The race for the top-4 in the Premier League has heated up again given two surprising outcomes in the last round of fixtures – Tottenham’s home loss to Brighton and Arsenal’s win at Chelsea. This post was motivated by the former fixture.
From watching the match, and reading commentary in newspapers and online, there seemed to be a relative consensus on Tottenham’s poor performance. Adjectives such as lethargic, listless and sluggish were used to describe the home team.
I often wonder whether scheduling factors play a role. Tottenham’s match was the early (12.30) kick-off. Are players as motivated for the early match?
Maybe one performance stat to consider whether a team is ‘at it’ is pressing. This is the number of times in a match players apply pressure to the opposing player who is receiving, carrying or releasing the ball.
Below shows Tottenham’s pressing averages over the last three seasons across the schedule. The matches fall into seven relatively natural cohorts (minimum of 20 matches in each one). While we have to keep in mind that the schedule is not random, and this can dictate opponent quality, Spurs tend to press less on average in the earliest kick-offs compared to fixtures later on. On average, Spurs pressed 142 per match in 12.30 kick-offs, while they clocked up 10-14 more presses in the later evening matches.