Spurs face a tricky match on Sunday as they try to extend their record run of six consecutive wins in the Premier League. Stoke are also in good form, two wins from two and are bolstered by the return of Rory Delap and Jermaine Pennant.
Spurs’ excellent form is no secret but they will be tested by an improving Stoke City. Lambasted upon their return to the top flight for their physical style, Stoke have gradually become a more sophisticated football team. They create two more goal scoring chances per game and have also improved their passing (10% more passes per match and 6% greater completion percentage) in this, their fourth top flight campaign. Stoke have won their last two matches scoring four times and conceding only once. They have scored only 14 times this season, the third least in the division and they also make more defensive errors than in previous Premier League campaigns. They are making defensive mistakes at double the rate they did in their first season. They are scoring less and conceding more.
Stoke have been destroyed by Bolton and Sunderland, two of the poorest teams in the division, after European matches. A mixture of fatigue and rotation were at the root of both of those defeats. Generally a well organised side, Stoke are excellent at set pieces and difficult to break down. Spurs will need to draw Stoke out of position and force them into making defensive errors.
Spurs have achieved their excellent run through a combination of midfield solidity and speed out wide. Last Saturday, Gary Cahill became the fourth opposition player to be dismissed against Spurs this season. This is demonstrative of Spurs’ strengths. Opposition sides become frustrated as they are denied possession and are often forced to bring players down when beaten by speed. Stoke are less likely to fall into this trap. They rarely enjoy more than 40% possession and are set up to absorb pressure, defend deep and find a scoring chance at set pieces. Their static positioning is a major weakness as well as a source of strength. They do not read the play particularly well, with only nine interceptions per game (Spurs make 18). Opposition teams also take the ball past Stoke players between eight and nine times per game. Spurs’ team is full of players with dribbling skills. Gareth Bale has 26 successful dribbles this season. Lennon, Modric, Adebayor and Walker are all also dangerous with the ball at their feet.
Most pundits and fans have predicted that Spurs will continue their winning run. However, Spurs’ greatest weakness is Stoke’s biggest strength. Stoke score more goals from headers than any other team in the division. Spurs concede more headed goals than any other team. Stoke could include as many as four former Spurs players. Peter Crouch has spoken of his desire to beat his former teammates this week and they will be keen to impress their boisterous home fans.
Spurs have scored 28 goals and conceded only eight since August. Eleven games unbeaten and six wins on the bounce have Spurs playing with flair and confidence. The potential absence of King, Bale, Defoe and Sandro is a concern and will undoubtedly weaken Spurs, but a bench of internationals should keep the starting eleven strong. Stoke pose an interesting opposition but Spurs have beaten better teams in this run, so they will be confident of extending their run.
We’ll leave you with Passing Stats from last years corresponding game at the Britannia. These stats are from the new Quick Match Stats Area (more info here) here at the EPLIndex Stats Centre (Subscribe Now to view Opta stats & write for EPLIndex.com)