It’s not been the easiest of starts for Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs. After two points from our first three Premier League matches, the media seem out to get him once again and a few of the fans are booing already.
The results may not have been there, but what of the actual performances on the pitch?
Here are eight positive points of progression for Spurs under the guidance of Andre Villas-Boas.
Andre Villas-Boas had Chelsea as the team enjoying the highest amount of possession in the Premier League during his time there with 60% per match.
AVB subscribes to the philosophy that if you have the ball, the other team does not and therefore cannot hurt you. He wants his side to retain possession and probe the opposition by moving it around looking to attack weaknesses in their defence.
In his three matches in charge of Spurs, the team is enjoying 56% possession. This is a good sign that we are controlling the ball and the players are understanding what the coach wants from them.
2. Passing accuracy
To keep possession, you need to make accurate passes to avoid turning the ball over.
Last season under Harry Redknapp, we were completing 83% of passes as a team, this season under Andre Villas-Boas, we are completing 85% of passes. Another sign that the players are getting to grips with what the gaffer wants.
3. Chances created
The goals may not have been free flowing, but the chances have been there for us so far.
Through our first three Premier League matches, we’ve created 39 chances in total, only Everton with 41 have created more this season.
Of these 39 chances created, 11 were at Newcastle, 16 at home to West Brom and 12 against Norwich.
Our opponents have made 22 chances in these matches. Newcastle created just 2 against us, West Brom 10 and Norwich 10 also.
That’s +17 in the chances created department in just three matches so far, which means we need to be more clinical in front of goal. Maybe the reason we signed Clint Dempsey?
4. A balanced attack under Andre Villas-Boas
Zonal marking produced this excellent piece of analysis on attack sides, highlighting what separates the top teams in the Premier League from the lower ones is balance.
Under Harry Redknapp, Spurs favoured attacking down Gareth Bale’s left flank 38% of the time. Aaron Lennon’s right wing was the focus of 32% of the forays forward, with the remaining 30% going down the centre.
Spurs under Andre Villas-Boas have been slightly better balanced and have focussed more to the right, with 36% of the attacks going to this side. The other attacks have gone 32% to the left and 31% up the middle.
Retaining possession and probing the opposition has the effect of creating a more balanced attack, rather than looking more often than not to Gareth Bale.
Favouring the left so heavily highlighted Harry Redknapp’s emphasis on individuals over Andre Villas-Boas who is a systems and tactics based manager.
5. Better pressing
Andre Villas-Boas is famed for his pressing of the opposition and his high-line came in for much scrutiny when deployed at Chelsea.
With Spurs, we have seen some signs of pressing the opposition up the pitch, but this has mainly been in wide areas against the full backs.
In our last game with Norwich, we started to see some more pressure applied to the centre backs. This was highlighted by the increased number of interceptions up the field in the match, as well as a lower pass completion percentage by defenders being rushed in to getting rid of the ball.
6. Moussa Dembele bridges the gap
So far, Andre Villas-Boas has gone with Jake Livermore and Sandro at the base of his 4-2-3-1 system and a gap has existed between them and the more attack-minded players.
Moussa Dembele has only played 45 minutes in a Spurs shirt, but has already filled that gap and given us a sign of what we can expect to see from him this season.
His passing is short, precise and has a sense of purpose to it, moving the ball forward rather than backward. He also retains possession, as his 89% pass completion last season at Fulham highlights.
Moussa Dembele may well prove to be the most important player we’ve signed this season in the wake of Luka Modric’s departure.
7. The form of Jan Vertonghen
With the retirement of Ledley King, we were in the market for a new rock at the back and Jan Vertonghen has impressed since arriving at the Lane.
Debate has arisen over who should partner the Belgian at the back, but Vertonghen has put in a couple of good performances so far.
So far he has won 86% of his aerial duels and been 100% on his ground tackling, whilst also intercepting the ball, highlighting how well he reads the game.
8. New players to come in for Andre Villas-Boas
Moussa Dembele wasn’t the only player to come in at the transfer deadline. Hugo Lloris arrived from Lyon and Clint Dempsey from Fulham.
Lloris will add the agile ‘sweeper keeper’ that we need in order to play Andre Villas-Boas’ high line and his distribution with the ball is good.
Brad Friedel, while steady and reliable between the sticks, isn’t able to rush off his line anymore to deal with any danger over the top.
As well as this, other than passing out to his defenders, his distribution is also not that good anymore.
At the other end of the pitch, Clint Dempsey will bring goals to the side that have been sadly lacking from the chances we have created so far. The American provided 17 goals in the Premier League last season from a shot at the target every 24 minutes. We need a second scorer behind Emmanuel Adebayor and Dempsey will be that man.
The positive signs are there that the team are coming around to what Andre Villas-Boas wants from them, and that they are settling in to his system.
It was never going to be easy to switch from Harry Redknapp’s emphasis on individuals, to Andre Villas-Boas’ stressing the importance of the system and the team. We really have gone from one end of the scale to the other in terms of how the manager drills his squad and it’s going to take some time to get used to.
With the new faces to come in to the line-up, the results for Andre Villas-Boas and for Spurs are just around the corner. Patience is key.