Are Spurs better defensively under Andre Villas-Boas? – Part 2

Back at the start of the season I looked at if Spurs were getting better defensively under Andre Villas-Boas?

Although it was only the end of September, Tottenham were showing signs of improvement in a number of statistical areas compared to last term.

With the season now over halfway old, I thought it time to revisit this topic seeing as we have played each team at least once. So, how are Spurs doing defensively under Andre Villas-Boas?

Goals conceded under Andre Villas-Boas

The main stat for any defence, no matter how good, is the goals conceded column. Last year, Harry Redknapp guided the team to allow the fewest goals since the 2005/06 season.

Premier League games3822
Goals conceded4127
Goals conceded per game1.071.2


Despite the recent run of clean sheets against QPR, Aston Villa, Stoke and Swansea, we are still conceding more goals on average this season compared to last. When I examined this at the end of September, we were conceding 1.2 goals per game and we are still shipping them at the same rate.

So, the top line isn’t good, but how have the rest of the stats faired?

Shots at goal under Andre Villas-Boas

Goals come from shots, so this is the next place to see if Spurs are showing any signs of improvement this season.

Premier League minutes played34201980
Shots in box conceded263 (7th)139 (4th)
Mins per shot in box conceded13 mins14.2 mins
Shots outside box conceded202 (4th)81 (1st)
Mins per shot outside box conceded17 mins24.5 mins

Now we are just over halfway through the campaign, despite conceding slightly more goals on average, shots at our goal are on the decrease.

Last season we were conceding a shot in the box every 13 minutes per game, which saw us ranked as the seventh best team in the Premier League. This season under Andre Villas-Boas, we are allowing a shot every 14.2 minutes, which currently has us as the team conceding the fourth fewest shots.

Shots from outside the box have also decreased, showing a much greater improvement. Last season we allowed a shot from outside the area every 17 minutes, the fourth best in the Premier League. This campaign sees us allowing the fewest shots from outside the box, with an effort conceded only every 24.5 minutes.

Chances allowed under Andre Villas-Boas

With the number of opponents shots at goal decreasing, chances allowed have also gone down. What is interesting here is where we have allowed opposition opportunities to be created from.

Chances conceded left121 (7th)65 (4th)
Chances conceded centre115 (5th)42 (1st)
Chances conceded right109 (3rd)39 (1st)
Mins per chance conceded9.9 mins13.5 mins

Last season we were conceding slightly more chances from teams attacking our left side, getting at Benoit Assou-Ekotto. This season, without Benoit Assou-Ekotto, opponents have had much more success at attacking stand-in full backs Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton.

Despite the criticism Kyle Walker took earlier on the season, chances allowed through his right side are the fewest in the league, as are opportunities through the centre.

Overall, we are conceding chances every 13.5 minutes per match, compared to every 9.9 minutes last term. This decrease means we are allowing 2.5 fewer chances per game and this would equate to a total of 92 fewer opportunities across the whole of this Premier League campaign if it continued.

So, if shots and chances allowed are down under Andre Villas-Boas, how come we are conceding goals at a slightly higher rate this term?

The answer lies in ‘big chances’ conceded.

Big Chances allowed under Andre Villas-Boas?

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.


Spurs are allowing more ‘big chances’ under Andre Villas-Boas.

Last season, we allowed 49 ‘big chances’ or one every 70 minutes. This term we have allowed 36 ‘big chances’ so far, which equates to one every 55 minutes.

The reason we are allowing more situations where an opponent would be ‘expected to score’ is in the use of our defence.

With our back four pushing up and pressing, teams have been able to take advantage of the space in behind our backline.

However, it is not just limited to squeezing up. When we have dropped off to defend a lead and encouraged teams on to us, we have also allowed efforts from close range.

In fact, 17 of our 36 ‘big chances’ allowed this season have come from just four matches. Those were the 3-2 victory at Old Trafford, the 4-2 defeat by Chelsea at the Lane, the 2-1 loss at the Etihad and the 5-2 embarrassment at the Emirates.

Brad Friedel was in goal for all but one of these matches, the game against Arsenal where we played 72 minutes with ten men in front of Hugo Lloris. I’m not going to point the finger at Friedel as he did the best he could in adapting to a new system, but since Hugo Lloris has started, the stats have altered.

Changing to the Gardien

Hugo Lloris has definitely had a positive effect on the Spurs defence. He has played the last eleven straight Premier League games for us in goal and in that time has kept five clean sheets and only conceded more than one goal on two occasions – the five at the Emirates and twice in the last minutes at Goodison.

Since he has become the regular keeper, our minutes per chance conceded have actually improved. We have allowed a chance every 15.2 minutes per match with the Frenchman in net, compared to the team average of one every 14.2 minutes for the season.

Big chances allowed have also decreased, with us giving up one every 71 minutes with Lloris in goal compared to the team average of every 55 minutes for the season.

Now that’s not to say that the improvement is all because of Hugo Lloris. The calibre of opposition we have faced during his stint in goal has only included Arsenal from teams in the current top five. Others of note include Liverpool and Everton, but QPR, Reading, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Stoke, Swansea, Fulham and West Ham are all mid-table or relegation threatened sides.

You can only beat what is put in front of you though and Lloris’ organisation, command of his area, shot stopping agility and speed off his line are all helping.


Back in September when I looked at our defensive numbers, there were signs for optimism despite the fact that we hadn’t played any of the big guns. Now we have faced each team once, we are still allowing fewer chances and holding the opposition to fewer shots, despite allowing slightly more goals this season compared to last.

The problem area is fast becoming the left back zone, where we are conceding more chances than either the right or central areas. Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton have both been filling in here, despite playing out of their favoured positions of centre and right back. This is an area that i have wriiten about that needs addressing in this January transfer window to provide cover and back up for Benni.

Giving away ‘big chances’ to the opposition has been the scourge of any benefits from allowing fewer overall chances and shots to the opposition. Whilst these two categories are down, opponents are getting much higher quality chances against us on average over the course of this season.

This has been reduced since Hugo Lloris came in to replace Brad Friedel. His speed to race out and mop up behind a pressing defence has improved things, even if the quality of opposition hasn’t been the same during his tenure in goal.

It’ll be interesting to see if this improvement in shots and chances allowed continues over the remainder of the season and the effect it has on the most important statistic of all, goals allowed.

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