Tottenham Conceding Too Many Shots, Too Much Possession

Crystal Palace's Spanish goalkeeper Vicente Guaita (back) tips the ball over the bar to make a save from a free kick by Tottenham Hotspur's English defender Eric Dier during the English Premier League football (Photo by GLYN KIRK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Crystal Palace's Spanish goalkeeper Vicente Guaita (back) tips the ball over the bar to make a save from a free kick by Tottenham Hotspur's English defender Eric Dier during the English Premier League football (Photo by GLYN KIRK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Whether or not you agree with the more defensive style Tottenham have been using, the team is simply conceding too many chances to keep clean sheets.

Tottenham Hotspur are allowing opponents far too many shots, which leads to opportunities and ultimately dropped points. While some of this is tied to possession, not all of it is, as Spurs are averaging about 49% possession per match.  So, what is happening with the team and just how badly are Spurs being outshot this season?

Too Many Chances Allowed

In the Premier League Tottenham Hotspur, on average, are being outshot regardless of result. Across all 15 games Spurs have conceded 40 more shots than their opponents, or 2.67 attempts per match. Those attempts put the defense and Hugo Lloris under unnecessary pressure and ultimately have been a big contributing factor in the points that have been dropped. Of course, these numbers are exacerbated by the losses, but they still are quite telling about Spurs on the season.

Opponents Fire When Ready in Losses

In the three losses for Spurs on the season, the shooting discrepancy has been immense. Outscored 5 to 1 in the three losses; Everton, Liverpool, and Leicester City essentially doubled the attempts on goal that Tottenham had as Spurs were outshot 25 to 49 in those three games.

The Liverpool game was kind of expected as Tottenham conceded possession throughout and with only 24% of the possession to have nearly half as many shots at 8 to 17, was decent. As we know Spurs had the better chances, but ultimately, the volume of chances was more effective than the quality. However, against both Everton and Leicester City, Spurs held more possession.

While it was only 51% to 49% versus Everton, and 56% to 44% against Leicester City, that is still more of the ball. However, having more of the ball really meant little as the pressure from those teams was more than Spurs could bear and they conceded in all the matches and could not turn more passes into more looks on goal. However, this lack of success in those two matches does not mean Spurs should not try to be on the ball, because when Tottenham sit back things get worse.

Opponents Shooting a Lot in Wins and Draws

Tottenham are likewise being outshot in their seven wins and in the five draws on the season. Spurs are essentially averaging 12 shots per match in their draws but are conceding 14. This difference is stretched by the draw against Wolves where Spurs were outshot 6 to 22. However, when you factor in Spurs outshoot Newcastle 23 to 6 in the draw early in the season, the averages kind of win.

These are not extra free kicks either, as Spurs are average 13.2 free kicks both for and against in their draws and take a near equal number of corners, with 5 for and 5.4 against. When Tottenham are dropping points in these draws, the issue comes down to attempts allowed and then saves. Tottenham are taking more than two less shots per match than their opponents in the draws AND are making 1.6 less saves.

So, we have a team shooting less than their opponents and simultaneously making fewer saves than their opponents. In some respects, Spurs are fortunate to have those draws, although we do also know penalty kicks, and set pieces were the cause of many of the goals, the numbers led to those opportunities. This simple math tells us that the wins against Manchester City and Arsenal, were probably as much good fortune as they were masterclasses given Spurs overall form.  You cannot concede 20 shots to Wolves or anyone and expect to win.

The good news is, given everything, it should be obvious, that it is not on the back foot, conceding possession, rather it is on the front foot trying to dominate possession and work to beat their opponents where Tottenham have found the most success.

Spurs Can Be on the Front Foot

Four. That is the number of times this season Tottenham Hotspur have taken more shots than their opponents, four. Versus Newcastle, Manchester United, West Brom, and Brighton Tottenham managed to average 11 more shots per match in those four games. If not for a phantom penalty at the death, Spurs would be 4-0 in those matches, instead Tottenham have 10 of the possible 12 points from three wins and a draw.

Beyond team success what was seen in three of those four matches was a dominance of possession as Spurs were above 60% against Newcastle and Manchester United, and near it against West Brom at 59%. However, against Brighton, Spurs only held 43% of the possession and only took 9 shots, half as many as they averaged across these four matches and also conceded six. At only +3, you can see even against a lesser side, if you lose the battle of possession, you are likely to lose the shot battle too.

Brighton aside, looking at Newcastle, Manchester United, and West Brom; Tottenham have shown they can dominate possession, outshoot their opponents and still play solid enough defense to win. Ultimately, that is what it comes down too, is if José Mourinho believes that Tottenham can play solid enough defense in a more expansive approach to win. Spurs are going to concede chances regardless, so they might as well go for it.

Can Tottenham and Coach Change?

If Mourinho is honest with himself and looks at the numbers he will see, the best defense for Tottenham is a good offense and until he has some other personnel, while Spurs can occasionally produce the masterclass, the more likely path to victory is the Liverpool/Leicester City, outscore your opponent approach. Whether or not Mourinho can or will come to that conclusion and we start to see expansive football again is a different question.

With Fulham, Leeds, Villa, and Sheffield United on the schedule, it is now or never to get the possession oriented, dominating football back. With Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City all awaiting in the five games following the run to end the first half, Spurs do not have long to get it together.

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