Having started supporting Spurs in 1988 and then enduring the 90’s and early 2000’s Spurs playing away from home, particularly outside of London, almost certainly meant I wouldn’t bother staying up to watch Match of the Day that evening. It is trite to talk of Spurs having ‘a soft underbelly’ and ‘not fancying it up North on a cold Tuesday night’ but those of us of a certain age will be hard wired to adopting a sense of dread when looking ahead to an away game.
As a casual away fan for much of my teens – I usually got to two or three games per season I went 10 years (from 1994 until 2004) without seeing us win outside of London – both wins either side ironically at Everton.
Our 2-0 victory at Leicester in the FA Cup 3rd round replay was comfortable in the end and at times we combined attacking style and flair with a solid defence and rarely looked like conceding. In hindsight it is easy to point out that Leicester fielded even more of a reserve XI than we did but the facts remain that we won away at the side who are joint top and had only lost twice at home in 2015 (Chelsea and Arsenal).
Going into the game, even a natural pessimist, I struggled to predict the outcome of the match – I felt that our second string was probably better than theirs but equally I had a realisation that we don’t tend to win many big away matches.
I’ve split the evaluation of this theory into three sections as they are all relevant to our realistic ambitions:
- League matches
- Domestic Cup ties
- European ties
Now I really must stress that we are so much better away from home now than we’ve been at any point of my Spurs supporting life. In every season between 96/7 and 2004/5 we failed to win more than 5 away games per season; in 2000/1 we waited until February to win out first away match (at Man City) before winning only once more on the road in the league that season.
The line shows significant improvement although we are on a slight decline from the excellent period between 2011/2 – 2012/3.
Statistically it is clear that we are better away from home now than we were during that period of mediocrity. I have compared two six periods; 1996/7 – 2001/02 with 2010/11 – 2015/16.
|1996/97 – 2001/02||2010/11 – 2015/16|
|Ave pts gained per season away v all opponents||16||30|
|Ave number of away games won per season v all opponents||4||8.6|
This shows that we are gaining an extra 14 points per season (just in away games) which is the difference between lingering in mid table and being constantly in the top 6 and beyond – an ‘achievement’ we could only have dreamed of in a team of Thatcher’s, Dozzell’s and Iversen’s.
However, when those away results are broken down to look at our games against teams in the top 6 the improvement is not quite as significant. Comparing our results against the top 6 in each respective season and against the sides who finished between 11th and 16th:
|1996/97 – 2001/02||2010/11 – 2015/16|
|Ave pts per game gained v teams in final positions 1-6||0.28||0.58|
|Ave pts per game gained v teams in final positions 11-16||1.01||1.97|
So essentially we are gaining 1 extra point per away game now than we were which is worth an extra 6 points per season; however, against teams in the top 6 we are not showing any signs of significant improvement; in the 6 year period (2010/11 to date) we have only won 3 games and two of them were in the 2010/11 season (v Arsenal and Liverpool) meaning the current average is likely to dip at by the end of the season.
On further analysis during this period here is a break down of our results against the current six teams who we have competed against since 2010; our record in these games is less than convincing. Since the start of the 2010/11 season:
|Arsenal||W1 D2 L3||5 PTS (0.88 PER GAME)|
|Chelsea||W0 D2 L3||2 PTS (0.4 PER GAME)|
|Liverpool||W1 D1 L3||4 PTS (0.8 PER GAME)|
|Man City||W0 D0 L5||0 PTS (0 PER GAME)|
|Man Utd||W2 D0 L4||6 PTS (1 PER GAME)|
|Everton||W1 D2 L3||5 PTS (0.88 PER GAME)|
|TOTAL||W5 D7 L21||22 PTS (0.66 PER GAME)|
- FA Cup and League cup ties against any other Premier League opponent and any semi-final or final.
Our victory at Leicester was the first time since September 2013 that we had won an away cup tie against a fellow Premier League team (Aston Villa – 3rd round League Cup). Our complete record since the start of the 2010/11 season:
|Season||FA Cup||League Cup|
|2010/11||Fulham LOST 0-4 (R4)||No away ties|
|2011/12||Chelsea LOST 1-5 (SF at Wembley)||Stoke C LOST ON PENS|
|2012/13||No away ties at PL opposition||Norwich C LOST 1-2 (R4)|
|2013/14||Arsenal LOST 0-2 (R3)||Aston Villa WON 4-0|
|2014/15||Burnley DREW 1-1 (R3)||Sheff Utd DREW 2-2 (SF 2ND LEG)
Chelsea LOST 0-2 (Final at Wembley)
|2015/16||Leicester C WON 2-0 (R3R)|
That is, including the Leeds Utd game, 9 matches with only one win and seven defeat so in that context the victory over Leicester was unlikely.
Looking at the same period (96/7 – 2002/03)
|Season||FA Cup||League Cup|
|1996/97||No away ties to PL opposition||No away ties to PL opposition|
|1997/98||Barnsley LOST 1-3||No away ties to PL opposition|
|1998/99||Wimbledon DREW 1-1
Leeds Utd DREW 1-1
Newcastle LOST 0-2 (SF at OT)
|Liverpool WON 3-1
Wimbledon WON 1-0
Leicester C WON 1-0 (Final at Wembley)
|1999/00||Newcastle LOST 1-6||No away ties to PL opposition|
|2000/01||Charlton WON 4-2
West Ham WON 3-2
Arsenal LOST 1-2 (SF at OT)
|No away ties to PL opposition|
|2001/02||No away ties to PL opposition||Fulham WON 2-1
Chelsea lost 1-2
Blackburn LOST 1-2 (Final at Millennium Stadium)
During this period we played 14 matches winning 6, losing 6 and drawing 2. The comparison between the two periods actually shows a regression – perhaps an indication of how less of a priority the cup is for us now:
|1996/7 – 2001/02||2010/11 – 2015/16|
|W||6 (43%)||1 (10%)|
|D||6 (43%)||2 (20%)|
|L||2 (14%)||6 (60%)|
- European knock-out round ties and any high profile group stage opponent.
Even including the glorious Champions League run, our away form is a cause for concern.
|2010/11||CL QUAL||Young Boys||LOST 2-3|
|CL G||Werder Bremen||DREW 2-2|
|CL G||Inter||LOST 3-4|
|CL G||Twente||DREW 3-3|
|CL R16||AC Milan||WON 1-0|
|CL QF||Real Madrid||LOST 0-4|
|2012/13||EL G||Lazio||DREW 0-0|
|EL R32||Lyon||DREW 1-1|
|EL R16||Inter||LOST 1-4|
|EL QF||Basel||DREW 2-2 (lost pens)|
|2013/14||EL R32||Dnipro||LOST 0-1|
|EL R16||Benfica||DREW 2-2|
|2014/15||EL R32||Fiorentina||LOST 0-2|
|2015/16||EL G||Monaco||DREW 1-1|
|EL G||Anderlecht||LOST 1-2|
I have used a fairly subjective criteria to select which group stage opponents should be included as there is credit due for winning games in the Arctic Circle (Tromso) or the far East of Europe (Anzhi and Qarabag) but these were never considered as being high profile, must win games.
That said in 15 games we have won only once (although the results against Lyon and Inter were enough as second legs to take us through the tie) and does not bode well for our prospects of winning the Europa League, let alone the Champions League anytime soon.
What does this mean?
It may appear obvious but to get to the next level we must improve our away form, specifically when playing in the bigger matches against the better teams. Most Spurs fans would list one of the following a realistic ambition for the season:
- Qualify for the Champions League by finishing in top 4.
- Win the Europa League
- Win the FA Cup and/or League Cup
To finish in the top 4 teams require on average 69 points; let’s say that 30 of those must come from away games and therefore at least one away win against one of our main competitors as we did in 2010 (at Man City).
To win the Europa League we will have to learn to win away.
In the FA Cup the win at Leicester may become even less significant should they fall away and end up near mid-table at the end of the season but it is was an encouraging sign that we were able to win away at a peer.
Wins at Manchester City and Fiorentina in February would be a welcome start!