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How High is the Ceiling for Tottenham Hotspur This Season?

Tottenham Hotspur were in a bit of a slump heading into their big match with Manchester City on Sunday, having lost three straight games, including a crushing 4-1 defeat against rivals Chelsea and a pair of 2-1 losses to Wolves and Aston Villa.


So when Spurs emerged from the Etihad with a point following their 3-3 draw, fans and pundits alike began to switch their tone from alarmed to confident. And rightfully so; only they and Liverpool have traveled to Etihad Stadium in Manchester and emerged with a point in seven home games this season.


But should Spurs fans be so confident? It depends entirely on their expectations.


On one hand, they’ve scored 28 goals and have a positive goal differential of +8. They’ve also managed to put 80 of their 218 shots on target, the same number as Liverpool and the third most in the league. 2021-22 Golden Boot winner Son Heung-min currently has nine goals, bettered only by Mohammed Salah and Erling Haaland.


Defensively, they’ve been less sound. Spurs have allowed 20 goals so far in the campaign, which is far from elite defending, although better than ten other clubs. This can also be a symptom of their style of play, as Postecoglou has committed to holding a high defensive line when out of possession and building out from the back with the ball.


On the other hand, however, they don’t post favorable underlying numbers. Spurs are one of 11 clubs with a negative xG differential (-0.9), meaning they’re allowing as many quality chances as they’ve created this season. To remedy such figures, teams can either try stifling their opponent’s creativity through quality defending or create better chances at the other end of the field.


Unfortunately for Spurs, they’ll be without their most creative player, James Madison (five assists, 0.51 assists per 90, 881 league minutes played), until January as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered during the club’s heavy 4-1 defeat against Chelsea back in early November. They’ll also be missing Richarlison, who has posted three assists and one goal in seven starts for the club.


In addition to injuries to Ivan Perišić, Ryan Sessengon, and Mansor Solomon, Tottenham will also be without Dutch defender Micky van de Ven (11 games, 943 league minutes played) until the new year. Pape Sarr and Rodrigo Bentancur will also miss games due to injury.


The injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time, with six games still to come in December.


All of this makes for a difficult task of challenging title favorites like Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal, but no one really expected Spurs to do that.


In late November, Opta’s predicted end-of-season table gave them the best chance of finishing fourth, with a fifth-place finish being the second-most likely outcome.


While a three-all draw against City will certainly buoy confidence in the short term, it’s important to remember that we’ve yet to see if Postecoglou’s tactics can work across an entire season. They’ve already dropped points in key matches, and their signature win this year over Liverpool was marred in controversy.


So, if you’re a Spurs fan, you’re probably right to be excited. Postecoglou and his positive tactics have been a breath of fresh air for the club, especially following more negative game models such as those used by previous managers Antonio Conte and José Mourinho. Son has stepped into the void left by Harry Kane. But there are still many questions yet to be answered by Tottenham this season.

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