Five issues for Ryan Mason to fix at Tottenham
Infographics, Tottenham, Ryan Mason

Five issues for Ryan Mason to fix at Tottenham

Tottenham’s disappointing season has taken a turn for the worse, after a heavy defeat at Newcastle and a home draw against Manchester United all but ended their hopes of finishing in the top four.

The 6-1 drubbing at St James’ Park – where Spurs conceded five goals in the first half – prompted a change of interim manager as Antonio Conte’s former assistant Cristian Stellini was replaced by Ryan Mason.

While the 31-year-old ex-Tottenham player helped inspire a comeback from 2-0 down against Erik ten Hag’s United, he was unable to engineer an unlikely victory.

Here, we have picked out five key areas for Mason – and his permanent successor – to address:

Slow starts

Tottenham’s disastrous start in the crushing defeat at Newcastle was the second worst in Premier League history. The Magpies were five goals up within 21 minutes, with Manchester City the only side to rack up that many goals in a shorter time – 18 minutes at home to Watford in 2019-20.

Although shocking, Spurs’ dramatic collapse was the latest in a line of listless first-half displays. They also found themselves 2-0 down at half-time against United, despite an improved performance.

Overall, Tottenham have scored only 20 of their 60 Premier League goals this season in the first half, which equates to 33 per cent – the lowest share of any team in the top flight.

If games ended after 45 minutes, Spurs would be eighth in the league, with 10 wins out of 33 and a goal difference of -7 (20 goals scored compared with 27 conceded).

In contrast, their record in the second period – 16 victories and a goal difference of +14 (40 goals for, 26 against) – is bettered by only Manchester City and Arsenal.

Tottenham were even more conservative in cup competitions this term. Apart from netting three times in the opening 36 minutes at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, Spurs failed to score before half-time in 11 of their 12 matches in the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

Big-game woes

Previous manager Conte accused his players of not wanting to play under pressure during a furious rant following a 3-3 draw at Southampton (which turned out to be his final match in charge).

Recent results against their main rivals suggest the Italian was right, with Spurs possessing the worst record in games against the top four of any team in the top eight.

Tottenham have won one, drawn one and lost six of their meetings with Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle and Manchester United, with the solitary victory coming against Pep Guardiola’s side.

Meanwhile, they have won 15 and lost only five of their matches against the rest of the league, earning an average of two points per game.

The difference in output is the third largest in the Premier League, behind Arsenal and Fulham.

Leaky defence

Spurs have been especially poor defensively this term, with their tally of 53 goals conceded in 33 games already the joint-highest since 2007-08.

Only relegation-threatened Bournemouth (63), Leeds (63), Nottingham Forest (60), Leicester (57) and Southampton (57) have conceded more than Tottenham.

The underlying numbers suggest this is no fluke, with Spurs also in the top six for most shots on target faced per 90 minutes (4.64).

They have been outshot in four of their past six matches and conceded a total of five goals on the two occasions they registered more efforts than their opponents – in the 2-2 draw with United and the 3-2 loss to Bournemouth.

Lloris in decline

Tottenham’s defensive issues have been exacerbated by a string of poor performances from their goalkeeper and club captain, Hugo Lloris.

Lloris – substituted at half-time in the Newcastle thrashing because of injury – has been unable to match his form from previous seasons. The Frenchman’s save percentage has dropped below 68 per cent, his lowest since 2013-14.

According to the Premier League’s official website, Lloris has also made four errors leading to goals, which is the most in the league and twice as many as any other goalkeeper (Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale have made two apiece).

Reliance on Kane

Spurs’ situation could be far worse if it were not for the form of their record goalscorer Harry Kane, who has netted 24 times in 33 appearances, his best return since scoring 30 goals in 2017-18.

His teammates, however, have let their standards slip. Strike partner Son Heung-min – who shared the Golden Boot with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah last term – has found the net just nine times including the equaliser against United, his lowest tally since his first season in the Premier League in 2015-16.

Dejan Kulusevski, who impressed by scoring five goals on loan from Juventus in the second half of last season, has netted only twice in the entire campaign, while £60million man Richarlison is yet to register a league goal for Spurs in 22 appearances.

In total, Kane has scored 40 per cent of Tottenham’s Premier League goals, the highest share of any player bar Manchester City’s Erling Haaland.

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