by Tony Attwood
How could changes in tactic lead to each club’s tactics will affect their position in the top six?
As always with analyses of tactics, we need to consider the effect of actions. For example goal kicks or throw ins being intercepted by the opposition are frustrating, and can be called “errors”, but such “errors” come generally because the player taking the throw in or goal kick is being adventurous rather than playing safe. A keeper who kicks the ball to a nearby defender makes no mistake but doesn’t take a risk. A play who throws the ball back to a defender makes no mistake, but doesn’t himself take the team forward.
But cause and effect is never a strong point with newspaper analyses which tend just to register “errors” rather than consider the importance of errors. Likewise when we measure successes we need to look at whether the success is built on solid ground.
What I am doing here is looking at the notable successes and failures of the top six teams of last season, and see what implications we can draw for the coming season, and then make another prediction as to next season’s top six.
To begin at the back, Petr Cech did make six mistakes last season that could be said directly led to opposition goals, so bringing in a new keeper looks like a good move.
Arsenal didn’t concede any own goals, so nothing to improve there but they did concede goals from defensive errors so a reworking of the defence seems indicated. As above, that work seems to have been done by the new manager – although of course time will tell.
When Sky Sports did an analysis they said Arsenal’s biggest failing was “costly errors” – ie defender mistakes that led to goals, and their figures show Arsenal was the worst team in this regard. We were losing games because our defenders made errors – and indeed the new manager has been buying defensive minded players.
However it is interesting that neither this analysis, nor one in the Guardian, noted that these errors happened almost entirely away from home. Yes there were a few errors at home games that led to goals, but nothing like on the scale of away games.
This suggests a tactical problem which with new players and new tactics away from home, could be overcome. Certainly given that last season’s away form was unlike anything seen during the rest of Mr Wenger’s reign, it would seem likely it will be overcome.
Additionally the analysers from the media tend to miss the fact that Arsenal hit the woodwork 16 times last season – higher than any other team except Manchester City. That issue of an inch or two either way is surely luck as much as anything – and one might expect a few more to go in next season.
If we move on to look at the other clubs in the top six last season from a similar standpoint we might notice that Chelsea got more offsides against them than any other team last season, but were one of the best teams for completing passes which compensated for that somewhat. Again, a tactical change might improve that somewhat.
Liverpool’s problem was particularly interesting. As Sky pointed out, “No team ended up drawing more times after taking the lead than Liverpool.” It could also be said that on occasion they are so full of themselves, possibly encouraged in this by the way the media treats them (hence the name we sometimes use for the club – “Liverpool!”) that even being two goals up does not mean a victory for them. Only two other teams managed to blow a two goal lead like Liverpool! The mighty Southampton and WBA.
Did Manchester City have a problem? Well, yes, and the answer shows us why an examination of the issue behind stats is always worthwhile. They missed more big chances that anyone else in the season – 63. Which shows just how impossible they are going to be to catch.
Manchester United scored 68 goals which leaves what must be an impossible to overcome distance to covercome considering Manchester City scored 106. As the Guardian said, “Manchester United have tended to play some efficient, purposeful football without ever setting the pulses racing.” And how do you overcome that, under J Mourinho?
As for Tottenham, they had fewer goalscorers than any other team in the top six last time around, putting a huge strain on one man. We might also notice that Dele Alli was twice booked last season for simulation – rare for one player to be done twice. That can be changed easily, but getting more people to score goals – especially if their one main striker gets injured or has a drought – that could be an issue.
Here is Tottenham’s complete list of league goal scorers for last season (total goals including cup competitions are shown in brackets).
- Harry Kane: 30 (41)
- Son Heung-min: 12 (18)
- Christian Eriksen: 10 (14)
- Dele Alli: 9 (14)
- Serge Aurier: 2 (2)
- Ben Davies: 2 (2)
- Erik Lamela: 2 (4)
- Fernando Llorente: 1 (5)
- Moussa Sissoko: 1 (2)
- Victor Wanyama: 1 (1)
- Alexandre Lacazette: 14 (17)
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 10 (10)
- Aaron Ramsey: 7 (11)
- Alexis Sanchez: 7 (8)
- Nacho Monreal: 5 (6)
- Danny Welbeck: 5 (10)
- Olivier Giroud: 4 (7)
- Mesut Ozil: 4 (5)
- Alex Iwobi: 3 (3)
- Shkodran Mustafi: 3 (3)
- Hector Bellerin: 2 (3)
- Sead Kolasinac: 2 (4)
- Laurent Koscielny: 2 (2)
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 2 (3)
- Per Mertesacker: 1 (2)
- Jack Wilshere: 1 (2)
- Granit Xhaka: 1 (3)
Arsenal’s list here is of course much greater than Tottenham’s. On the negative side Arsenal have lost their 4th, 7th, 15th and 16th highest scorers and could lose their sixth as well. On the positive side the second highest scorer was only with us for half a season and the top scorer played 2212 minutes in the season as opposed to 3083 for Kane.
Of course we know what it is like to have one star striker, and the thought of going into games without Henry could on occasion be worrying for those of us who were there, and by and large I suspect most of us would sooner have a 30 league goal a season man than two 15 a season men. But it does put a lot of strain on one player.
There is no doubt an injury to Son or Kane could upset Tottenham’s whole approach next season.
Looking at this I once again reach the conclusion, as I did in the last article on this subject, that Tottenham and Chelsea could be vulnerable to slipping this season, while I would be surprised if Arsenal don’t adjust their style of away play and take a higher position.
I am of course utterly biased, but once again I can see reasons for seeing this coming season as one of progress. I can’t see a chance in hell of us winning the league – but then I can’t see anyone winning the league other than Man City here – just as Juventus, Bayern, Celtic, and PSG will also win the league. I suspect you can probably add Barcelona to that list.
No, the era of the one team league is now well and truly here, and the PL is all the worse for that, but getting into the top four is a realistic target, and with this manager, so, most certainly, are a few Cups.
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