Reasons to be cheerful #2

Post 15

5th June 2017

This is the second in a series of what I’m calling ‘Summer Reflections’.

Today I’m going to provide an overview of our Defence stats.

Spurs conceded a total of 44 goals last season in 53 matches (at an average rate of 0.83 goals let in a game). Of these, 18 were scored against us in 15 Cup and European matches (at 1.20 per match), whereas only 26 were scored against us in the Premier League (at 0.68 per match).

                                  Games          Goals Conceded   Average per Game

Premier League        38                   26                                0.68

Cups / Europe          15                    18                                1.20

Total                           53                    44                                0.83

The total of just 26 goals conceded was an all time record for Spurs. Our previous best was 33 goals (1970/71 old First Division, 42 matches @ 0.79 per game) and 35 goals (2015/16 previous PL best).

Home

We conceded just 9 goals in our 19 PL matches at White Hart Lane; to Liverpool (Milner, pen), Leicester (Musa), West Ham 2 (Antonio, Lanzini pen), Burnley (Barnes), Everton 2 (Lukaku, Valencia), Southampton (Ward-Prowse) and Manchester United (Rooney).

The last of the only 2 goals listed above that actually cost us points at WHL was Musa’s goal for Leicester way back on 29th October 2016 (following an early season mistake by Wanyama). After that, we beat West Ham and Everton despite allowing them to score twice (both matches won 3-2) and defeated Burnley, Southampton and Manchester United (all 2-1). No other opponents scored. Our goal difference at WHL was a ridiculous +38 (scored 47, conceded 9) which means we scored an average of exactly 2 goals a game more than the visiting teams. Put another way, our ‘average score’ at home was 2 ½ – ½ !

The total of 9 home goals conceded was another all time record for Spurs. Our previous best was 10 goals (2008/09 previous PL best) and 13 goals (1970/71 old First Division, 21 matches @ 0.62 per game).

Away

We conceded 17 goals in 19 PL away matches; to Everton (Barkley free-kick on opening day), Middlesbrough (Gibson), West Brom (Chadli), Arsenal (Wimmer OG), Chelsea 2 (Pedro, Moses), Manchester United (Mkhitaryan), Southampton (Van Dijk), Watford (Kaboul), Man City 2 (Sane, De Bruyne), Liverpool 2 (Mane 2), Swansea (Routledge), West Ham (Lanzini), Leicester (Chilwell) and Hull (Clucas). Our away goal difference was +22 (scored 39, against 17), slightly flattered by the 6-1 and 7-1 victories in the final week. Our average result away was slightly better than 2-1.

Overall, only three teams scored 3 PL goals against us all season (home and away): Liverpool, Everton and West Ham. Another five teams managed 2 goals: Chelsea, Man City, Man United, Leicester and Southampton. Seven teams scored just once against us: Arsenal, Burnley, Hull, Middlesbrough, Swansea, Watford and West Brom. Finally, four teams drew a blank home and away: Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Sunderland.

Goalkeepers

Lloris played 34 PL matches, conceded 24 goals, and kept 15 clean sheets. We had a W 24, D 6, L 4 record with Hugo in goal. He’s officially attributed with 78 saves and 2 errors leading to goals over the PL season.

Vorm played 5 PL matches, conceded 2 goals, and kept 2 clean sheets. He and Lloris both appeared on the opening day away at Everton when Lloris was injured after 35 minutes. We had a W 2, D 3, L 0 record with Michel in goal. He’s attributed with 7 saves and 0 errors leading to goals over the PL season.

                               Games          Goals Conceded   Average per Game

Lloris                        34                    24                                0.70

Vorm                         5                      2                                  0.40

Total (PL)               38                   26                                0.68

 

Three Initial Conclusions:

  • Our Defence can make the difference in matches versus the Top 7

The other ‘Top 7’ Clubs (Chelsea down to Everton in 7th) scored half of all the PL goals scored against us last season (13 out of 26). This probably shouldn’t be a surprise since those teams have the best attacking line-ups. We took 4 points from Man City, Arsenal and Everton, 3 from Chelsea and Man United, but only 1 from Liverpool (= 19 points from 36 available in 12 matches). If we are to improve our ‘Intra-Top 7 Record’ next season, our Defence can contribute by cutting their number of mistakes down even further; for example, not allowing the long-range free kick by Barkley to sneak in, preventing Wimmer’s own goal and Mkhitaryan’s breakaway (admittedly caused by Kane losing possession), Lloris not repeating his two errors versus Man City, avoiding the early defensive chaos at Anfield.

  • We are not overly vulnerable to any particular offensive threat

Just as we scored all types of goals, those we conceded were a mixed bag. The only really hapless defensive PL performances were our first half at Liverpool and our second half at West Ham. Whilst Toby and Jan are both superb CBs, they are blessed with great positional awareness and skill, rather than blistering pace. Therefore, we need Walker and Rose alongside them to provide that recovering speed (for example Walker’s cheeky foul on Sterling at Man City). Without either Walker or Rose, we could possibly be exposed by long balls over the top or played through gaps. Overall, though, last season Spurs were not overly vulnerable to any particular type of goal.

  • We could concede even fewer goals playing safer (but would score less too)

Ultimately, what counts are points, wins and goal difference. It’s important to strike a balance. Remarkably, Manchester United, who sat deep in many of their matches, still let in 3 more PL goals than Spurs over the season, whilst we scored +32 more goals than United. Our entertaining playing style, with a high line and quick transition, will always risk conceding an occasional goal that might be avoided by playing safer.

As Hugo Lloris put it:

“Okay, scoring goals is important but the most important thing is to have a balance, not conceding easy chances and conceding goals because then the game becomes less difficult to win.

“Last season we became the best defence, this season we’re the best defence and that has to be in your DNA, not conceding chances, not conceding goals, playing good football and creating chances.

“Everyone knows what they have to do on the pitch and it’s about positioning, passing, possession and in defensive areas, in both boxes, we need to be clever, smart and have that killer instinct.”

(Source: Official Site)

Looking ahead

It is hard to see how a team with a +60 goal difference and the meanest PL defence can improve. But improve we must. In the Premier League and in Europe.

I suspect that Wimmer will be sold, creating a squad place for a left-sided CB.

I fear that Walker may well also be sold for a variety of reasons (his own and ours). Whatever happens, he’s been a credit to himself and the Club. Massively committed, a serious athlete and a worthy England right back. He’d fetch a tidy sum.

Both Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyle Walker-Peters appear likely to feature in the Club’s longer term plans. Expect bench places for them next season.

One of the signings I’d like us to make is Ryan Sessegnon. Perhaps loaning him back to Fulham for next season to continue his development (although we know Poch doesn’t like the loan system for his best prospects)? I seriously doubt Danny Rose is going anywhere (and very much hope he isn’t).

Next Season, Alderweireld, Vertonghen will continue as our two CBs, with Dier dropping in to make a three-at-the-back. Davies can cover the left-sided CB position (as he does for Wales) if necessary. Carter-Vickers can perhaps cover the right-sided CB position. But we need (and presumably intend to sign) a top CB to replace Wimmer; to provide injury cover, and add depth to our squad for Cups / Europe.

If Walker leaves, then Trippier may step up, but Pochettino will remain committed to rotation of FBs. I doubt Walker-Peters is ready to play that role next Season. One possibility that’s been rumoured is a one-season move for Dani Alves (from Juventus). Whilst I doubt that will happen, it’s an intriguing idea (kind of like the Edgar Davids signing a decade ago). Whatever, I’m sure we’d sign somebody to replace Walker.

The final question relates to the Keeper position. Assuming we sign Pau Lopez, I’d still expect us to keep Vorm next Season, but perhaps let him go in Summer 2018.

Whatever, we will be building on sound foundations! More reasons to be cheerful.

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