8 positive points of progression under Andre Villas-Boas

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.

1. Possession

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.


Spurs forced interceptions in the Norwich half and errors from their central defenders.

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.


Spurs 1 Norwich 1: average position of Spurs starting 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.


Spurs 1 Norwich 1: Moussa Dembele fills the void to link the midfield and attack.

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.


Jan Vertonghen makes tackles (crosses), interceptions (diamonds) and clearances (circles).

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.


Hugo Lloris had good distribution whilst at Lyon.

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.


Brad Friedel struggles with his kicking downfield.

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.

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9 Responses to 8 positive points of progression under Andre Villas-Boas

  1. Paul 3rd September 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Let me offer 3 simple ideas to help Spurs improve:-
    1. Lets not play two defensive midfielders in home games where we have to break teams down.
    2. Somebody take charge of the defence and actually ‘call us out’ as soon as the ball heads away from goal.
    3. When we are defending corners and free kicks lets leave Defoe and Lennon up the field, forcing the opposition to keep 2 maybe 3 men back.
    Not rocket science is it!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2012 at 11:48 am #

      I think we’ll see the end of two defensive midfielders now we have Dembele and Dempsey on board. Vertonghen looks like he is starting to assert himself in being in charge of the defence, he has a reputation of being an organiser, but i’d like to see Steven Caulker alongside him.

  2. Marcus 3rd September 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Good article! You can’t judge a manager after 3 games, we have to keep supporting Tottenham in a positive way. One other aspect: our defense needs to keep their cool near the end of the game. 3 of our 4 goals conceded were in the last 10 minutes, and at an average of 5 minutes before the final whistle. Had we not panicked near the end, we would have won 2 and drawn one…and no one would be complaining.I’m positive!

  3. Jay 3rd September 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I agree on a lot of these points. Though, I do feel most of the chances we’ve created have tended to be speculative efforts from outside the area. I’m really excited for Dembele, he brings some quick feet and has a good eye for a challenge.

  4. Matt 3rd September 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Really nice article, the more I see Vert play, the more I think he should be that voice in defence, even if he’s new. I’d really like to see Dembele start, which I think he will from now on. Friedel has been amazing in previous games but hoping Lloris can top it, really excited to see him play.


  5. Jol 3rd September 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    A lot of wishful thinking here. Stats you quote as improving you compare with season averages rather than with the same fixtures from last year or are not compared at all. The “attacking balance” claim is laughable as it shows only a minor bias towards our best attacking player last season and a broadly similar distribution of attacks in the limited data set this season that is merely biased to the other flank. Almost all of us Spurs fans want the new manager to succeed but to suggest that this can be shown to be happening already through the analysis of statistics is clutching at straws and will only serve to polarise the debate further.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2012 at 11:59 am #

      If you think how many times a team attacks during a match or season, a 4%-5% swing is actually a big deal. The point was also made to highlight Harry Redknapp’s focus on letting the skill players play, as opposed to AVB’s more tactical and system based approach which puts the team ahead of the indiviudal. As Rafael van der Vaart’s famous quote highlights “There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a board in our dressing room but Harry doesn’t write anything on it. It’s not that we do nothing – but it’s close to that.” If you read the zonal marking attack side analysis i linked to, you’ll see how the top teams in the Premier League have a much better balance to their attack, it’s statistics based, but does show a trend that balance = better performance.

  6. Alex 4th September 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Yes we have created a lot of chances, but most of them were wasted by Defoe, I am not saying he is a poor striker, it’s just the fact that his decision making is really awful, I so really hope Dempsey will step up and score goals for us. Besides Livermore needs to go back to the bench, Sandro is good enough for us, play Dembele instead of Livermore. I think the best formation we have so far would be:

    Walker Vertonghen Daws BAE
    Lennon Dembele Sandro Bale
    Dempsey Ade

    And yes, 3 games are too early to justify AVB, he needs time, new players need time and the team needs time. I still have faith in AVB, COYS~!

  7. onedavemackay 4th September 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Very interesting article. Like most of us I was very ignorant of AVBs methods and philosophy and you’ve helped me understand him a bit better.

    I have noticed that over last year or two we seem to create at least 15 chances per match without taking very many so no change there.