Ben Norland puts on his winter boots and wades deep into stats and shot completion numbers to find out what's wrong with our strike-force.
It’s a well-acknowledged fact that the Spurs attack is struggling for goals. By this point last season, after a notoriously slow start, we had netted 23 times, compared to only 18 in this campaign.
My own inclination from watching games was that this is the result of us having fewer shots, particularly in the penalty area. We have generally appeared slower on the break this season, more ponderous on the ball in the final third, and consequently opposing teams have found it easier to frustrate us and turn the ball over.
Of those who’ve scored a league goal in this campaign, Eriksen, Lamela, and Alli’s conversion rates are all down
However, a look at our stats to date tells a different story. It is true that we are shooting less than last season, but only marginally – we are taking one shot every 2.97 attacking minutes (minutes when we are in possession), compared to one every 2.87 minutes last season. Projecting this out over 38 games, we will take 646 shots in total at this rate – only 12 short of last season’s final tally.
Nor are we being forced to take a dramatically larger proportion of our shots from outside the area – we are shooting 53.4% inside the box this season compared to 54.4% last. Another quick bit of maths tells us that, at this rate, we will take 345 shots in the penalty area – only 13 short of last season’s total.
So if we’re taking roughly the same number of shots from roughly the same positions, logically our players’ finishing skills must be a little rusty?
This is partly true – a number of players’ conversion rates have fallen slightly since last season. Of those who’ve scored a league goal in this campaign, Eriksen, Lamela, and Alli’s conversion rates are all down. If they collectively took the same number of shots as last season at this season’s conversion rates, they would score 14 goals between them, rather than the 21 they managed previously.
But Kane and Son have both improved their conversion rates, and, penalties aside, would be projected to score 34 goals between them if they were shooting at last season’s rate – improving on their combined (non-penalty) total last season by 10 goals, and thus more than making up for Alli, Eriksen, and Lamela’s decline.
Yet herein lies what appears to be the real issue. Kane is not shooting anywhere near as much as he did last season, even when we take his injury lay-off into account. Last season, he took a whopping 24% of all our shots (only Watford were more reliant on a single player for shooting (Ighalo)). Alli followed him with 15%, with Eriksen on 9%, Lamela 6%, and Alderweireld 5%. There was a clear pecking order, and it produced results. If you want to put some money on future results and you’re a fan of matched betting, you could try a Profit Accumulator. But, if you’re new to this, take a read of a profit accumulator review before you sign up.
This season, however, our shooting has been far more distributed, with Eriksen taking 19% of shots, Alli 12%, Son 11%, Janssen 9%, and Lamela and Kane 8% each. “But wait”, I hear you cry, “what about that injury layoff your were going to take into account? Surely now he’s back, we’ll revert to last year’s plan?”
I hope you’re right, but there are some concerning signs. Last season, Kane took a shot every 22 minutes that he was on the pitch. This season, that’s dropped to one every 40 minutes. And looking at the games he has featured in this season, he has touched the ball roughly 12% less frequently than he did in the corresponding fixtures last year.
Last season, Kane took a shot every 22 minutes that he was on the pitch. This season, that’s dropped to one every 40 minutes
It would seem that other teams have woken up to the fact that Kane is quite a good striker, and he is increasingly being marked out of games. This is not to say that he won’t get goals, but the evidence suggests that a new strategy is needed to free him up more frequently in scoring positions.
Of course, there are other factors compounding this. As already mentioned, of the other frequent shooters, only Son has improved on last year’s conversion rate. Janssen obviously hasn’t hit the ground as quickly as we would have hoped, and in our adjusting-for-penalties methodology is a glaringly obvious issue with his 0% conversion rate despite a significant shot contribution.
Perhaps more worrying is the fact that in Kane’s absence Eriksen has become our go-to shooter. His conversion rate has steadily declined since moving to Spurs, and while it is to be hoped that he will turn that around, it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.
As things stand, our total conversion rate of 8.14% (including penalties) is the 4th-worst in the league, ahead of only Stoke, West Ham, and Southampton, and would see us score a projected 53 goals over the season as a whole – a full 15 short of last season’s total. Either some of our other players need to find their shooting boots, or Poch needs to come up with a plan to get Kane back into games, and quickly.
Raw data taken from whoscored.com