Attacking, Fast and Slow: Tottenham Edition

One of the numbers that stuck out to me when I calculated the data in Attacking, Fast and Slow, was the slow pace of Tottenham’s attack. We know Pochettino values winning the ball back high up the pitch and launching fast-paced counter-attacks, so why isn’t that clearer from the data? In the light of Jake Meador‘s piece today which had a few commenters quite rightly puzzling over my numbers, I thought I’d look deeper and work out where the bugs were in my approach, and how better to present the data so it captures the nuances in Tottenham’s attack.

First off, there were issues with my data, and I’ve added a note and updated numbers to the the last post. Luckily, most of my conclusions remain correct (and in fact the correlation of attack duration from year to year is even stronger in the fixed data), but one of the big movers are indeed Tottenham, who now reside in the bottom half for attack duration.

Let’s look in more detail at exactly how quick each team’s attacks are. Here I’ve broken attacks down into 5 second buckets up to 30s, and sorted by the 0-5s bucket:

Team 0-5s 5-10s 10-15s 15-20s 20-25s 25-30s 30s+
Southampton 47 22 20 13 10 4 28
Tottenham Hotspur 40 20 21 15 18 11 29
Arsenal 39 21 32 25 17 12 35
Liverpool 38 27 16 9 11 7 38
Aston Villa 34 17 9 7 8 5 23
Leicester City 34 30 28 21 8 2 20
Norwich City 33 23 12 16 13 7 29
Crystal Palace 33 21 19 13 9 4 17
Manchester City 33 24 30 16 14 13 48
Bournemouth 30 22 10 10 6 7 22
Watford 30 22 21 11 11 5 25
Chelsea 28 17 23 11 10 11 29
West Bromwich Albion 25 14 14 8 5 5 20
West Ham United 25 27 15 16 8 9 26
Sunderland 24 9 14 9 11 6 18
Everton 23 16 15 18 7 10 29
Newcastle United 19 23 14 10 7 9 23
Swansea City 18 26 8 17 15 8 32
Stoke City 16 14 15 6 14 6 20
Manchester United 16 14 10 8 9 34

And here’s what that looks like stacked up together:
shot-durations

Well that matches our intuitions much better – the two teams we know share Pochettino’s desire for quick attacks off turnovers are right there are the top, with more shots within 5s than anyone else, and with 10s numbers that stack up pretty well too. I initially worried that these numbers might just be a side-effect of weird corner numbers, but Tottenham and Southampton sit 8th and 9th in corner count.

If you look at Tottenham’s numbers in the aggregate, they’re slowed down by patient build-up play. Despite the contrast in the chart above, they can be similar to Man Utd – moving the ball from side to side, waiting for an opportunity to open up. If you remember my passing gains chart, Tottenham’s passing on average in the centre of the field is backwards. They probe forwards on the wings, recycle backwards into the centre. Eventually this leads to shots that have taken a lot of time and space in the build-up, and I’ll certainly look for better ways to categorise this. But hopefully with the approach above, people are at least now seeing the Tottenham they know and love.

Attacking, Fast and Slow: Tottenham Edition

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