Of all our summer signings, Nacer Chadli was the most low-key arrival. What’s more, the 6’1” wide forward hasn’t had the chance to make much of an impact due to injury.
So far this season our attack hasn’t caught the imagination like we’d hoped for having signed some expensive talent. The left side has been a particular problem though. Not only due to the number of players that have been given the role, but also the lack of chances we’ve created from this side.
So, could the return of Nacer Chadli boost our production down this flank?
Spurs’ left side
The left side of the team has been a real problem this season and it’s not just been the wide forward, but also the left back.
Danny Rose started the campaign in the position and his forward bursts got him in to attacking positions. His injury has meant that Jan Vertonghen has covered the role.
While he is able to get forward, Vertonghen doesn’t have the speed to burst past his wide forward on the overlap or recover ground quickly like Rose if the ball is lost.
Take Danny Rose’s performance away against Arsenal – a team that plays 4-2-3-1. We can see how much he gets up the line to receive the ball. We can also see how Nacer Chadli moves play forward to him to progress the attack.
Compare that with Jan Vertonghen away to Everton – another decent team that also plays 4-2-3-1. Vertonghen is playing with another inverted wide player in Aaron Lennon so should be offering width.
The Belgian does receive a lot of longer passes hit to him from the centre of the park to switch the attack, which he can bring under control due to his height. But he doesn’t get up the field enough or take the ball played up the line. Lennon’s passes to him are all backwards or in the middle third of the pitch.
But it’s not just the full backs; the wide forward on the left in front of them has also struggled as well to create chances, whether it’s been Lennon, Lamela or Sigurdsson.
Lennon is arguably the most one footed player we have and much better on the right flank. Sigurdsson plays the role extremely narrow and is better at bursting through the inside left channel to score goals rather than create them – as he did on his strikes against Norwich and Chelsea. Whilst Erik Lamela only played there in the debacle at Man City, but looked like a wide forward playing on the wrong side.
This lack of cohesion, and also lack of consistency, has lead to our left side being one of the least productive in terms of chance creation in the Premier League.
Only Hull, Arsenal and Fulham have created less of their chances down the left side than Spurs. Whilst only Newcastle, Arsenal and Fulham have a bigger imbalance in their chances created between left and right flanks.
Take our home loss to Newcastle, where we took a massive 31 shots and Tim Krul played a blinder. Our decent chance creation from good attacking areas inside the box came from the right side, whilst only one cross came in from the left.
Return of Nacer Chadli key?
The return to fitness of Nacer Chadli could prove key to getting more production out of the left side and making our attack more balanced as a whole.
In our trip to the Emirates, we saw how he linked with Danny Rose, but Chadli also offers the ability to get in beyond the full back in the final third himself. This gives his combination with the full back more of a one-two punch than that of a generic inverted wide player who just cuts inside and leaves the full back to overlap.
Being tall, he is the focus for long switches in play, as the ball often travels over distance to him, which he can then bring down under his control. But he also goes up the line, which keeps the defence honest, rather than them sitting narrow against a player that always cuts inside.
We can see this against Arsenal, but also how he was attempting to get in-behind his marker to supply short crosses and pull backs from inside the penalty area. This is the Andre Villas-Boas way of scoring goals.
We also saw this in our opening match of the season at Crystal Palace.
Nacer Chadli here was also the focus for long switches in play of the ball when it is transferred across the pitch. This increases the tempo of the attack.
Whilst he does come inside to receive the ball, as at the Emirates, he also goes up the line, trying to get in-behind in order to create some service for his team mates.
This type of play from the left flank is something we’ve been missing since Nacer Chadli has been out with injury.
In three Premier League starts and a substitute appearance against Chelsea, he is creating a chance to score every 30 minutes. This is much better than Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 79 minutes per chance created in his seven appearances on the left in the Premier League. It’s also better than Aaron Lennon’s 69 minutes per chance created in his three league appearances on that side.
Whilst Danny Rose is an important factor, the return to fitness of Nacer Chadli will go a long way to rectifying the problem of our sputtering left side.