Is Sherwood right that Tottenham 'outplayed' Arsenal? The stats say…

Tottenham Hotspur boss Tim Sherwood stated his side ‘outplayed’ North London rivals Arsenal on Sunday despite defeat 1-0 at White Hart Lane.

The Spurs coach was disappointed with the result but praised his team’s performance which he is adamant was enough to win the game against the Gunners.

“We deserved to win the game, we outplayed Arsenal, had more chances, they had one shot on goal in the second half," the boss said.

"But unfortunately, we were unable to take our glorious chances, we had a few good ones. If you take them you come away and everyone’s happy, but results are everything.”

Tomas Rosicky’s second minute winner aside, did Spurs ‘outplay’ the Gunners as the coach suggests?

Tottenham took 59% possession to Arsenal’s 41% which alone would suggest Spurs dominated the game. However, possession is not everything as chances created often seal the score line, especially in the big games. Spurs had 17 shots on goal to Arsenal’s 7 but, crucially, the Gunners had more on target suggesting finishing was indeed the home side’s downfall on Sunday.

Spurs had just two shots on target over 94 minutes to Arsenal’s three which represents just 11% on target for Spurs compared to 42.8% on target for the Gunners which is an enormous gulf in terms of chances created and chances taken.

NameMatchMatchdayOntarget Scoring Att / played
Tottenham Hotspur Spurs vs Arsenal 30 2.00

In terms of overall play, from the possession one might consider that Spurs controlled the game but a closer look again reveals the Gunners overall efficiency – Tottenham completed 336 passes out of 471 attempted to Arsenal’s 248 completed out of 330 attempted which means the hosts’ completion rate was 71.3% to the visitors’ 75.1% completion rate – again efficient was key on the day.

NameMatchMatchdayAccurate Pass / played
Tottenham Hotspur Spurs vs Arsenal 30 366.00

In the attacking third, however, Spurs were indeed more efficient – they completed 64.8% of their passes in the final third to Arsenal’s 55.1% as well as being successful with 45% of their take-ons to Arsenal’s 41.1% but, crucially, they were as the boss says, unable to find that finishing touch which Arsenal were.

Where I believe the game was won and lost was in the defensive displays of the two rivals – Tottenham were caught napping several times on the break with their risky high line where the visitors were solid at the back throughout. This is not only obvious from the score line but from Tottenham’s 65% tackle success rate to Arsenal’s 70% success rate (the Gunners also attempted a third more tackles in total that Spurs). Tottenham made not a single block to Arsenal’s 11, including one from Laurent Koscielny in the second half that alone ensured the Gunners held on to the three points.

Tottenham put in a number of crosses up to striker Emmanuel Adebayor who, on any other day, likely would have put a couple of his chances away. However, Spurs attempted 34 crosses to Arsenal’s 5 but completed just 6 to Arsenal’s 2, meaning Spurs were just 17.6% successful with their crosses to Arsenal’s 40% which again demonstrates efficiency was the key word.

NameMatchMatchdayAccurate Cross / played
Tottenham Hotspur Spurs vs Arsenal 30 6.00

Out of 37 aerial duals across the 94 minutes, Arsenal players came out on top 22 times to Spurs’ 15 which represents 59.4% success in the air for the visitors to 40% success for the hosts in their aerial duels. Tottenham made 18 fouls to Arsenal’s 11 but, over the course of the game, was Sherwood right in his assertion?

Statistically, the Tottenham coach is correct that Tottenham ‘had more chances’ but were ‘unable to take them’, however, I don’t think these figures suggest Spurs ‘outplayed’ the Gunners in the slightest nor do they suggest Spurs deserved to win the game.

In fact, what the numbers demonstrate most clearly is that Tottenham were given licence to dominate the game but were far less efficient with their chances, passes, finishing and, crucially, did not do enough to defensively win the game – the clean sheet for the visitors in this case was the key to the result, not the work in the final third by Tomas Rosicky in the second minute. That goal aside, it’s clear that Arsenal did not deserve to lose the game which, logically, also means Tottenham did not deserve to win it either.

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