Return of Nacer Chadli key to Spurs’ sputtering left side

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.


Danny Rose passes received and Nacer Chadli passes to Danny Rose: Arsenal 1 Spurs 0.

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.


Jan Vertonghen passes received and Aaron Lennon passes to Jan Vertonghen: Everton 0 Spurs 0.

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.


Spurs chances created against Newcastle (0-1).

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.


Nacer Chadli passes received and played: Arsenal 1 Spurs 0.

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.


Nacer Chadli passes received and played: Crystal Palace 0 Spurs 1.

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.

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13 Responses to Return of Nacer Chadli key to Spurs’ sputtering left side

  1. Einar 29th November 2013 at 10:37 am #

    still.. even though he’s not playing in his natural position, Sigurdsson has scored 4 goals and had 3 assists (would be more if not for clumsy team mates) from the left side.

    The problem is that we have not had a real LB to work with Sigurdsson in this inverted winger tactic in the last games. And Townsend on the right does attack there.. but with no end results or goals. The team does look more to attack on the right side. But that has not produced anything for us.

    Removing Sigurdsson from the team and bench him has not done well for the team. But … what do i know.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th November 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Good post Einar, are you Icelandic? I only remember 1 assist for Sigurdsson this season – in the qualifying round of the Europa League against Dinamo Tbilisi. OPTA have 0 assists for domestic competitions.

      I’m in two minds about Sigurdsson. I don’t want to call him selfish, but he does shoot too often. I’m unsure whether this is his natural game or if he is desperately trying to score at any opportunity so as to force his way in to a more regular place in the team. Chadli seems more of a team player for me.

      • Einar 29th November 2013 at 1:18 pm #

        Yes he has 3 assists now in the Europa league. And 4 goals in all competitions… out of his natural position on the left :)

        Sometimes, like other players, he should take better decisions. Like yesterday when in the first half his shot was just wide of the far post, Soldado was in a better position and Gylfi should have tried to pass the ball to him. But i guess having 2 assists in the game in some way makes up for that, yes? – But i would not call him selfish.
        He can score goals.. so taking a couple of shots in a game is not a big deal in my opinion.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th November 2013 at 6:54 pm #

          Ahh i see you counted assists on both goals against Tromso. Whilst they were aiding a goal being scored, which is a bonus for us given that we can’t score, technically they don’t count on own goals or if the pass was deflected – as was they case on his to Dembele on the second goal against Tromso.

          Agree that he could sometimes make better decisions as to when to pass and shoot though.

          • Einar 1st December 2013 at 1:28 pm #

            ah, ok. Just saw after the Tromso game, on 2 assists. Then the other Europa assist, that’s was 3. And 4 goals.

            But on other pages i see his is given 2 assist in the europa league. So.. it seems there is a difference of opinion in these matters. :)

  2. Graham 30th November 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Good, in depth analysis BUT you can read a lot into statistics one way or another. If the same player did a 2 yard lay-off for a midfielder having a blazing shot from 30 yards that sails high and wide then the statistics would say they’re setting up a phenomenal amount of shots, but in reality they’re not really doing much worthwhile. The only way you can really sum up how a player is performing and what they offer is by looking at the game as a whole and their decision making (or lack of it). I’m not convinced of either Chadli or Siggy playing wide on the left, but Siggy looks good to me in a central role and offers that potential 10-15 goals per season from the position. Chadli, like Lamela, needs to play a good run of games before we can get a good sense of what he has to offer in the longer term in my opinion.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th November 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      Good point Graham. I agree about Chadli and Lamela needing a good run of games, a consistent line-up would help us in the long run, although injuries haven’t helped this.

      Re Stats, yes they can be misleading, but I use the stats zone diagrams to back up what i’m trying to convey. If i just said that Chadli offers more width and a better threat in behind without anything to back it up, then this just becomes an opinion. People will say he cuts inside to shoot all the time as he is right footed and an inverted winger, when actually for a right footer, he stretches defences both laterally and vertically, so i want to show something to back up my point.

      • Graham 30th November 2013 at 8:19 pm #

        I can’t argue with that reasoning Mark, I just tend to be weary of using too many statistics and diagrams ahead of getting a “feel” for what I’m watching. I often wonder how George Best would fair if he was given the microscopic treatment from Opta in comparison to those he played with at the time, or even in comparison to today’s players!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2013 at 10:25 am #

          Haha i think that’s where you are missing the point. I see and get a feel for what i am watching then use diagrams, statistics and images from games to back up my point. I don’t lead with them or use them to guide me, that’s the difference.

          I’m sure if George Best was given the microscopic treatment from Opta then it would not only prove what a great player he was, but also how he made other players on his team better by the things that he did.

          • Graham 2nd December 2013 at 10:14 am #

            You’re going to be a formidable man to argue against Mark. Point conceded. :)

  3. Vimjonk 30th November 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Mark, i am getting more and more interested in reviewing your analyses following our games. I guess this comes from not seeing the games live and relying on snipets of highlights – or in our situation lowlights! You give a great insight from a Spurs fan which is objective and passionate.

    Chadli is an interesting point and whether he gets to play will obviously be down to AVB, but i think he needs to play him as you have indicated with his play in the Arsenal match. The issue that AVB has is that no one seems to be producing enough to warrant playing every game. AVB is caught between a rock and a hard place. Chadli has returned from injury, but fairly often AVB will rest players that are returning so they do not get re-injured. For the most part this is sensible, but the cover (Siggy) isn’t sufficient and unbalances the side. Siggy is a good player, but putting him on the left narrows the play and more often than not he will look to shoot just like Townsend. Chadli has at least got to start and told to get down the line and provide crosses.

    We need a settled side who is playing week-in week-out. As much as Redknapp didn’t rotate, AVB is over-rotating as team that doesn’t know its a*** from its elbow. We need cohesion which a settled 11 would start to provide…. However, we also movement from our attackers and through balls (i haven’t seen any recently) for them and ultimately we need goals.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th November 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Great post Vimjonk and have to agree about the over-rotation at the minute. I think with the current criticism AVB is getting in the media may actually force his hand to go with a more consistent side.

    • Graham 30th November 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      I also wonder if there are simply too many players on the books. I can’t help but feel when I’m watching the likes of Townsend that he’s attempting the sensational with 95% of his work rather than the less glamorous but more effective because he fears he’ll lose his place unless he maintains his headline making status. Better perhaps to have a little less competition at times until a team is settled and perhaps the threat of delving into the transfer market can motivate players more effectively than being instantly dropped and rotated? Difficult one to call I think but certainly crossed my mind a few times.