Our struggles to find the back of the net this season have been major source of frustration. Here are 5 reasons why Spurs have sputtered in front of goal.
1. Getting shots in the box
This season, with a switch to 4-3-3, we were supposed to see players driving and cutting in to the box in order to create great close-range scoring chances. Whilst the team has been trying to fashion opportunities in this way, we’ve more often than not had to settle for shots from outside the box.
Of teams in the current top eight in the Premier League, our shots from inside the box are the lowest proportion of total shots.
|% In box||Goals|
There’s a nice correlation going on between teams that have scored the most goals and the percentage of shots they take from inside 18-yards.
Man City have struck the most goals in the Premier League so far and a large part of why they have had such success is they’ve been able to get shots inside the area. They currently take the highest proportion of shots inside the box and have scored the most goals.
Woolwich take the second highest proportion of shots from inside the area, they also have the second highest tally of goals.
Liverpool bucks the trend slightly beng the third highest scorers, but their 58% of shots coming from inside the box is the fifth highest.
Next are Man Utd and Chelsea with 18 goals. The Red Devils are being extremely efficient this season, having taken the fewest strikes at goal of any team in the top 8, but 60% of these are from inside the area.
For Spurs, the range of our shot taking is not the only worry, but also the balance of shooters.
|% in box||Acc||Mins|
Andros Townsend is taking way too many strikes for his own good, of which only 13% are inside the penalty area. He has the lowest accuracy of any Spurs attacking player with at least 5 attempts at the target. His one goal from 46 efforts is testament that he shouldn’t be firing away so much, as a shot every 19.5 minutes from him is the equivalent to where Gareth Bale was at last season. Andros isn’t at that level just yet.
But it’s not just Townsend, Paulinho comes next with 36 efforts or a strike every 29 minutes on pitch. He gets a healthy 64% from inside the area, but with his style of play of arriving late in the box, whilst also being good in the air, this figure should be higher. His goal at Cardiff was a typical Paulinho strike, rather than the shooting from range that has become increasingly prevalent.
In complete contrast, Roberto Soldado gets 96% of his shots off in the box and hits the target with 39% of them. Not bad on both accounts, it’s just the frequency of them that he struggles with. A shot every 36 minutes on pitch is almost twice the rate of Andros Townsend and also less frequent than Paulinho, highlighting our current imbalance.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is also taking shots more frequently than Roberto Soldado with a pop every 28 minutes. He does have three goals from open play, but again takes most of his efforts from outside the box. The Icelander seems to look to shoot at every opportunity as he tries to prove he is worth a regular starting place in the team, but on the flip side, he is the most accurate.
Of the rest, the standout is Jermain Defoe with just 6 shots from a player that fires on sight. Although he does take shots on early, sometimes from outside the box, 50% of his efforts from distance is also a worrying figure given that he makes a living inside the area.
2. Opposition defences sitting deep
Linked to taking shots from distance is the fact that opposition defences are sitting deep in order to take away any space in-behind. We all know this and it’s been going on since last season and been discussed in many a match report on this site.
The actual depth at which opposition defences have been sat has been bordering on the absurd this season. I’m not a huge fan of average position diagrams as they are built on touches of the ball, but the levels of players on the pitch, rather than their location, can give some insight.
From just looking at our last two home matches in the Premier League, Hull had only one starting player who averaged touches of the ball in our half, which was Yannick Sagbo (20).
The Magpies’ twin strike force of Loic Remy (14) and Shola Ameobi (23), along with Mohammad Sissoko (7), were the only Newcastle players who averaged touches over halfway.
Defences sitting deep are a common game plan and something we’ll have to solve. This has forced us in to playing a possession game and more side-to-side passing than we’d like and thus the shots from distance. However, I’d rather we kept probing, looking for an opening, than firing away from outside. Quality of chance rather than quantity has to be the mantra going forward.
3. Pitch size
Opposition defences sitting deep are not helped by the fact that we have one of the smallest pitches.
The official Premier League handbook does state that pitches should be 105 metres in length and 68 metres in width, but can be as short as 100m and 64m if a ground’s construction prohibits it being this big.
The Lane’s playing surface, at just 100m long and 67m wide, sees it as the fourth smallest playing area in the Premier League. Only Stoke, Fulham and Crystal Palace have less space to operate in.
A playing area at the full dimensions offers 7140 square metres for players to go to to work in. Whilst the Lane might not seem far off at just 5m shorter and 1m narrower, this means it has just 6700 square metres for us to break teams down, some 440 less for opponents to guard.
4. Converting ‘Big Chances’
Opta defines a big chance as “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range.”
Despite defences sitting deep, Spurs have been creating ‘Big Chances.’ In fact we lead the Premier League and also our top 8 main rivals for a Champions League spot this season.
|Big chances||Big chances|
What has been worrying is that we’ve been far more wasteful with these opportunities than those teams around us in the table.
Quite a few players have been culpable, but Roberto Soldado and Paulinho lead the way.
|Big chances||Big chances|
That’s 24 ‘big chances’ created of which we’ve missed 17 (71%). With teams playing so defensively against us, we need to take these to draw them out.
5. Shots being blocks and hitting the woodwork
It’s not just ‘big chances’ that we’ve been missing, but we also lead the Premier League in two other unwanted categories – Shots blocked and hit the woodwork.
Of course when you take a lot of shots you have a higher chance of either an opposition player getting in the way or it striking the frame of the goal.
However, we’ve seen 51 of our shots stopped from getting near the target by being blocked. Of our top eight rivals, Man City come a close second with 49, but as we saw earlier, they take a lot more shots from inside the box where you’d expect a great deal of traffic.
Chelsea are third on 48, but they too get a high amount of their shots from close in. After that, there’s then a rather large gap to Woolwich on 39, Southampton on 37, Liverpool on 33 and the ever-efficient Man Utd on 31.
Spurs also lead the League in shots striking the woodwork with 5 along with Everton and last season’s runaway leaders in this category, Liverpool.
Man Utd have hit the frame of the goal 4 times, but top scorers Man City and Woolwich have struck it just twice, as have Chelsea.
The problem for Spurs is that most of our rivals, even if they are having their shots blocked, are not hitting the woodwork. And if they are hitting the woodwork, then they are not seeing their shots blocked as frequently as us.
This, combined with the other factors above is seeing us sputter in front of goal this season.