The streak…and what it means

Should Spurs get beaten at Manchester City on Saturday night (and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to suggest that this seems quite an inevitable outcome for most Spurs fans) it will be a 4th successive league defeat; the first time Spurs have suffered such ignominy since 2004.

This may not be the end of it – the cliched tough trip to Burnley awaits the following midweek and then Spurs travel to Elland Road for a fixture in which they were thoroughly outplayed in last season and were somewhat fortuitous to win the home game back in November. That said, the streak could end at The Etihad – after all Southampton and Crystal Palace have all taken points home this season and Spurs ourselves have held our nerve to collect points there recently too.

A streak of 4 successive wins or losses is to some extent an arbitrary number but it is enough games to highlight a particular trend. The fixture list can throw up kind or nasty runs of games but it is unlikely that an upper half team, should face 4 successive horrible fixtures and with the relative strength of the Premier League it is improbable that you would have 4 absolute gimme’s. Thus to win 4 games in a row you probably have to be quite good and to lose 4 indicates some not insignificant concerns.

Taking this run of 4 fixtures for Spurs included the perennial graveyard that is Stamford Bridge and is bookended by a trip to the reigning Champions Manchester City. In between, presented two fixtures that Spurs could have expected, based on recent results against the same teams, to collect at least 4 points. To lose twice at home against teams lower in the table was largely unthinkable but when sandwiched between the two away trips presents an unfortunate opportunity to create unwanted history.

The last time Spurs recorded 4 or more successive defeats came in Autumn 2004. The run is split evenly between the end of Jacques Santini’s inauspicious spell in N17 and Jol’s spell – a 1-0 defeat at Portsmouth, followed by 1-2 home defeat to Bolton and then a dismal 2-0 loss at Fulham. Santini resigned on the eve of the home game with Charlton which Spurs lost 3-2 despite a gallant second half comeback; then came an incredible but fruitless 4-5 home loss in the North London derby before succumbing 1-0 at Aston Villa – a fixture that Spurs rarely picked up many points.

In fairness to Jol, and that Spurs team, it is worth noting that Spurs would then go on a 5-game winning streak (more on that follow) where results then evened out through the remainder of the season.

For Spurs, a club, who throughout the Premier League, have an (median) average end position of 7th, you would therefore expect to see a fair amount of inconsistency neither winning or losing in particularly long streaks in the same way that you would expect of Manchester City – who jointly hold the record of 18 consecutive PL wins in the early part of the 2017/18 season on route to their 100-point season (Liverpool equalled this in Winter 2019). By contrast, Sunderland, hold the infamous losing streak of 15 in 2002-03.

Looking back through Spurs’ list of results from 1992 until well into the 21st century you see lots of inconsistent results. Displayed as the standard RAG table there is plenty of green, orange and red connections.

Prior to this weekend’s match with Manchester City Spurs have been on the wrong end of a 4-game ‘L’ streak on 5 separate occasions. The most recent is the aforementioned run in 2004. As perhaps you would expect the other occasions occurred in seasons in which relegation was a very real possibility (2003/04 – 2 times; 1997/8 and 1993/4). The latter provides Spurs’ worst ever streak of 7 consecutive defeats from New Years Day 1994 until a home draw with Aston Villa on 1st March. During that period Spurs were also dumped out of both domestic cups only getting past 3rd tier Peterborough on penalties in a replay at White Hart Lane).

7-game loss streak Jan – Feb 1994

1/1 Coventry HOME 1-2
3/1 Sheffield Weds AWAY 0-1
15/1 Manchester Utd HOME 0-1
22/1 Swindon AWAY 1-2
5/2 Sheffield Weds HOME 1-3
12/2 Blackburn HOME 0-2
27/2 Chelsea AWAY 3-4

Spurs have achieved 4-game winning streaks on 20 occasions which may be slightly more than you’d initially thought. This sort of run of good form is, as you’d imagine, very sporadic throughout the first half of the Premier League era. A Teddy Sheringham inspired run of 5 League wins in Spring 1993 was the first and the next followed in the early part of 1995/96 when Gerry Francis’ hit peak form. Spurs hit the unheralded heights of 3rd place in the first part of that season before predictably falling away after Christmas.

You then have to go forward 9 years until the previously mentioned rollercoaster of results under Santini and Jol. Following defeat to Aston Villa Jol’s team recorded 5 wins which included a then customary win at Manchester City (then just ‘Eastlands’).

It is from this point in the mid 00’s that Spurs started to take themselves more seriously and over the next 15 years would shifted the average league finish from 10th (1993-2005) to 5th (2006-2021). This, by nature resulted in better, and more consistently better results.

From 2009/10 until 2018/19 Spurs would achieve at least one 4-game winning streak in all bar 2 seasons. In the 6 ‘Top 4’ seasons they would record a run of 4 straight wins. The famous 2016/17 season which culminated in 86 points and an unbeaten home record contained a run of 9 successive victories as we attempted to chase down Chelsea between February and May. Additionally that season saw a 6-game and a 4-game winning streak.

The 9-game winning streak (PL games only) Feb – May 2017

26/2 Stoke City HOME 4-0
5/3 Everton HOME 3-2
19/3 Southampton HOME 2-1
1/4 Burnley AWAY 2-0
5/4 Swansea AWAY 3-1
8/4 Watford HOME 4-0
15/4 Bournemouth HOME 4-0
26/4 Crystal Palace AWAY 1-0
30/4 Arsenal HOME 2-0

The last of the 20 ‘W’ streaks to occur was during the 2018/19 season. In fact there were 3 throughout the season – you may recall this as the ‘undrawable season’ in which it tool until March for Spurs’ first draw. What preceded this was largely a run of wins with a loss thrown in for good measure only to be repeated by a string of wins. The most recent came in January 2019 with four fairly stodgy victories over Fulham and Watford (both stoppage time wins), Newcastle and Leicester (who missed a penalty).

Spurs slept walked into Champions League qualification that season whilst also reaching the final of the same competition in what became, unbeknown at the time, the beginning of the end for Pochettino.

From analysisng the trends there is a very direct correlation – when we have recorded 4-game winning streaks we have at least seriously knocked on the door of Champions League qualification. In the years in which we have recorded 4-game L streaks we have usually flirted with relegation.

The one notable exception was that 2004-05 (the only season where Spurs have had a positive and negative 4-game streak) spell of results where one rather counteracted the other and the net result was a 9th place finish.

Therefore studying 4-game streaks is quite a useful tool in analsying where we are and what might happen. I’m pretty sure that even the most Eeyore of Spurs fans will not be contemplating away trips to Rotherham and Preston next season should the inevitable happen at Manchester City at the weekend. However, 4-game streaks are invariably a decent barometer; perhaps we will follow up with an equally positive run of results – away trips to Burnley and Leeds, home to Everton and then away at Old Trafford could feasibly return 4 wins.

Having looked at other clubs data its very clear that recording a 4-game streak is indicative of a consistent season. Going back to 2011 every team that has finished in the top 4 positions has recorded at least one 4-game win streak. The last not to do so was Arsenal in 2011. Whilst researching this I was reminded that Leicester won 8 successive games in 2019/20 but still only finished 5th.

Therefore the conclusion is that until we can put together 4+ wins on the bounce I do not expect to hear Champions League music blasted around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Both Arsenal and West Ham have done so already this season. It is this pursuit of consistency that is most needed.

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