going in the box (176) and just (32) of those accurate must worry Andre Villas-Boas and his staff, as Roberto Soldado will need better accuracy from crosses if Spurs are going to get the best out of the Spaniard, but I will analyse more about this in the attacking section.
When I saw the amount of clear-cut chances created, I initally thought, ‘Hmm, that’s quite low.’
But I could not have been more wrong.
Compared to Manchester City (14) who are the Premier League’s highest in clear cut chances created, Spurs have created (10) clear cut chances, one of the highest alongside Arsenal (10) and Liverpool (10).
Spurs are creating a clear-cut chance every 66.4 minutes.
So what’s the problem with Spurs? They’re creating chances, but no-one is on the end of the chances, it seems?
Tottenham Hotspur Attacking
To put it simply, Spurs have been woeful in front of goal so far this season.
The North London outfit are averaging a goal every 111 mins. They have had a total of 99 shots, 58 of those off target, with 41 on target.
They are averaging a shot every 7 minutes, with a shot on target every 16 minutes. Their shooting accuracy is 41% and their chance conversion is just 6%.
A lot has been said about Spurs impotency in front of goal. A lot has been said about Roberto Soldado. But most of the criticism must go to Andre Villas-Boas’ inverted wingers tactic.
The inverted wingers tactic only works when the full backs can give you width, but since Danny Rose has took a knock, the left back position has gone to the right footed defender Kyle Naughton.
So, what you have on the left hand side is Naughton and Sigurdsson, both players who will come in on their right foot and leave the Spurs team looking narrow.
While, on the right hand side, Spurs only have Kyle Walker keeping the width throughout the whole team, with Andros Townsend coming in on his favoured left foot, which has brought a hell of a lot of shots, but no goals.
A lot has been said of Andros Townsend, I for one am a huge fan, but even his father – Troy Townsend – said on a Spurs podcast called ‘The Fighting Cock’ that he sees his son playing on the left flank. And I don’t disagree.
So far this season, with Townsend coming off the right, the young England player has registered (26) shots, with only (8) being on target, (8) off target and (10) of his shots blocked. It seems that Villas-Boas is trying to mould him into Gareth Bale, but he’s nowhere near the level of Bale, yet.
The problem with the inverted wingers is that it leaves Spurs very narrow, and leaves Roberto Soldado looking a little bit isolated. He thrives on passes in behind the defence, and wingers getting to the byline to cut back to the striker.
Paulinho has had (25) shots from midfield, (12) of his shots have been off target, he has registered (1) goal, and not a bad one at that.
Last season, Spurs played to Gareth Bale’s strengths.
This season, why not play to their £26m striker’s strengths?
Linking up with Christian Eriksen, Andros Townsend and Erik Lamela will do no harm to the team, if anything, it might put a few goals on the scoreboard. With Lamela on the right, Townsend on the left with Eriksen playing the no.10 role, it would certainly help Soldado, with creativity coming centrally and to the right, Andros Townsend has the ability to get to the byline to cross for Soldado.
Soldado has scored (2) goals, both from the penalty spot. He’s had 15 shots, (6) of those on target, (5) off target and (4) blocked – contributing to a 55% shot accuracy and a 50% clear cut chance conversion, only bettered by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 75% CCC.
Comparison To Last Season
This time last year, in Spurs’ opening 7 games, the North London outfit took 14 points from a possible 21. So far this season in Spurs’ opening 7 games, they have taken 13 points. Obviously, one point less than the season before, but with a totally different squad.
So far this season, Spurs have struggled for goals, with just 6 goals scored in 7 games. Only the current bottom five Premier League teams (Stoke City, Fulham, Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Sunderland) have a worse Goals Scored record than Spurs, conceding 5 goals in the process, 3 of those against West Ham United. Compare this to last season, where Spurs netted 13 goals and conceded 8 in 7 matches.
Comparing this season’s fixtures to last year’s corresponding fixtures, it looks like this:
- 2013/2014 (a) Crystal Palace. 1-0 win for Spurs – vs – 2012/2013 (a) at Queens Park Rangers. 0-0 draw. (Palace were third team promoted, QPR placed bottom in League)
- 2013/2014 (h) Swansea City. 1-0 win for Spurs – vs – 2012/2013 (h) Swansea City. 1-0 for Spurs.
- 2013/2014 (a) Arsenal. 1-0 win for Arsenal – vs – 2012/2013 (a) Arsenal. 5-2 win for Arsenal.
- 2013/2014 (h) Norwich City. 2-0 win for Spurs – vs – 2012/2013 (h) Norwich City. 1-1 draw.
- 2013/2014 (a) Cardiff City. 1-0 win for Spurs – vs – 2012/2013 (a) Wigan. 2-2 draw. (Cardiff won the Championship, Wigan were highest placed Premier League team to be relegated)
- 2013/2014 (h) Chelsea. 1-1 draw – vs – 2012/2013 (h) Chelsea. 4-2 win for Chelsea.
- 2013/2014 (h) West Ham United. 3-0 win for WHU – vs – 2012/2013 (h) West Ham. 3-1 win for Spurs.
13 points for Spurs this season in these fixtures. 9 points for Spurs last season in these fixtures. A four point improvement for Spurs so far.
If Andre Villas-Boas is to get Champions League football next season, he has to beat the lesser teams at White Hart Lane. Spurs have a fine away record, but until they can put away teams under pressure at White Hart Lane, see the West Ham result, it could be another 5th place finish, which would put Villas-Boas under a lot of pressure. Warranted or unwarranted.