Inspecting Tottenham’s Poor Form

Ange Postecoglou started life at Tottenham brilliantly as they dazzled the Premier League with a free-flowing brand of football that enchanted supporters and attracted appreciation from the football world.

Tottenham inevitably struck a period of turbulence in November, when they were winless for five games, with a 4-1 thrashing by Chelsea that started the underwhelming run.

Postecoglou quickly shifted the team’s momentum after defeating Newcastle United 4-1, kick-starting their run of good fortunes for the following months, which helped Tottenham remain in the run-in for a Champions League spot.

However, Tottenham has yet again entered choppy waters for Postecoglou to navigate, with his team only producing one win in the last six games. This article will explore the overriding cause of the North Londoners’ underwhelming form.

Defensive Fragility

The most alarming contributor to their underperformance has been the sheer number of conceded goals. In six matches, Tottenham conceded a colossal 16 goals while accumulating an expected goals against (xGA) of 12.4.

The most discussed part of Tottenham’s defence is their inadequacy in dealing with set-pieces – defensive corners and free kicks. Twice against Arsenal and once against Newcastle, they leaked goals from corners. Moreover, in an away fixture at Stamford Bridge, Tottenham conceded from a free kick with a guided header by Trevoh Chalobah.

Without a set-piece specialist in the coaching staff, Postecoglou’s side has suffered from defensive set-piece all season long, and therefore, it is not a recent trend. Nevertheless, it is one area for the club to address moving into the 2024/25 campaign, especially since they will be returning to Europe next season.

The second area of weakness is their rest defence structure. With an aggressive on-ball system, Postecoglou likes committing players forward. However, this often leaves the team understaffed when the opposition launches counter-attacks.

It was evident in some of the goals conceded in games against Arsenal and Burnley, where the opposition exploited the weak rest defence structure.

Even when Tottenham gets their rest defence right, they can concede goals like they did against Newcastle. That is something Postecoglou will want to work on during the summer preseason.

A simple tactical area where Tottenham falls short is the diligence of the wingers to track back and prevent overloads against their back-line.

In the modern tactical age, most teams attack in a line of five, so if the opposition team plays a structure using four defenders, that leaves an extra attacking player free. Therefore, it is paramount that a winger or midfielder from the defending team track back and prevent a numerical inferiority.

Tottenham has been caught lacking in the back post by opponents to prevent such situations, costing Postecoglou many goals.

Lastly, defensive errors from misjudgments have also caused Tottenham to leak goals, putting Postecoglou on the back foot and in a difficult position to salvage a result.

Temporal Bias

The recent downpour of criticism on Postecoglou’s dogmatic attacking playstyle is warranted to an extent since Tottenham has been defensively vulnerable throughout the season – conceding a tremendous number of chances and goals.

It has, in turn, stirred a negative undercurrent around Tottenham that has slightly distracted Premier League fans from the broader picture. Postecoglou has remodelled Spurs’ playstyle drastically and successfully, pushing them into a race for Champions League football, although they did fall short in the end. Nevertheless, the club has experienced a positive trajectory under the Australian.

Moreover, and arguably more importantly, Postecoglou has transformed the club’s culture and mentality, with even his recent outburst prior to and following the Manchester City clash reflecting the passion behind his motives to take Tottenham to uncharted territories of success.

Whether the Australian will manage to fulfill his ambitions will only be revealed over time. As for this season’s performance, Tottenham looks to be on the right track.

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