Are Spurs better defensively under Andre Villas-Boas?

Andre Villas-Boas took a lot of criticism during his time in charge at Chelsea for his defensive tactics, high line and pressing.

One thing I did notice during his time there, was that for all the ‘Chelsea weren’t equipped to play his system’ debate, they did concede the fewest shots on target. They just happened to give away good scoring chances and commit more errors due to their lumbering defenders, therefore giving up goals.

‘Defence wins championships’ is the saying and the old adage has rung true in many a Premier League season. Not that I’m expecting Spurs to be walking off with the title this year, but after faltering down the stretch last season, I thought it time to see how we are shaping up under the new boss.

So, five Premier League games in to Andre Villas-Boas’ time in charge of Spurs, I’m going to take a look at some defensive stats to see if we’re showing any signs of improvement?

Goals conceded

I thought I’d start top line with goals conceded, as last season we only allowed 41 strikes in total, our best in the Premier League since 2005/06.

Premier League games385
Goals conceded416
Goals conceded per game1.071.2

So, it looks like it’s 1-0 to Harry Redknapp as, at this current rate, AVB’s Spurs will concede 46 goals this season.

But does everything else read as bad for the new boss?

Shots at goal under Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas

Goals come from shots at the target, so this is the next place to compare Spurs under Harry Redknapp last season and Andre Villas-Boas this.

Although we are only five games in to this Premier League season, the numbers so far make interesting reading.

Premier League minutes3420450
Shots in box conceded263 (7th)31 (3rd)
Mins per shot in box conceded13 mins14.5 mins
Shots outside box conceded202 (4th)17 (1st)
Mins per shot outside box conceded17 mins26.5 mins

So far this season, Spurs have conceded less shots at goal. Last term we ranked seventh best for the fewest shots allowed inside the box and the fourth best for shots allowed outside the box in the Premier League.

This season we are ranked as the third best team for the fewest shots allowed inside the box and have the best record of any team for shots allowed outside the box.

This term we are allowing a shot on goal 1.5 minutes less frequently from inside the box. This may not seem much, but it would be a reduction of 28 shots conceded inside the box over the course of a season.

The biggest difference is in shots allowed outside the box. These were occurring every 17 minutes last term, compared to every 26.5 minutes this time out. That would be a reduction of 73 less shots conceded over the course of a season if it continues at this rate.

We have to bear in mind that this is only through five matches compared to a whole season, but the signs are optimistic.

Chances allowed under Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas

So far, the total number of chances being allowed by Spurs is also on the decline under Andre Villas-Boas. Interestingly enough, we are still allowing them from the same zone.

Chances conceded left109 (3rd)9 (1st)
Chances conceded centre115 (5th)8 (1st)
Chances conceded right121 (7th)14 (6th)
Mins per chance conceded9.9 mins14.5 mins

Again this is only through five matches, but compared to last season we are conceding less chances. The left back area continues to be a problem for us though.

Last year we conceded the third fewest chances from the left, fifth from the centre and seventh from the right. So far this term, we have conceded the least number of chances in the Premier League from the left and central zones and are sixth from the right zone.

Overall, we were giving up a chance every 9.9 minutes last season, compared to every 14.5 minutes this campaign. This would amount to 110 fewer chances conceded over the season if it continued at these rates. We still are yet to play either of the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool though, so expect things to balance out a bit more.

Big Chances 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.”

This season so far we have conceded six ‘big chances’ or one every 75 minutes on pitch.

Last season we conceded 49 ‘big chances’ in total, which amounts to one every 69 minutes.

Again, if this rate continued throughout the season, we would concede 3.5 less situations where a player would be expected to score. It doesn’t seem like much, but it could be the difference between taking three points rather than one, or none.


Andre Villas-Boas gets his point across.

Challenges lost

Although we are roughly making a similar amount of tackles in this season compared to last, the number of challenges lost has also seen a marked difference.

Last season under Harry Redknapp we were making 19.3 tackles per game, this term under Andre Villas-Boas we are making 19.8 tackles per game.

The number of challenges lost has improved from one every 24.6 minutes under Harry Redknapp, to one every 34.5 minutes under Andre Villas-Boas.

Again, if this rate continues throughout the season, we would lose 99 challenges this term, compared to 139 in the last campaign.


This analysis is only through five games of our season and we are yet to play either of the Manchester sides, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal. The signs are that Andre Villas-Boas’ defensive system is starting to work are potentially beginning to show though.

Shots at goal are down, as are chances conceded, big chances and challenges lost. The biggest stat, goals conceded per match, is up slightly, which is a concern.

However, Spurs have allowed late goals in four of our five games this season. Reading, West Brom, Norwich and Newcastle all grabbed goals in the last five minutes of matches when the team may have been running out of gas. This could be attributed to it being the start of the season and fitness levels not being at the level that Andre Villas-Boas requires for his pressing style of defence.

He did have Chelsea as the side conceding the fewest shots at goal last year during his time in charge. The defenders he had in place though were too slow to work the system; as a result, they gave up the fifth most number of ‘big chances’ in the Premier League. The also committed the third most errors last season and this allowed the second most goals to be scored from them.

Andre Villas-Boas has more mobile defenders at Spurs, which is why there is more cause for optimism in the numbers here.

Going forward, I’m positive that Spurs will be a better side defensively this season under Andre Villas-Boas. While others may be focussed on the manager’s performance elsewhere, this is definitely something that I’ll be keeping my eye on.

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