Tottenham Hotspur‘s defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday means Mauricio Pochettino’s side have taken just 15 points from their last 15 matches in the Premier League – only Watford and Brighton (13) have amassed fewer in the same period.
The title hopefuls are showing relegation form. Many hoped that would’ve ended after the summer break but performances against Aston Villa and the Magpies suggest there’s a deeper problem.
Spurs may have picked up all three points against Villa in the opening match of the season but the game followed a similar pattern to the Newcastle one. The away side struck early, then sat deep and made it difficult for the hosts to create anything clear cut.
Against Dean Smith’s side, Tanguy Ndombele’s long-range effort turned the game. Until that point, Villa were comfortable despite Spurs peppering their goal.
And Steve Bruce managed to register his first win as Newcastle manager despite his team being outshot 17-8 and having just 19 per cent possession.
Tottenham managed to land just two of their 17 efforts on target against Newcastle. This after only testing Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton on seven occasions despite having 31 shots.
This failure to hit the target has been a common theme throughout this torrid run of form. In the eight matches Spurs have lost, they’ve averaged 59 per cent possession. If the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City is excluded, that average jumps to 62 per cent. Tottenham are dominant on the ball but do very little with it.
This 15-match spell has seen them pick up maximum points on only four occasions, against Palace, Huddersfield, Brighton and Aston Villa. They’ve lost to Burnley, Southampton, West Ham, Bournemouth, Newcastle as well as the usual suspects like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tottenham’s issue is one many top teams have faced. They’re struggling to create chances against sides who sit back.
In the 26 matches prior to the defeat to Burnley, Spurs picked up 60 points at a rate of 2.3 per game. Since then, however, that figure has dropped to one point.
As expected, goals scored per game have also dropped, from 2.07 to 1.2 That is despite shots taken increasing. Spurs are shooting more but from less dangerous areas of the pitch, with frustration bubbling over. For context, during the first 26 games of last season, they averaged 4.3 shots from outside the area per 90. Since then, that number has risen to 7.46.
It’s highlighted even more by their expected goals (xG). Initially, they had an xG average of 1.6 per 90 and managed to overperform this. Now, however, that metric has dropped to 1.3, and Tottenham are no longer exceeding that.
Simply put, Spurs aren’t creating as many high-quality opportunities and their players aren’t as clinical. It’s a rotten combination and goes a long way to explaining why they’re stuck in a rut.
Furthermore, with the team looking to break the opposition down they’re committing more men forward, hence the increase in passes in the opposition half. This, however, is then leaving them vulnerable on the break and perhaps explains why Spurs are conceding more goals.
There’s no quick fix. Pochettino requires patience from the fans as he looks to piece together a new tactic to help Spurs break down the most stubborn of defences without leaving his backline exposed.
\It’s a real test of the Argentine as a tactician.