Tottenham have had the most shots at goal in the Premier League this season, yet find themselves mid-table when it comes to goals scored. While the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal are running up huge numbers on the goal front, Spurs have scored just 3 in their past 5 competitive fixtures. Two of the five have come via Vincent Janssen from the penalty spot, which leaves just one goal scored from open play across 450 minutes of football.
Whilst much talk in the early weeks of 2016/17 had concentrated on Spurs’ ability to stop their opposition scoring from open play, simultaneously they were becoming less of a threat on this front themselves. Without Harry Kane leading the line, the path through seems ever more unlikely. While the clubs currently occupying the top four positions in the league have 24, 23, 24 and 21 goals respectively, the North Londoners have managed just 14 across the corresponding ten fixtures. At the current time, this is the difference and sees them outside of the top 4 after a quarter of the season. Spurs can’t be seen as legitimate title contenders until or unless addressing the issues in the final third.
Having the most shots on goal but significantly less goals than the clubs above them is a major area of concern, and there are several factors at play here. A team that have had similarly frustrating encounters and results is Manchester United. And as shown by the diagram above, they suffer from the same problem; a lot of shots and a similarly low percentage of shots on target (46%). All clubs in the top four have at minimum a 50% shots on target ratio. It really highlights just how important quality finishing is, and how much of a difference even a few percentage points can make.
This is where the loss of Harry Kane has been felt most acutely, in terms of shots and shots on target percentage. As can be seen from the table above, there really is no legitimate comparison between the efforts of Kane last season and Vicent Janssen this. Janssen’s shot accuracy is decidedly poor at 38%, a whopping 22% below that of Kane last term. Given Janssen also has less shots per match, these stats alone indicate that his goal threat is barely half that of Spurs’ main man up front. The evidence is clear; less shots on goal and less shots on target mean less goals from your striker. Considering Kane scored 25 of Tottenham’s 69 league goals in 2015/16, it is really no wonder that he has been missed.
Christian Eriksen has been roundly criticised by various media sources and fans alike for his a lack of impact on the scoresheet so far this season. Whilst the facts are that he is yet to open his Premier League goal account in the first 10 matches, the evidence suggests he is in fact having more shots than the season prior. But given he is not prolific (he scored only 6 across the last league season) then perhaps this criticism is unfair. Perhaps 6-8 goals per season is his level, and thus he is only falling 1 or 2 goals short so far. And if that is the case, could it be that Spurs need more creativity in the attacking midfield area.
In fact, Eriksen’s shots on target percentage is higher, and his shots per game ratio higher, than last season. But his output is down, despite fashioning the most chances for his team and chipping in for three goal assists. He is lacking penetration from outside the box (where the majority of his shots come from). Two seasons ago, he was Spurs’ main danger from distance and with a total of 10 league goals in 2014/15. The numbers of late may not paint a complete picture; more shots and more shots on target indicate an improved threat. But the eye tells you that he is simply not striking with as much power, or testing opposition goal keepers as he has in the past.
A look at Spurs’ main goal threats over the last two seasons show that the majority are meeting or exceeding their shot statistics from the year before. Son Heung-Min has played closer to goal at times and so his shots from inside the 18 yard box are significantly higher. Yet other than he, there is only a minor increase (in shots outside the area) across the board. The further from goal, the less likely you are to score, so this aspect plays a role in the goals to shots and shots on target ratio. Again Janssen is the outlier, the comparison of he and Kane (who was down in output prior to injury) versus Kane’s efforts of the previous season are the overriding factor in why Spurs are simply scoring less goals.
It’s dangerous to rely on one player for goals, but a quick look around the Premier League shows the difference a firing striker or attacking midfielder (Hazard) makes. The top scorers in the league, shown above, all have an outstanding shot accuracy % apart from Aguero, who simply fashions so many more chances than anyone else. Hazard’s accuracy is comparable with Eriksen’s, yet the Belgian has double the number of shots from inside the box as from distance. This ability to get into more dangerous positions is evidently a significant difference between the two and their level of goal scoring threat.
As the saying goes, sometimes the simplest solution is also the best. Get Kane back and firing, and Spurs should start increasing their output. But they also need the likes of Eriksen to find a way into the box and shoot given his role and importance to the team. Of the 271 goals scored in the first ten weeks of the Premier League, a whopping 234 (86%) have come from inside the penalty area. Shots from distance can surely be sacrificed to create more quality chances from close range.
Graphics thanks to squawka.com