Tottenham Hotspur may have made the headlines for their attacking signings this summer, but it could be the form of their defence that defines their season.
Statistics can tell you anything if you manipulate them in the right way. The more complex ones can also bore you to tears.
But there is a very simple statistic relating to Tottenham Hotspur that may say more than a spread-sheet full of pass-percentages and distances run; a stat that proves they are realistic contenders for a trophy or two this season.
In the eight games Spurs have played so far this season, they have conceded just one goal – in the 1-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates.
That Olivier Giroud strike aside, Andre Villas-Boas’s team have kept seven clean-sheets in games both domestically and in Europe. And when you consider three of their four league wins to date have been by a single goal, those shut-outs have been vital.
Those 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Cardiff City, along with a 2-0 victory over Norwich, have sent Spurs to second in the table, behind the Gunners only on goal-difference.
Add their three clean-sheets in the Europa League and it is clear that for all Tottenham’s attacking ability, their defence is all-but-impenetrable…at least for now.
Their next league match against Chelsea will go a long way to determining just how good their back-line has become. But if they manage to keep the likes of Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson fit all season, the results may take care of themselves.
Despite Tottenham’s return of just five league goals so far, their defence has allowed the new creative players to bed in. And considering how well Christian Eriksen has started, just imagine how good he will be once he has his feet under the proverbial table.
Similarly, Roberto Soldado is one of a select few currently playing in England who can rightly be classed as a truly great striker. If the clean-sheets keep coming, Tottenham will almost invariably score.
Much will depend on fitness and fate. But Villas-Boas has built an impressive and well-drilled defence.
1-0 to the Tottenham, anyone?
image: © Stanislav Vedmid