Tottenham Hotspur Must Best their Projected Goals to Win

Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane (L) celebrates with Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung- / (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane (L) celebrates with Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung- / (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Whether it is the approach, the personnel, or something else entirely, Tottenham Hotspur have been playing with little room for error all season. When you start to look into some things like expected goals (xG) for and expected goals against, you start to see just how thin Tottenham’s margin is. So thin is Tottenham Hotspur’s margin for error, they are only winning when the offense outperforms their expected goals for the game and even that is no guarantee.

Tottenham Not Great in Expected Goals

If you look at the expected points table based on expected goals scored and expected goals conceded Tottenham Hotspur are a midtable team. With 33 points and a current sixth place position in the real table, versus the 29 points and 10th place position in the projections table by, believe it or not Tottenham are outperforming projections.

While it is hard to grasp given the lackluster run of form lately from Spurs, Tottenham are on the whole doing better on both ends of the pitch than they are being expected to perform. If Tottenham are to get things straightened out again this season, they are going to have to continue to outperform expectations. The need to outperform projections is especially true on the offensive end of the pitch,  because frankly it is the only way Spurs win and even then there are not guarantees.

It is all about Tottenham’s Offense

When looking at the xG for and against for Tottenham this season, regardless of how the defense has performed statistically from an expected goals perspective, for Tottenham to win the offensive must outperform projections. In eight of the nine Tottenham victories in the Premier League this season, the Lilywhites have managed to score more goals than were projected.

Eleven times this season Tottenham have outscored their projected goals and eight of those 11 are wins. In fact the only win this season in League where Tottenham have under performed projections was the 0-1 win at West Bromwich Albion, when Tottenham were projected to score almost 2 but still managed to hold onto victory. In this instance the defense did hold onto the clean sheet, but it was still the goal that garnered the three points.

A perfect example of this is the Arsenal victory where Spurs were projected to only score .39 goals – lowest projection in a victory – yet Spurs found a way to score two. Or against Sheffield United the difference in the match was supposed to only be .30 goals as Spurs were only projected to score 1.28 goals, yet managed 3 in the 3-1 victory.

Even more striking than the victories and the offensive performance and the dropped points. West Brom is the only time Spurs offense under performed and they managed to take all three points. Nine times Spurs offense failed to outpace projections and eight times – West Brom being the exception – Spurs have dropped points.

This was especially true in the draws against Fulham and Newcastle. Spurs were projected to score 6.33 goals in those two matches, yet only came away with two goals and two points as the defense could not maintain the clean sheets.

Spurs defense has to at least break even

For all eight other, Tottenham has had to outperform projections and even then it has not always been enough, as three times Spurs have dropped points despite the offense outpacing projections.  Because the defense conceded more than was projected.

First, was the West Ham draw. Even for Spurs the odds of losing a three goal lead in the last 10 minutes hopefully will not happen again for a while. How much that late capitulation has hurt this team one only can wonder, but it has had a major impact in terms of holding down leads. Regardless, Tottenham both scored and conceded more goals than expected and ended up dropping the points because of what they conceded.

The second time Spurs scored more than expected and did not win was against Wolves, as Tottenham drew a match, that the projections say they should have lost as the defense did okay despite giving up a goal. . The third time Spurs outpaced projections and still dropped points was the second Liverpool match. This is not because the offense was clicking rather it was because the expected goals for Spurs was .10 on the day and Spurs scored, creating a .9 difference. The defense underperformed as well as Liverpool dominated most of the match.

Spurs Must try to Outscore the Opponent

While the defense played a big role in the win at West Brom because the offense did not shine the defense carrying the team to victory has been the exception this season for Tottenham not the rule. At this point it should be clear for all, if Tottenham is going to win, they need the offense to click.

Basically all the statistics back-up what we know. The margin for error is razor thin for Spurs, but that margin grows considerably when the offense is clicking and putting the ball in the back of the net.  While Spurs defense can keep them in some matches, it is really the offense that wins them.

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