Could ESPN’s claim that Tottenham are in the title race be true?




By Tony Attwood

ESPN tells us that Ange Postecoglou has said that he believes Tottenham are in the Premier League title race.  Which is quite a claim given that Tottenham are six points and 12 goals behind Liverpool with over half the season gone.

It is also interesting that no one is telling us that Arsenal are in the title race, as Arsenal is only five points and eight goals behind the current leaders.  (And to be clear, I’m not suggesting Arsenal are in the title race – certainly not after one win in the last seven games across all competitions).

So we might ask, what gives Tottenham the chance that Arsenal does not have?

Of course one argument could be the recent upturn in form, although if we look at the table for the last ten league games played by each team that doesn’t appear to be the case…


Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 10 6 4 0 20 9 +11 22
7 Arsenal 10 5 1 4 14 12 +2 16
8 Chelsea 10 5 1 4 21 20 +1 16
9 Everton 10 5 1 4 14 14 0 16
10 Man Utd 10 5 1 4 11 11 0 16
11 Brighton 10 3 5 2 15 14 +1 14
12 Tottenham 10 4 1 5 20 20 0 13

It is of course possible that clubs that have not been performing that well of late could turn their fortunes around and that Tottenham, the 12th best performing team over the last ten games could continue their most recent improvement in form.   But then if they did so, could any other teams that have been doing better than Tottenham in the last ten games equally improve and keep Tottenham out?

That seems likely, unless of course Tottenham has some sort of secret weapon.  Yes they are, along with Chelsea the second-highest scorers in the last ten games, but if we look at their defence, they are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to letting in goals.

However, we must admit that in terms of discipline, they are no longer the worst team in the league for yellow cards as they were for quite a long time this season.   But despite making serious attempts to clean up their act they are still the fourth most yellow-carded team in the league (behind Chelsea, Sheffield United and Aston Villa).  And they are the most red-carded team in the league this season, equal with such luminaries as Liverpool and Burnley.

Liverpool’s place at the top of the red card table shows that red cards alone may not stop a team winning, but Liverpool has only picked up 36 yellow cards, compared to Tottenham’s 52, and as we suggested above, those cards will start coming home to roost as either players get suspended or they try to change their natural style of play to stop them picking up more cards.

So to try and see if Tottenham do have some magical formula which outgenerals the normal concerns in the way a club plays football, we can do one of our usual analyses of tackles, fouls and yellow cards.   Here we look at Tottenham in comparison with Arsenal and Liverpool – the figures are per league game and are taken from WhoScored.


Tackles Fouls Yellow
Arsenal 16.5 9.7 1.50
Tottenham 20.3 10.9 2.60
Liverpool 16.3 12.00 1.80


So we can see that in terms of tackling Liverpool and Arsenal have adopted similar stances, but Liverpool commit more fouls and get more yellow cards than Arsenal.   Tottenham however are on a totally different trajectory, putting in around a quarter more fouls than Arsenal and ending up with almost 75% more yellow cards through the season than Arsenal.

So Arsenal and Liverpool are travelling on the same road.   Liverpool commit 24% more fouls than Arsenal and get 20% more yellow cards than Arsenal – which seems about right.

But Tottenham are going berserk on yellow cards – seemingly not just for their approach which is high on tackling, but also because they are picking up yellow cards for other matters, I presume such as arguing with the ref, refusing to back away ten yards, discourteous behaviour and all the other things referees are giving extra cards for this season.

So while Arsenal and Liverpool commit around six and a half fouls per yellow card, Tottenham are getting yellow card for just over four fouls because of the cards coming in for other offences.


Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Arsenal 1.70 11.00 6.47
Tottenham 1.86 7.80 4.19
:Liverpool 1.36 9.06 6.67


So this stuff about Tottenham charging up the league seems a bit curious when a) their performances over the last ten games, and b) their propensity for picking up yellow cards is mitigating against them.

ESPN however is totally on Tottenham’s side, beefing their chances up as if the management of the channel had shares in the club, with statements such as “Postecoglou has revived the club with an exciting brand of football.”

The site carries on with claims as to how good Tottenham have been in handling transfers, saying they “moved quickly in the January market to sign Timo Werner on loan from RB Leipzig and Radu Dragusin from Genoa in a deal worth around €30 million.”

What we can do at this point is pause to think what the media would make if at this moment Arteta claimed that Arsenal are in the “title race”.  Raucous laughter I imagine.

7 Replies to “Could ESPN’s claim that Tottenham are in the title race be true?”

  1. Spurs have been decimated by injuries especially in the defence. If they get through January unscathed then the return of players like Romero, sarr, bissouma and son with 2 new signings and counting will mean a title charge is definitely on.

  2. Spurs will come good 2d half the season and will finish top 4.
    We’ll struggle to get near top 4.

  3. Spurs will improve in the 2nd half of the season – manager’s tactics bedding in, key players back from injury, new signings strengthening squad depth, no Europe distraction etc. Sheer logic says this is likely to get them into the top 4 given they are only 1 point behind currently. Yellow cards, discipline, form over the last 10 games are simply weak attempts of a desperate Arsenal fan to avoid the more overriding evidence that Spurs are a threat. Maybe not Champions given Liverpool’s consistency or Citeh’s proven brilliance but a threat nonetheless. Arsenal on the other hand have less signals currently that they will also be a threat. Let’s just be realistic here, unless Arteta starts to live in the real world and addresses problems rather than continue his vanity projects, Arsenal are really fighting Villa for 4th based on the emerging evidence. Yellow cards ain’t going to change this, is it…..

  4. Who said Arsenal are not in the race? Not Ange, not Arteta, not Emery….writing about magic formulas, foul and yellow card tables because the manager of a team 6 points from top at the halfway mark has said his team are still in the race is hilarious really. Just in case you need some reassurance, Arsenal are in the race…along with Liverpool, City, Villa and Tottenham. Lucky that Arteta doesn’t give up due to some poor results with 50% of the season to go as it would be certain relegation. Face some facts with the statement, injuries and suspensions cost Tottenham dearly over the course of a month but those players (who had Tottenham at the top of the league) are all returning in January. Add to that they have made a couple of signings (which seem to make sense) means they are absolutely still in the race. If Arsenal can pick up results to match effort/perfomaces from earlier in the season, they are without any doubt also still right in the race.

  5. A month ago before the expected annual slump my son had a pop at me for saying we are fighting for 4th
    By tonight we could be 5th.
    Arteta has managed to break something not broken. His ego getting in the way?
    £680m spent and no better than under UE

  6. The top 5 teams are all obviously still in the race. Its possible, but unlikely, a team below them could still make a charge. The way City strolled past Arsenal last season late on tells you its far too early to write teams off. As far as Spurs are concerned Ian Wright said their job is too hang in there until they get their players back. So far that’s exactly what they are doing. I sense that a lot of Arsenal fans are in denial over Postecoglou. He’s clearly an exceptional manager or his team would be a lot further off the pace. How far he can get them this season remains to be seen. But next season will be interesting.

  7. Why not ? they are in the mix , 5 points off the top and level on points with us having played one more game . Slip up against Palace and we could easily be overtaken.

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