How to solve the problem of Spurs left side?

Spurs left side is already one of the Premiere League’s least productive in terms of chance creation.

So far this season Spurs’ attack hasn’t caught the imagination like it was supposed to. The left side has been a particular problem though. Not only due to the number of players that have played there, but also the lack of chances created.

This area of the team has also not been helped by the switch at left back.


Danny Rose started the campaign in the position and his forward bursts got him in to some excellent attacking positions.

With Rose at left back, Spurs averaged 14.75 shots a game, say Bwin.com’s number crunchers. In their last five matches without him, that number has dropped to 10.6.

Rose’s injury has meant that Jan Vertonghen has covered the role.

While he is able to get up the pitch, Vertonghen doesn’t have the speed to burst past his wide forward on the overlap or recover ground quickly like Rose if the ball is lost.

Take Danny Rose’s performance away against Arsenal, a formidable opponent who are second favourites to win the Premier League. We can see how much Rose gets up the line to receive the ball. We can also see how Nacer Chadli moves play forward to him to progress the attack.

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Danny Rose passes received and Nacer Chadli passes to him: Arsenal 1 Spurs 0.

Compare that with stand-in left back Jan Vertonghen away to Everton – another decent team that also plays 4-2-3-1. Vertonghen is playing with another inverted wide player in Aaron Lennon so should be offering width.

The Belgian does receive a lot of longer passes hit to him from the centre of the park to switch the attack, which he can bring under control due to his height. But he doesn’t get up the field enough or take the ball played up the line. Lennon’s passes to him are all backwards or in the middle third of the pitch.

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Jan Vertonghen passes received and Aaron Lenoon passes to him: Everton 0 Spurs 0.

It’s not just the full backs; the wide forward on the left in front of them has also struggled as well to create chances, whether it’s been Lennon, Lamela or Sigurdsson.

Lennon is arguably the most one footed player Spurs have and much better on the right. Sigurdsson plays the role extremely narrow and is better at bursting through the inside left channel to score goals rather than create them – as he did on his strikes against Norwich and Chelsea. Whilst Erik Lamela only played there in the debacle at Man City, but looked like a wide forward playing on the wrong side.

This lack of cohesion, and also lack of consistency, has lead to their left side being one of the least productive in terms of chance creation in the Premier League.

Betting pundits even note that Spurs have the season’s lowest shot conversion rate at only 7 percent. This has led to odds of a 0-0 outcome during today’s match against Sunderland, who happens to have the season’s least number of shots on target, set at 29/4. It’s definitely saying something when you stand to win more money on a clean sheet for both sides.

Only Hull, Arsenal and Fulham have created less of their chances down the left side than Spurs. Whilst only Newcastle, Arsenal and Fulham have a bigger imbalance in their chances created between left and right flanks.

Take their 1-0 home loss to Newcastle, where they took a massive 31 shots but ran in to an inspired Tim Krul. The decent chance creation from good attacking areas inside the box came from the right side, whilst only one cross came in from the left.

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Spurs chances created against Newcastle.

Return of Nacer Chadli key for Spurs?

The return to fitness of Nacer Chadli could prove key to getting more production out of the left side and making the attack more balanced as a whole.

In Spurs’ trip to the Emirates, we saw how he linked with Danny Rose. But Chadli also offers the ability to get in beyond the full back in the final third himself. This gives his combination with the full back more of a one-two punch than that of a generic inverted wide player who just cuts inside and leaves the full back to overlap.

Being tall, he is the focus for long switches in play, as the ball often travels over distance to him, which he can then bring down under his control. But he also goes up the line, which keeps the defence honest rather than them sitting narrow against a player that always cuts inside.

We can see this against Arsenal, but also how he was attempting to get in-behind his marker to supply short crosses and pull backs from inside the penalty area.

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Nacer chadli passes received and played: Arsenal 1 Spurs 0.

We also saw this pattern of play from the Belgian in Spurs’ opening match of the season at Crystal Palace.

Nacer Chadli here was again the focus for long switches in play of the ball when it is transferred across the pitch. This increases the tempo of the attack.

Whilst he does come inside to receive the ball, as at the Emirates, he also goes up the line, trying to get in-behind in order to create some service for his team mates.

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Nacer Chadli passes received and played: Crystal Palace 0 Spurs 1.

This type of play from the left flank is something Spurs have been missing since Nacer Chadli has been out with injury.

In four Premier League starts and a substitute appearance against Chelsea, he is creating a chance to score every 30 minutes.

This is much better than Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 79 minutes per chance created in his seven appearances on the left in the Premier League. It’s also better than Aaron Lennon’s 69 minutes per chance created in his three league appearances on that side.

Whilst Danny Rose is an important factor, the return to fitness of Nacer Chadli will go a long way to rectifying the problem of Spurs sputtering left side.

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One Response to How to solve the problem of Spurs left side?

  1. Chris B Waters December 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Spurs have gone from having probably the most devastating left flank in the PL to having a now fairly ineffectual one. They would not have had the current lack of chances if BAE had been retained as cover (instead of getting loaned out) for Rose, and his long standing injury. Verts is a fine player, but he is not too great at LB and besides which, he doesn’t like playing there.
    The jury is still out on Chadli. He had a better game against Utd, but he still looks a bit static.
    So far, on the left flank, Verts or Naughton with Sig/Lamela/Chadli further up, has not worked in the PL.
    With Rose back, and Lennon (or even Townsend) in front of him, we might match the pace and incisiveness of the right side ..but for now, it’s a dilemma.