Match analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Chelsea
It was Tottenham’s big day; their first league game at their temporary home of the new Wembley whilst White Hart Lane was being rebuilt. Chelsea however, were intent on playing killjoys as their own poor start left defeat as unacceptable. A depleted squad, it seemed as if anyone who wasn’t suspended (or could walk) would play. As Champions do they set out with the same mentality of ‘win at all costs’ but Spurs wouldn’t go down quietly. With the history pointing towards a win for Chelsea, it definitely didn’t mean that they would, as we all know how history can always have a new chapter.
David Luiz in midfield
Spurs deployed a 3-4-2-1 shape in possession & whilst attacking, Chelsea on the other hand set up in a 5-3-2 medium/low block in order to limit the space between their midfield & defensive lines. Their first line of pressure was made up of Willian & Morata who would force Spurs’ centre backs to pass sideways. Once a sideways pass was completed, this was a trigger for Bakayoko or Kante to press the man on the ball in the wide area. They could do this freely due to the protection behind them provided by Luiz.
This pressing trigger was effective as it meant that a forward pass for Spurs wasn’t worth the risk & that even though it wouldn’t help their build up play, they had to pass sideways & backwards to keep possession. The home side found it easier to pass vertically in the second half due to Bakayoko’s lack of match fitness & Luiz’s infrequent lapses of concentration leading Chelsea to leave larger gaps in their pressing. Spurs were smart in using the 3 v 2 numerical superiority to their advantage during their build up as Chelsea’s first line of pressure couldn’t cover all three of Spurs’ centre backs at once. Whenever Vertonghen, Dier or Alderweireld tried to find Wanyama or Dembele, Luiz would press the pass immediately, usually winning the ball. He could do this knowing he had another 7 players behind him.
For all the criticism he receives on his positional awareness, today David Luiz proved he can perform in midfield as well as he can in defence. His great anticipation when breaking up play which is complimented by his excellent positional intelligence saw him through a tactically intense game.
With Dele Alli & Christian Eriksen performing as the 2 behind Harry Kane, they were given license to roam in the final third. Dele Alli would mainly partner Kane & run off of him whilst Eriksen would drop deeper to pick up the ball & provide a crossing option. However, the pair would still reside in either half-space regularly in order to draw out Chelsea’s centre backs. With Chelsea deploying a back 5, it meant that they could cover all five vertical zones with one player resulting in Spurs resorting to 1 v 1s in order to attack. The back 5 also marked zonally, therefore Alli & Eriksen would have to go to them, not the other way round. David Luiz would act as a defensive shield as he sat in front of the Blues’ defence whilst Bakayoko & Kante would help either outer centre back by doubling up a Spurs player when needed. Whenever this was done, Chelsea would have blocked off the half-spaces effectively, causing Alli & Eriksen having to move around more to find success.
As Eriksen dropped deeper he would be followed by any one of Chelsea’s closest midfielders with the other two occupying the half spaces to make a return for Eriksen harder. Even though this would pull Luiz out of position, his tactically aware midfield partners would position themselves in places that made it harder for Luiz’s absence to be exploited. Once Alli started to drop deep like Eriksen, he would be shadowed by Kante, whilst Luiz would cover for the Frenchman.
Chelsea’s central overloads
Chelsea’s formation meant that they had 6 players occupying the central areas of the pitch but by contrast Spurs only had 5 & if you add in the fact that Wanyama barely ventured forward, this became a 6 v 4 central overload in Chelsea’s favour. This numerical superiority allowed the visitors double to turn individual 1 v 1s into 2 v 1s. This could’ve been relieved by Wanyama going aiding Spurs’ ball retention but he had to remain restricted in order to start their counter-press & stop counter-attacks.
As a result, Tottenham were left with having to take shots from outside the box & putting in large amounts of crosses with limited success. Without a deep-lying playmaker in their side, Spurs found it hard to break Chelsea down when they matched their intensity & physicality.
On a lesser scale but with monumental importance, set pieces were key during the game. Chelsea’s opener came from a fantastic free kick from Marcos Alonso (who also scored the winner) whilst Spurs’ equaliser was courtesy of a wide free kick accidentally headed home by substitute Michy Batshuayi. A good set piece taker is significant for any team as they can win points when they seem at their most unachievable.
CONC// Regardless of the result it is important to note that it is still August & that any result may (or may not) have a significant impact on the table come May. It will, however, be an important piece of Spurs’ Wembley journey, as they count down the days to their new home. For Chelsea however, their own stadium transition is quite a way off so their focus remains on their upcoming Champions League return. The win today will serve as a major confidence booster for the rest of the season, especially with European football around the corner.