Are Spurs better defensively under Andre Villas-Boas? – Part 3

Throughout this season I’ve been keeping an eye on if we are getting better defensively since Andre Villas-Boas took charge.

You can read part 1 from September and part 2 from January if you want to check out the previous pieces of analysis before delving in here.

With the international break, I thought it a good time to check up again on how we’re performing without the ball in the Premier League. So, how are Spurs doing defensively under Andre Villas-Boas?

Goals conceded under Andre Villas-Boas

The main statistic of reference for any defence, no matter how good, is the goals conceded column.

Last year, Harry Redknapp guided the team to allow the fewest efforts against since the 2005/06 Premier League season, when we conceded just 38 under Martin Jol.

Premier League games3830
Goals conceded4137
Goals conceded per game1.071.2

After conceding 1.07 goals per game under Harry Redknapp, we’ve allowed 1.2 per match this season with Andre Villas-Boas in charge. Although this doesn’t make for good reading, there has been a noticeable difference since the arrival of Hugo Lloris.

During Brad Friedel’s ten games between the sticks, we conceded 16 times in the Premier League or 1.6 goals per game. With Hugo Lloris in nets, we’ve conceded 1.05 goals per Premier League match – just a shade better than the level with Harry in charge last season.

Whilst overall we are conceding at a higher rate this season, the dramatic improvement since Hugo Lloris has been in goal means it could be argued that we’re doing better this term.

But how have the rest of the stats with Andre Villas-Boas in charge faired?

Shots at goal under Andre Villas-Boas

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

Premier League minutes played34202700
Shots in box conceded263 (7th)179 (3rd)
Mins per shot in box conceded13 mins15 mins
Shots outside box conceded202 (4th)114 (1st)
Mins per shot outside box conceded17 mins23.7 mins

Let’s start with shots conceded from inside the box. Last season we were allowing one from inside the area every 13 minutes per game. This saw us ranked as the seventh best team in the Premier League.

This season under Andre Villas-Boas, we are allowing a shot every 15 minutes inside the area, which currently has us as the team conceding the third fewest shots. This is an improvement of one less shot allowed inside the box per game, or 38 across the season.

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 every 23.7 minutes.

This equates to 1.4 shots less per game from outside the penalty area, or 53 fewer strikes allowed from distance over the course of the season.

Chances allowed under Andre Villas-Boas

So, whilst goals conceded overall are up (or down with Hugo Lloris in goal) and shots conceded are down, it is interesting to look at where we have allowed chances to be created.

Chances conceded left121 (7th)87 (6th)
Chances conceded centre115 (5th)56 (1st)
Chances conceded right109 (3rd)57 (1st)
Mins per chance conceded9.9 mins13.5 mins

Last season we were conceding slightly more chances from teams attacking our right back, Kyle Walker.

This season, without Benoit Assou-Ekotto, opponents have had much more success at attacking our stand-in left backs Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton. The differential between chances created through our left back zone (87), is vastly greater than through the middle (56) or the right back zone (57). Despite the critique Kyle Walker took earlier on the season, chances allowed through his right side are the fewest in the league, something for his critics to mull over.

Overall, we are conceding a chance 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 92 fewer chances across the whole of this Premier League campaign if it continued.

So, how come if shots at goal and chances conceded are down, how are we conceding goals overall at a slightly higher rate this term?


Andre Villas-Boas has a clear defensive strategy.

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.

Last season we allowed 49 ‘big chances’ or one every 70 minutes of game time. This term we have allowed 47 ‘big chances’ so far, which equates to one every 57 minutes.

The reason we are allowing more situations where an opponent would be ‘expected to score’ is in how Andre Villas-Boas is using our defence.

With our back four pushing up and pressing, opposing 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 47 ‘big chances’ allowed this season (36%), have come from 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 of these matches apart from the game against Arsenal where we played 72 minutes with ten men in front of Hugo Lloris.

The American started off the season as our number one and we conceded 22 ‘big chances’ in his ten Premier League matches between the pipes. This equates to 2.2 excellent goal-scoring opportunities for the opposition per game.

With Hugo Lloris in nets we’ve given up 25 ‘big chances’ during his 20 Premier League appearances, or the equivalent of 1.25 per game, a marked improvement. This illustrates his great quality and speed from his line to play as a sweeper keeper, cleaning up any balls played in behind our high line.

Last season we were conceding a ‘big chance’ every 70 minutes. This term with Brad Friedel in goal it was one every 41 minutes, but with Hugo Lloris between the sticks it has dramatically improved to every 72 minutes.

So, whilst the overall average for this season is a ‘big chance’ allowed every 55 minutes and is down when compared to every 70 minutes last term. The improvement with Hugo Lloris means that it could be argued that we’re better defensively in this category now as well.


Overall we’re conceding slightly more goals per game this season (1.2) when compared to the last (1.07). However, in games where Hugo Lloris has been in between the sticks, our goals allowed drops dramatically to 1.05 which is a marginal improvement on last season.

Whilst we are conceding fewer shots and chances across the board, the area of irritation continues to be the left back zone. The constant rotation of Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton wasn’t helping the situation. Since I last looked at this area in January, we’ve dropped from the team conceding the fourth fewest chances in this zone to currently be in sixth spot. However, since Benoit Assou-Ekotto has returned from injury we sit in ninth place in this area – not a good sign from the zone where we were conceding the fewest chances last term.

Allowing ‘big chances’ has been the scourge of any benefits from conceding fewer shots. Although we are conceding more of these overall season-on-season, since Hugo Lloris has arrived we’re actually seeing less frequent ‘big chances.’ The Frenchman’s speed from his line and control of his area, have dramatically stemmed the flow of situations where an opponent has an excellent opportunity to score.

Hugo Lloris really has been a major key to what appears to be a much more successful system. With him in the side we have definitely shown a marked improvement with the defensive schemes of Andre Villas-Boas.

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