StatsBomb MythBusting: Christian Eriksen vs. Newcastle

This past weekend in the Premier League was a crazy one, and no single game was crazier than Spurs vs. Newcastle*. Newcastle looked dangerous early on, and actually took the lead in the 13th minute on the back of a Paulinho mistake, sparked off some surprise pressing from the Geordie side. What followed were 77 minutes plus stoppage time of hell for the Newcastle defense.

Final score: Tottenham Hotspur 0 – Newcastle 1

* Those of you in Swansea and West Bromwich wanting to make cases about the referee robberies in your games should make contact with the appropriate Premier League authorities as soon as possible.

I mentioned after the game wrapped that Tim Krul was out of his mind good (14 saves in a match almost never happens), and also that Christian Eriksen was really tremendous for the home side.

In 77 minutes against an entrenched defense, Eriksen had 9 key passes, 3 shots, 3 shots on target, 71% passing completion. That’s a damned fine day for an attacking midfielder. The passing percentage is a bit low, but the rest of it… impressive. He didn’t do a ton of defensive work (1 tackle, 1 Int, 1 Aerial Duel won), but Spurs have an entire team built for that. Defensive work is not his job. Eriksen’s job is to find his teammates with passes that they can turn into shots, and boy did he do that.

Thus I was a little surprised at the reaction of Spurs fans to my Eriksen opinion. The abuse that I got from Spurs fans was loud. And kinda angry, really. A lot of these aren’t from dumb guys – one is from one of the Spurs writers I respect the most – but boy were they hot about the loss.

Visually, this is what Eriksen’s performance looked like from the FourFourTwo StatsZone

statszone_ce_newcastle

So I said Eriksen was awesome, and other people said…

Outstanding?! He was one of our worst players. Missed a sitter, bad set pieces, lots of wasted possession.

[Eriksen] was ineffective and inefficient.

You don’t know what you are talking about. You’d have a different perspective if you watched him in the stadium. Nobody in the stadium thought he was good.

[Townsend] was good – at least he was trying his heart out.

His set piece taking was awful. Went into hiding. Fit the stereotype of the scouting reports.

He’s made a MASSIVE jump in league standard.

I will note I did watch the game in detail while it was on. I actually watch a lot of Spurs games these days, partly because I like some of the players, partly because I like the AVB system, but mostly because I really need to know why they aren’t scoring more goals for work.

I could be wrong about what I saw. Obviously I have a bias toward using data to examining football from the perspective of data, but what if Eriksen’s performance really wasn’t that special? I decided to look at how often a performance like CE’s appear, and also at some more contextual stats to better examine what happened on Sunday. I also rewatched the video with a focus on what Eriksen was doing.

Time for some mythbustin’!

Passing is Misunderstood
One of the first pieces I wrote about football stats involved looking at assists as a key indicator for finding good players. Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered the ability to create high numbers of assists at a young age typically translates to stardom.

I used assists in that analysis because key pass information wasn’t publically available for earlier seasons, but assists have been tracked in certain leagues since at least 2003. However, key passes are a part of the process that leads to assists, and occur more frequently, so when possible, I try to use that information instead.

Why? It has to do with separating outcomes from processes.

Example:  A player passes the ball to an open attacker at the 18 yard box, who then shoots, and kicks the ball into the upper deck.

The outcome there is bad (missed shot). The process, however (finding the open man 18 yards out for a shot), is good.

Is the missed shot the fault of the passer or the shooter? That type of analysis is difficult, but let’s just say that most of the fault for the miss probably lies with the shooter. If that shooter is particularly bad at getting shots on target, regardless of who passes to him, then he’ll drag down the assist stats of the passer as well. However, key passes will still get registered.

That’s why key passes are interesting to track, and high levels of KP usually translate to high levels of goals/assists.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, we probably need a definition. What is a key pass? Opta defines it as:

The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.

Key passes are correlated to assists, which are goals resulting from a pass, and are a fairly strong measure of whether a player is a good offensive passer.

The top 5 in EPL for key passes last year were David Silva, Baines, Suarez, Mata, and Steven Gerrard. The year before was Mata, Silva, Modric, Nasri, RVP, and Valencia (13 assists for United that season in 22 starts!). It’s an imperfect, but  damned useful stat.

So key passes matter. In fact, they usually tend to indicate players who not only create chances, but create +EV ones. I would far prefer to have a bunch of guys on my team who pass well enough that they create shots with scoring probabilities of 30-40% (open looks in the box, 1v1s with the keeper) vs. the 10% average.  Championship winning teams are built on this principle.

And yet teams still don’t seem to value great passers enough. Real Madrid sold Mesut Ozil, the best creator in Europe over the last five seasons. Goal scorers get all the money and the attention. They also get the adoration of fans.

Passers? Meh.

How Rare Was Eriksen’s 9 Key Pass performance?
I wanted to look at this because maybe this type of performance happens all the time. I may have found it impressive, but if it’s a common occurrence, then we can rule out my impression and just write it off as something any decent footballer can do.

I only have access to a shortened data set on this one (last year plus this year), but out of more than 1800 matches played in the big 5 leagues last season, there were fifteen times where a player had nine or more KP. Players who produced those performances included: Pirlo, Ozil, Diamanti (who also had 14 shots in the same match, one of the most absurd statistical performances I have ever seen),  Boudebouz x 2, Obraniak, Farfan, Diego x 2, Tobias Werner (who?), Valeron, Susaeta, Rakitic, Jose Antonio Reyes, and Koke.

There has also been one 9+ KP game this season, produced by the ageless Francesco Totti.

So 16 total instances in more than 2000 matches. That’s less than 1%. It’s fair to say that’s rare.

He’s made a MASSIVE jump in league standard.
This is true, and I’m actually not certain how big the jump is. Is Eredivisie 60% as good as the Premier League? 70% I have no idea, really.

However, not only is a 9+ KP performance rare, it hasn’t happened at all in England either this season or last. That’s nearly 500 matches without one. I checked with Duncan Alexander at Opta, and he said the last person to do it was Leighton Baines in September 2011! So we’re actually looking at like 2 in 800 matches.

Eriksen made a massive jump in league standard…

…and still hung one of the better offensive passing performances in recent league history on a Newcastle team that is actually pretty good.

Clearly, he’s shit.

Not All Key Passes Are Alike. Also, 71% Passing Success??!
Both of these are fair points. All KPs are not alike. Some create shots that are practically worthless (like almost any ball delivered to Andros Townsend). Others create shots that are almost goals in and of themselves. Still, Eriksen created nine of them, including a couple of peaches in a free header from a corner that was off the bar and the exquisite layoff to Paulinho in the center of the box.

Eriksen also had a set piece delivery directly to Soldado’s head that resulted in a shot on target that Krul made a good save on.

Now 71% passing isn’t very good, but it’s something that I thought was strange too. Eriksen is normally very clean with the ball, but passing through a stacked defense for the entire match is hard. Then I dug into the numbers and noticed 13 crosses in the match. Crosses are usually completed at a 20% clip. Eriksen’s non-cross completion was 88%, but he was 2/13 on crosses.

Edit: Dan Kennett points out below in a comment that passing stats already have crosses removed, which I did not know. Read his point below for more illumination.

Check out this old image from Gabe Dejardins about expected completion rates for passes based on location of the target. Assume for a second that Soldado was generally in the blue spots and it gets easier to understand.

pass_completion_by_target_zone_medium

Eriksen also had three shots in the match and three shots on target (again, very good). Krul managed to save all three, just like he did with the 11 shots on target from Eriksen’s teammate. Sure, Spurs players made some of them too easy for him, but in general Krul played like an octopus with keeper gloves on.

“[Eriksen] went into hiding, fitting with the stereotype of the scouting reports.”
Really? Dude had 81 touches, or 14 more than any other Spurs offensive player.  He was also only dispossessed one time. Townsend had 4 in a full match, Sigurdsson had 4 in 69 minutes. This statement is just silly.

[Townsend] was good – at least he was trying his heart out.
Andros Townsend has one fluke, completely-by-accident goal from 45 shots this season!

His average shot distance is 26 yards!

He has 0 assists in 10 games!

Get. The fuck. Out.

Townsend’s performance so far this season is exactly what Shakespeare was thinking of when he wrote, “Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

Okay fine… I’ll come clean.

I actually thought Andros was decent on Sunday. He had some good lateral passes to setup dangerous shots and his shooting was better than it has been this season. Let’s not pretend he deserves to be in the lineup more than Lamela though, okay?

This Was Spurs Best Offensive Performance of the Season
And Eriksen was all over it. Spurs had one match last season with 14 shots on target, the 1-0 at home against Sunderland on the final day of the season (which included a red card). They also had 13 as part of a 3-2 win at West Ham. Sunday they produced 31 shots, 14 on target, and got beat 0-1.

I’ve looked at a couple of different models and they thought the score probably should have been 3 or 4-1 for Spurs. Shit happens.

Spurs have only scored 6 open play goals in 11 matches, which is dreadful and is likely not the result of just being unlucky. AVB has frequently sold out on defense in personnel selections so far this season, and it’s reflected by that goal return. On Sunday though, the team had more balance, and they were outstanding offensively against a Newcastle team who are actually pretty good.

Conclusion
Outcome: Spurs lost 0-1 at home to Newcastle.

Process: They had 31 shots and 14 shots on target. Christian Eriksen did something that hasn’t been done in the Premier League in at least 500 matches. Spurs lost, but they were actually really good.

If Spurs play like this in future games, they are going to win a lot of them. More performances like this will definitely leave them in contention for a Champions’ League spot. But Sunday’s performance doesn’t happen without the allegedly inefficient and ineffective Eriksen. His passing was incisive. He consistently made his teammates look better. And his use of space is extremely important for a Spurs team that too often makes themselves easy for opponents to mark.

This might be controversial, but based on the rarity of that type of performance and how he’s performed over his career, Christian Eriksen is quite possibly one of the best attacking passers in the Premier League already. Who somehow has only started league 5 matches so far this season.

Sigh.

If AVB ever gets his lineup selections right – which includes bringing Adebayor back from Siberia – this team could be almost unstoppable.

Secret Bonus Stat For Those Who Made It This Far
In the list above where I noted guys who had 9+ KP games, I actually left one out. There was one more guy who produced a feat like that last season in the big 5. Spurs actually already own him.

His name?

Erik Fucking Lamela.

6 open play goals in 11 matches! Lamela can’t get on the pitch in a Premier League game!

*headdesk*

Article responses

great analysis, numbers dont lie. eriksen is quality and so is lamela. i’m still curious why tottenham arent scoring more goals for their work though

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Great article Ted.

I actually wrote the first post of a ratings thread on Spurs Community & generally praised Eriksen and gave him a good mark, whilst noting his set pieces were under par. I also wrote it BEFORE I looked at whoscored. I probably underscored the players generally; classic team loses bias.

Cue my surprise as subsequently, fan after fan questioned my high mark for Eriksen. I can only presume people were influenced by two things a) Spurs lost & b) Alan Smith bitched about Eriksen and particularly his set pieces. Fans get emotionally embroiled in matches & stop watching what is going on and only hear commentary and remember match states.

Similarly, Eriksen had one good game to start (v Norwich) got hailed by Alan Hansen on MOTD & half the fans thought he was God. These fans then omitted to see how averagely he then played, couldn’t understand why Holtby replaced him; until Sunday, where he finally looked like he could run a forward line. And nobody noticed cos Spurs lost.
One thing all fans agreed was that Lamela should have started on one of the flanks after his tour de force in the week. That AVB thought to omit him and even bring on the widely derided Defoe has gone down in folklore as the ‘worst selection /substitution ever’

Me? I’m wincing every time a pass is misplaced or a shot goes wide, and that’s thanks to Statsbomb. ;)

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Thank you, thank you thank you TK.

It’s one thing to believe something that you’ve seen. It’s another to be able to demonstrably show it’s correct. Yeah. If Eriksen and Lamela don’t start against City I don’t know if I can be held responsible for my actions.

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Excellent blog Ted

One point of order and then a few observations

The 71% pass completion EXCLUDES crosses. Eriksen’s passing numbers were 39/55 (71%) and his crossing numbers 2/13 (15%)

So he did make 16 incomplete passes but 11 of these were in the final 3rd where his numbers were 15/26. A final 3rd completion rate of 58% is low (75% is “good”) but what we don’t really know is the risk of the pass being attempted i.e. if a player is attempting a through ball or killer pass it’s probably more likely to end up incomplete than a “safe” square pass in the final 3rd. We’re still looking at final 3rd passes from a purely quantitative angle

Of Eriksen’s 9 key passes, 5 were open play, 4 were set play and 1 of them was categorised as a “big chance” by Opta which means a 40% of scoring from it. Note: A “Set Play Chance” doesn’t mean just the original corner or FK into the box, it can also mean a subsequent chance created in that phase of play

So of Eriksen’s 15 completed final 3rd passes, one third resulted in a shot for a team mate!!! This is “good” in anyone’s book

As for the real root cause of Spurs’s problems I suggest you look no further than
1) Team selection. {cough} Lamela {cough}
2) This stat from Squawka: The 3 worst EPL players for conversion rate this season to have scored from open play: Townsend (3.5%), Paulinho (3.6%) & Soldado (4.6%). This is Liverpool 2011/12 levels of bad-ness for finishing!

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Thanks Dan! I didn’t know that crosses were actually excluded in the passing stats. That’s going to change a ton of future analysis we do, but it’s obviously super useful to know. I will add a note up top about it.

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Good piece. You mention 3 of 3 shots for Eriksen were on target when praising his performance. Can somebody explain why a non-scoring shot on target is so much better than a miss? Just the chance of a rebound?

I ask because, while I didn’t watch the match, I saw the highlights and he really should have scored the one chance that I’m sure the angry Spurs fan quoted here referred to.

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There’s a lot of randomness in keeper saves. What you mention is a positive, but making sure a shot is on target period is a) a skill and b) a chance at scoring a goal. Shots that are not on target are never potential goals.

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Well, if they have aim like Yogi Berra had an eye for the ball, they might have some potential goals :P

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I’m a goalkeeper and can shine a bit of light on this.

Firstly, I agree with the sentiment of the initial question. Many a time I’ve been well beaten, expecting the ball to find the back of the net and the post comes to my rescue. Or the ball even is just a few inches wide of the post. I’d go so far as to say that’s a better effort than having one hit straight at me, especially where I can hold on to the ball as opposed to having to push it away because of pace and bend even though the ball is pretty much straight at me.

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by randomness in keeper saves. We should save a saveable shot. Does that make sense? I was at White Hart Lane on Sunday and I personally think Krul had one of those games that keepers dream about where every shot is saveable. Some at a stretch, but saveable nevertheless. He didn’t do anything entirely out of this world. There was no Banksesque save. Nothing unbelievable. Just good solid concentration, stayed on his feat reasonably well. Used his body well. He wasn’t called into making any incredible interceptions like Lloris frequently does.

I still play 6-a-side and had a similar game two weeks ago. Then last week I didn’t play badly, but conceded two goals that were unstoppable. Both goals were put entirely beyond my reach, one coming in off the post and the into the top corner. No chance.

I personally thought Eriksen had a decent game on Sunday. He should, however, have lifted his shot beyond the reach of Krul. Sticking out a leg in the other direction to the movement of the body is a pretty standard keeper save. You guess left, the player goes right but you’ve setup an insurance policy with your legs covering the right. Lift the ball just a couple of feet and you leave the keeper no chance if he’s moving in the other direction.

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Mike – I entirely agree with you about the skill of putting a shot in a place where the keeper has very little/no chance, that’s what separates the better strikers and goalscorers from the rest. I was also at the match and completely understand criticisms of the team’s finishing made by Spurs fans, there were several occasions where greater composure in front of goal would have beaten Krul, but shots were instead within his reach.

I agree that patches of the second half were much better in attacking play for Spurs than at other times this season, and Eriksen had a big part in that – but if you shoot too close to the keeper then a lot of big chances will end up being squandered.

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Do you trust squawka? They both use opta but their stats on Eriksen’s passes are different. I am really confused because based on squawka he didn’t make any critical passes. Its one reason i was critical of Eriksen. Especially compared to his performance in the Europa league.

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I looked at the other stats for Eriksen on four four two and the overall page showcasing his what I assume to be his passes are different than the passes page for Eriksen. I now think that those key passes are actually passes that he has received in the match.

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I am looking at things more closely an I noticed that i misinterpreted passes for shots. So I am struggling to find out why his key passes were any good if only three of them were inside the box.

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—————— Soldado ——————–
Chadli ——— Eriksen ——— Lamela

This front 4 is still the dream. They’d never be part of a team with just 9 goals in 11 games, never.

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I don’t think we should be calling for Adebayor yet, I think even Messi would struggle with Townsend and Sigurdsson. This picture sums it up, the easiest of goal situations, but Andros shoots instead. http://i.imgur.com/lj3q1b0.png

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Stats aren’t helpful in understanding football unless you’re talking about goals. Ponder this: Eriksen had such a great game that it only took an intense look at various stats to realize it. That doesn’t make sense. Stats shouldn’t produce revelations on quality, only watching the game should! Unless you work backwards from the only stat that matters (goals in case we’ve forgotten) to derive other meaningless data, all other stats are, by plain definition, superfluous. Every man destroys the thing he loves.

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How is passing the ball to a bloke to shoot 9 times in one match superfluous??

Maybe the problem lies in the eye of the beholder?

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Wrong. Any great football tactician would look at Eriksen’s game against Chelsea and would know right away he had a good game. Stats are used to persuade the people who come into the game with a bias. A player might have a great game but if a viewer already disliked the player, the viewer might ignore his great performance. This is where stats come in. They prove to the naysayers how wrong they are. That is what happened here. Bias and prejudice clouded their judgement.

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I have no bias against Eriksen who had an ok game against a mid-level squad at home. To say a player had a great game when he had quite literally 0 impact on the scoring line seems to flirt with hyperbole. The individually invoked stats don’t prove much of anything. Watching a game tells far more about a players quality which Eriksen has plenty of; he just didn’t have a stellar game against Newcastle.

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Good article, raises some interesting points about the effectiveness of Eriksen on Sunday. I’m only now really coming round to the positives from Sunday (allowed myself to be influenced by the final outcome too much + a general negative outlook during the game) and these stats cetainly make me feel a lot better. It was really criminal that Lamela didn’t see any time. Really ironic that spurs had their best attacking performance of the season and it comes up against a truly inspirational, surely never-to-be-matched goalkeeping display

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Concentration of key passes on a single player might also be an indication of an inflexible team approach to breaking down the “parked bus”. (Eg Liverpool)

I assume that Barcelona have most frequently beaten teams with a similar defensive approach to Newcastle. It is interesting that no Barcelona players feature in the list of players with 9 key passes.

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Great article mate. It show us all how importent it is to let all the new guys gel in together. In Booth Eriksen, and Lamela we surely have two of the most gifted and talented young players in Europe. Yes, and bring Ade back in for contention. Ade and Soldier together upfront, at least at home will do the business. Rather play Ade, we pay for his salery anyway. And please stop hanging on AVB s back. Get of, and get behind the man instead. The future is bright, the future is lillywhite. In AVB we trust. COYS NORWAY!!

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Awesome analysis Ted !

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Just to say thanks for a great article.

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Fantastic research and analysis Ted – thank you for a great article. Have you considered sending this to AVB (in the post)? Hopefully he knows it all anyway, but I do think we must give the position to Eriksen for the long term. Am I right in thinking that Modric took a season to settle with us?
I also agree with your “reasonable score” of 3-1 / 4-1. We were slow in the first half but still better than Newcastle and the team effort in the second half was immense; so disappointing to hear some fans boo at full-time – the players must have been sick hearing that.

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Great read and good to know that someone else thought Eriksen put on a good performance.

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Don’t really have a useful comment but wanted to pop in and praise you for a fantastic piece. You continue to educate and inform with a fantastic voice. Bravo.

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Key passes are easy to get with players like townsend and sigurdsson who like to shoot from anywhere. This is bad.

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Excellent read! This site is an instant bookmark for me.

It’s interesting that you’ve cited getting Adebayor back as getting selection right. Everything you’ve said previously was very well reasoned but that statement curiously lacked logical backing. What are your reasons for that?

From my point of view – no one doubts Adebayor’s quality as a player. But last season, he was very poor. He was injured or lacked match fitness earlier in the campaign, then when he came on, his performances on the field was largely lethargic. He missed a large part of the campaign due to AFCON, then presumably got into AVB’s bad books for coming back very late despite serious calls from management to return ASAP. He finally showed what he can do in a small stretch of games late in the season. But 6 goals is really poor for a striker of his quality. This season, after his brother died, he was away for so long – a lot more than most players would take to recover.

Clearly this is a player who has commitment issues. There’s always a mixed reaction I have with Adebayor, good quality player but lack motivation for long periods. AVB, like Mourinho, demands high levels of commitment from players. Regardless of reputation, you’re only as good as your recent performances on the field as well as how much work was put in the training ground.

I can see your point of view of fielding Lamela. But due to the recent dramatic entry from Andros Townsend into the scene, coupled with settling in period of Lamela – there’s a case of putting in Townsend first while slowly easing Lamela into the starting lineup.

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I initially thought Eriksen had an indifferent game but this analysis has made me reconsider. Havinng said that, the authoe doesn’t deal with the poor corner kicks and free kicks that Eriksen delivered, for a player with such ability he was very poor with set pieces.

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Disagree. Spurs players didn’t get the end of those well, and yet Eriksen had 2 good ones that Soldado and Vertonghen got to the end off.

Last season, no matter who took those set pieces, very few chances were created even with double figure attempts. Eriksen getting 2 is already good. He was also a great set piece deliverer in Eredivisie. Which suggests that the problem lies with the other players.

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Very interesting analysis. Here are another couple of stats for you: Spurs lead the PL in shots per game, and are second in shots allowed against them per game, However Spurs also have the lowest conversion rate with 23 shots per goal. If you exclude the penalties, this becomes 34 shots per goal. Compare that with Man C, who have a seven shots per goal ratio.

So what’s the difference between us and Man C? I think Mike Barnett summed it up perfectly. We are making far too many shots that are withing reach of the GK.

Why? I think part of the problem is that the desire to play possession football has led to slow build-ups that allow plenty of time for the opponents to get into the box and park the bus. For me, the best performances by Spurs this season have been when Danny Rose racing down the wing. I am not sure that Townsend is the “wunderkinder” that so many think he is. As a Spurs fan, I cringe to have to admit that Walcott is better than him, but he is still young. Spurs have looked at their best when we have had two speedy wingers, supported by two speedy full backs. Since Rose’s injury, I’ve noticed that opponents have tended to double-mark Townsend, because Sigurdson does not represent the same threat on the left.

Ideally, put rose and Lamela on the left, and Townsend and Walker on the right, and as they say, let the games begin. AVB has great cover for every position except for Rose. Verthongen is clearly a great defender, but he lacks the attacking impact that Rose has.

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I’d like to share results of my own data and analysis on Eriksen vs. Newcastle based on the expected goals and assists model I do. This is based onweighting each shot or key pass on location of shot, type of shot, type of pass, situation, much like Statbomb’s ExpG I imagine.

Eriksen had a good game in terms of creating versus Newcastle – but not great. I give him 0.68 expected assists (xA) for the game.This is the 7th highest in the Premier League this season – so not quite as exceptional and rare a performance that simply looking at his total of 9 key passes suggests. For reference, the highest xA games this season have come from Ozil vs Stoke (0.85), Coutinho vs Stoke (0.84) and… (get ready)… Mark Noble vs Spurs (0.83)

In terms of counting key passes alone, rather than measuring the potential output of the passes, although Eriksen’s 9 KP is indeed a high total, if Robert Snodgrass had humped one more freekick into the box vs. Cardiff for Hooper to glance wide he too would have had 9 KP for that game. Marveaux, Schurrle, Dyer, Huddlestone, Nasri and Ozil have all registered 7 KP in a single game this season.

The context of the game has to be taken into account too. After a surprise early goal Newcastle fell further and further back and were under siege, inevitably conceding dangerous possession and free kicks/ corners. Take away Eriksen’s set piece duty in this game and his stats would look ordinary.
I’m not knocking his game vs. Newcastle, he probably deserved an assist from it at least, but his performance was only good, not great.

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Interesting stuff. On the whole I rate Eriksen highly and I definitely think he should be in Spurs starting XI. I think this is a little flattering of his performance last weekend – chances created can come from poor crosses being deflected or falling to an attacker luckily and by players attempting ambitious shots. Also you have to judge a player on what they do in the key moments and he did have a great opportunity to score. As for “4-1″ I don’t necessarily like models as had the game gone to 1-1/2-1 the outlook becomes very different. Overall though given playing time Eriksen is going to score and create goals, probably more so than most Tottenham midfielders and this is evidence for that.

Here I’d like to put in a good word also for Gylfi Sigurdsson. I believe he’s a very similar player to Eriksen and there was a time when he was at Swansea where only Mata & Silva were creating more chances per minute. He’s wasted out left, I’d love to see both him and Eriksen play centrally together, Soldado up front, Lamela given the freedom to roam either flank with Dembele and Paulinho in front of the defence, Walker and Rose providing more width.

I’d tend to agree that Townsend’s influence has been over-hyped as so often happens, he is dangerous when running at defenders but his delivery and decision making is poor. Krul did play well, his saves following Sigurdsson’s deflected free-kick probably being his best. Keeper’s are at the mercy of the player shooting but what he had to do (which was plenty) he did well.

AVB has not yet got Spurs playing close to their full potential, although one final note would be that Spurs’ pitch is the second smallest in the league which has surely contributed to their good defensive and poor offensive records.

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