After the first four league matches of the season, there is enough evidence to start judging Tottenham’s progress from last season. Spurs had 5 points after four games last season. After a tougher start this season they have 6. They had both scored and conceded 3 goals; those figures stand at 7 and 8 respectively.
Spurs were blown away in the first two games this season and stopped the rot with improved performances at Molineux and against Liverpool. They have conceded a massive 63 goal scoring chances so far. They have created almost as many (61) with a third of those coming against a poor Liverpool side. It is interesting to note that last season Spurs had actually conceded more chances (68) and created far fewer (35). By this measure, Spurs have tightened up their defence and vastly improved their creativity. Of course, these statistics don’t tell the entire story, we have to dig a little deeper to really measure the progress from last season.
Many statistics indicate a modified style which may have contributed to those improved statistics. Spurs are playing twice as many through balls this season (6 instead of 3) and substantially fewer long balls and flick ons. They have improved their passing rate by 5% too. The presence of Emmanuel Adebayor (who has only played 2 of the 4 matches so far) may have contributed to this tactical change. His pace and mobility make him an ideal target for through balls and also drag defenders away from his strike partner, Jermain Defoe. Defoe has benefited substantially from the presence of a strong and creative forward to play with. Last season, Defoe was often partnered with Crouch or Van der Vaart. Neither player was able to add to Defoe’s game in this way. Van der Vaart likes to drop off and play between the lines, leaving Defoe isolated.
Another of Spurs’ new signings, Brad Friedel has also contributed to the improved start this season. Spurs have made substantially fewer defensive errors than last season. A calm and well organised ‘keeper can make all the difference for a back four.
So Spurs are changing the way they play in order to get the best out of their new signings. Scott Parker plays a role in tandem with Modric; the two are building an effective central partnership and their combination of silk and steel form the nucleus of this new style. The seeming success of Spurs current setup raises questions about the role of Van der Vaart, Sandro and Huddlestone, each key players for Spurs in the past.