Tag Archives: Tottenham


Why Tottenham are favorites to win the League

So, I watched Spurs demolish Stoke yesterday and that wasn’t fun. At all. It was about as much fun as that time a few months ago I went back and purposefully rewatched Star Wars Episodes I-III.

If you watch Star Wars IV and see the light saber battles there and compare them to the light saber battles between Anakin and Obi-Wan in Episode III, where they are jumping around on rocks floating on magma, and you don’t want to gouge your eyes out with the sheer illogic of it all, then you probably would have liked Stoke v. Spurs. All I could think of while watching the match was Darth Vader rising up like Frankenstein’s Monster:

Nooo-Meme-Darth-Vader-04Before the match Harry Kane tweeted a photo of some lions on the hunt with the caption, “coming for you Leicester” or something like that. In the match, that’s exactly what Spurs looked like, hungry lions.

Lions I assume for the England/English connection of Kane and Alli. And in the match it was Kane and Alli who pounced on poor Stoke. But the lions metaphor works well for the whole team, they hunted in packs, they were organized and stuck to their game plan.

I know what all the models say. I know that they have Arsenal finishing 2nd and Leicester finishing first. Some of them have Leicester winning the League by 90%+. But there is something in my gut (my database, actually) telling me that Spurs are going to overhaul Leicester.

First, Leicester have lost Vardy for Swansea and Man U for his diving and then telling the referee off. I have a feeling they are going to drop points in those two matches. Second, Spurs don’t look like the feeble Spurs team of the past. Kane’s strike was world class and came at the moment he decided to take over the game. Meanwhile, Alli missed a sitter. The worst miss I have ever seen in a football match. But it didn’t perturb him in the least and he came back and scored the fourth goal, a brilliant volley. Watch the highlights, the 4-0 score line flattered Stoke.

I’ve been telling people for months that Tottenham are a threat. Tottenham take the most shots in the League and concede the third fewest. They have scored the most goals and conceded the fewest. Not only that but they create Big Chances on par with Arsenal now, having put in 74 to Arsenal’s 88 and they have the best SiP saves rate of 65% and the 2nd best Big Chances saves rate.

They are also on a massive run of good form. In the last 14 matches they have created 38 Big Chances, 2.7 per game. And they have scored 31 goals in those 14 matches. In the previous 20 matches they created 36 Big Chances (1.8 per game) and scored 33 goals.

In this run, they have also limited the opposition to just 13 Big Chances, allowed 9 goals, and kept 7 clean sheets. As a point of contrast, Arsenal have created 30 big chances in the last 14 matches, scored 23 goals, conceded 13 Big Chances but also conceded 16 goals, keeping just 6 clean sheets.

Last 14 games Arsenal Spurs
Goals 23 31
Big Chances Created 30 38
Goals conceded 16 9
Big Chances Conceded 13 13
Clean sheets 6 7

This is what it looks like when a team is hunting like hungry lions. Maybe it’s unsustainable? Maybe they will revert to the mean? Maybe they are already reverting to the mean and this is their mean?

Meanwhile, Leicester still haven’t changed. They still allow way too many shots in prime (137 this season, compared to Arsenal’s 86 and Tottenham’s 92) and have allowed 44 Big Chances compared to Arsenal and Tottenham’s 34 each. Schmeichel is saving 57% of the SiPs he faces but also just 40% of the Big Chances.

In their run of the last 14 matches Leicester have been dominated by their opponents: 198 shots to 171. But they have only conceded 8 goals and 15 big chances, kept 9 clean sheets, while scoring 21 and creating 36 big chances.

Leicester is riding a wave of luck at the moment: their opponents have only put 45 shots on target out of the 198 shots they have taken, that’s 23% on frame which is 10% below season average for the Premier League. Can they keep this pace of blocked shots and opposition misses going? I’ve said no all season and they have defied me all season. Maybe they will continue to do so. But from what I’m seeing, Leicester would be the most improbable of League winners.

I think it’s going to be a tight one and we won’t know until the end of the season. But right now, given the form they are in and the underlying stats, I have Tottenham as favorites to win the League.



Arshavin prepares for the North London derby

Defense wins Superb Owls

Good morning from post-Super Bowl America. If you’re not a USA American I wonder, did you watch the game? And if you did, I hope you didn’t find it too boring?

Sometimes, these defense-first teams like the Broncos can be a bit difficult to watch. Kind of like your Sam Allardycian West Hams and every game ever played by Stoke City, yes even the ones under the so-called attacking manager Mark Hughes. Add in all the stoppages for oxygen and commercials and even my USA American friends were tweeting out how boring this Super Bowl was.

For me, I can honestly say that I have never seen a better defensive performance in a Super Bowl. I thought the Seahawks had the best defense three years ago but the Broncos were several levels above that Seahawks defense yesterday.

Despite the few people who were moaning, watching a great defensive performance can be just as exciting and interesting as watching a great offensive performance. Sure, the score might be low but every single Panthers possession was thrilling, not for what Carolina were going to do, but for what the Broncos were going to do to them.

They hit Cam Newton almost from the very start. Von Miller just brutalized Cam, walked in, took the ball, and Denver scored a touchdown. It was at that moment that Cam Newton was rattled. That the whole Panthers team was rattled. From that point on, every time Cam Newton had the ball it seemed like he was rushed, sacked, tackled, or picked off.

At the end of the game there was another fumble, and Cam Newton was the first to see it, he went in to pounce on the ball but instead did something unusual: he jumped back. I don’t know what was going through his mind but he looked scared. It was as if Cam Newton was drawn and quartered by the Denver Broncos. I hear they plan to sew him back together for next season but I don’t think he’ll ever be the same.

If I can borrow a phrase from our sport (I’m talking about football now, not football) Denver played like a pressing team. Denver forced mistakes and pushed the Panthers back nearly every time they had the ball and it was so well orchestrated that they nearly got a safety, which is the equivalent of an own goal.


I’m not one of those boring writers who is ready to proclaim that defense is the new way forward but I will point out that in the Premier League there are two teams at the top of the table who play defense first. Though they execute their plans in radically different ways.

Leicester lead the League in interceptions and they are second in tackles, so they have a very active defense. They just play deep in their own half. And they do so on purpose, in order to create space for Vardy to run on to. The result is that they have the most counter attacking goals, the most penalties, and the fewest offsides (well, 3rd fewest).

Tottenham, on the other hand, press high. They have the fewest number of people dribbling past their tacklers, just 7.4 per game and they have the highest number of fouls per game. They try to hem the opposition in in their own half and win possession back. They also have the most number of set play goals this season and just 1 counter attacking goal.

Both of those teams, Leicester and Tottenham, just like the Denver Broncos, thrive on turnovers and causing instability in a team’s attack. And coincidentally, Arsenal are the third most dispossessed team in the League. Sure, that’s because Arsenal tend to have the ball a lot but there again, that plays right into Leicester’s hands this weekend.

More on that later this week.

For today, I enjoyed watching the defense first Super Bowl and I’m starting to worry about Arsenal against Leicester this weekend. Surely I’m not alone in that.



Arsenal v. Tottenham: iconic moments

We don’t need to talk about the importance of the North London Derby. We all know the historical reasons why Spurs our our rivals. We all love to have bragging rights for a few months. And we all know the importance of this particular match as both a response to Arsenal’s defeat in Munich and in terms of Arsenal’s title challenge. In short, this match is bigger than global warming.

We could talk about the injuries which have taken a toll on Arsenal. Given the fact that Arsenal beat Man U and Bayern with a full squad and then followed that up with two tough losses to Sheffield Wednesday and Bayern Munich, it’s pretty clear that the Gunners are firing with half a keg of powder at the moment. But there’s not much that can be done about injuries except hand-wringing and fan-guessing who will play and what kind of performances they will put in.

And we could talk about what tactics we would like to see Arsenal deploy. Given the fact that Pochettino is a former Bielsa player, like Pep Guardiola in midweek, and given the fact that Tottenham are mostly healthy, I’m expecting them to try to control spaces both in and out of possession. Arsenal have to counter that with a more energetic version of the match in midweek. The Gunners simply cannot sit back and let Spurs dictate play. Arsenal have to control space in defense and hit Tottenham quickly on the counter. It’s going to be a tough match and Arsenal are going to have to put in a full performance to get all three points.

We can talk about those things but what I love about this match is how form, tactics, and our injury record seems to go out the window. The North London Derby, more than any other match of the season, is the ground on which heroes are born.

These matches create iconic moments, both good and bad. There’s the famous Lansbury leap when Arsenal won 4-1 in the League Cup and it’s opposite, the infamous Bendtner-Adebayor row in the same fixture two seasons prior. Of course, even in the midst of our shame, Spurs one-upped us in the shame department by releasing a DVD of the match!

But I don’t want to dwell on the negative moments: I tend to forget those pretty quickly. The ones where Arsenal doing something spectacular are my favorite football memories.

For example, remember’s Sagna’s header? Arsenal were down 2-0 at home. Louis Saha had scored a deflected shot to make it 0-1. Then Gareth Bale was played clean through on almost the exact same pass that had set Saha though and won a penalty. That’s when Arteta just stood a ball up from the left to the right. It wasn’t to any particular player and it wasn’t even a very good ball but Sagna just ran up and attacked the ball, sending a bullet header past the hapless keeper. Arsenal went on to win that match 5-2.

Arsenal were below Spurs in the table before that match. In fact, Arsenal were below Chelsea in 5th place at kickoff. That win, that comeback, spurred on Arsenal’s season and the Gunners finished 3rd. Which they needed to do to secure Champions League football because Chelsea finished 6th that season but took the 4th Champions League place away from Tottenham because they won the Champions League. In my mind, that header saved our season.

Of course there’s the legendary goal that Thierry Henry scored against Spurs in 2002. Easily the best solo goal in Arsenal’s Premier League history. It’s such an iconic moment that Arsenal enshrined it in Bronze outside the stadium. It’s a moment of such majestic beauty that Arsenal had to make it as permanent as possible, like Michelangelo’s David or Nelson’s Column.

But for me Vieira’s goal in 2004 is more memorable. I’m not suggesting that I’ll forget Henry’s goal, but Arsenal should have won the League that season and they finished 2nd instead. So, while Henry’s goal was a great individual moment, I agree with Arsene Wenger that those individual moments are as meaningless as drops of rain when compared to a storm.

Tottenham won an early corner but Gilberto headed away easily to Thierry Henry. Henry carried neatly up the pitch a bit to create a passing lane and slotted the ball to Bergkamp. Bergkamp had one look up and saw Vieira bombing through the midfield and slotted a caviar pass to him. Vieira reached out with his telescopic right leg and poked the goal home. Vieira had sprinted nearly the entire length of the pitch to get that goal. It was a goal which perfectly embodied that Arsenal team who could rapaciously turn defense into attack.

Arsenal won the League that day, at White Hart Lane. They won the League at White Hart Lane. They won the League in the cesspool. They won the League at White Hart Lane.

They won the League and went undefeated that season. It was the best team that Wenger ever produced and that goal is my favorite from that season. That goal was the filet of a season that was all Wagyu beef.

Impossible to bronze that moment but my friend @11cannons made a great drawing of it, and that drawing hangs on my living room wall.You should go buy a print if you still can.

There have been other moments that stand out in my mind, Rosicky’s hair catching the sun just before he bangs in the only goal of an Arsenal defensive masterclass or Flamini’s volley in the League Cup just a few weeks ago, but those three above are my favorites.

What I want more than anything else tomorrow is another moment like that Vieira goal. A moment which defines our season, which crystallizes this Arsenal side as title challengers.