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Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Chelsea’s winning run finally comes to an end

Tottenham with the ball

Tottenham played short and out to Walker from goal kicks. When Chelsea were able to apply high pressure (either from goal kicks or deep possession in open play, like after a long pass) on Tottenham’s short building, Tottenham would play through the pressure—often moving the ball out to Vertonghen to play forward. From here his short options around the ball were covered. Pedro pressured the ball, Kante moved up to mark Dembele, Costa was blocking passes back to Alderweireld, Kane or Alli (whoever was on the near side at that time) were high on the last line, while Moses marked Rose.

On a couple of occasions, Chelsea were able to force a mistake or a pass back to Lloris. More frequently, however, Vertonghen was able to play a long pass up the line, either first time or after moving past Pedro’s pressing, targeting Azpilicueta throughout the match. Kane could move over to compete in the air or run behind him, while Alli could also compete against him in the air. When Azpilicueta moved forward to press high in another situation (a mixup in Chelsea’s pressing where both Azpilicueta and Kante marked Dembele) Rose made a run behind and into the vacated space, before Luiz moved across to cover.

Additionally, the other central defenders could play long when out of pressure, through diagonals up to Alli vs. Azpilicueta and long passes in the air for Walker—Eriksen would then move deeper to receive the second ball.

From midfield, Spurs could also find certain forward passes, and be in good positions to collect the second ball.

Here, Dembele positions himself behind Pedro, while Kane makes a run behind. Upon the second ball, Rose moves inside, while Eriksen also moves centrally to be an option in space—Alli wins the ball but the pass doesn’t make it to Eriksen on this occasion.

Another option they had on the left flank was Dembele moving outside to offer himself as an option when Pedro moved up to press. In the following situation they find Wanyama before moving out to Dembele. With a quick burst, Dembele moves forward and uses his strength and dribbling to move past Chelsea’s players, before playing a pass behind the defence for Kane.

From the right, Spurs had Eriksen moving on the outside of Chelsea’s midfield line and always positioning himself in space, such as in the middle of Matic, Cahill, Alonso and Hazard.

The following situation is from before the goals, where Eriksen finds similar space but the positioning inside the box is slightly different. In this case, Rose is outside while Alli is behind Moses. For the goals, Rose would be inside the box and behind Moses while Alli would move between Azpilicueta and Moses.

Chelsea pressure from midfield block

Chelsea’s pressure from an organised block was to begin centrally, blocking central possession, before shifting to the sides and both applying aggressive pressure and covering short passing options. From some situations they were able to force mistakes through their pressure.

Upon the pass to Vertonghen, Pedro moved to press the ball, Costa moved up to mark the pass back to Alderweireld, and Kante moved over to mark Dembele.

Even if Vertonghen initially moved past Pedro’s pressing, without a passing option available, Pedro would be able to recover during the delay and regain pressure on the ball. Pressure would be then continued onto the back pass to Lloris. Matic created the Hazard chance early on in the match from precisely such a situation.

When being pressed aggressively in their own half—either from first time passes out from Lloris to one of the central midfielders or when they won the ball—both Dembele and Wanyama showed great strength, balance and body positions in order to hold onto the ball under intense pressure. In the following situation, Dembele is able to hold the ball while pressed by both Pedro and Kante, before passing the ball back to Dier. Dier then smartly uses the run of the ball to draw Costa towards the ball, before moving past the line of pressure. Then then creates a good situation on the last line, with Alli moving past Azpilicueta, but Kante is quick to get back and recover the ball.

Chelsea with the ball

Like Chelsea, Tottenham pressed high. Chelsea were able to find short passes into the midfield line through this pressure, as well as when out of pressure in midfield, but struggled to find passes to the front players where they would be turn and face play with the ball.

On the right Moses was unable to use any of his usual ways of getting past his wing-back. Tottenham were ready to press him from the inside and the one time he played a quick diagonal pass, the front three weren’t in positions to create a good situation from it. Pedro was often overpowered by Vertonghen when receiving, while Dembele was also able to use his strength to take the ball from him in deep recoveries.

On the left Chelsea could find Matic in more free space than Kante (when drawing pressure on the left, Matic played long, creating one of Chelsea’s best chances for Costa), but options forward were still a problem. Tottenham tried to use Dembele to press up when Chelsea were building from the left, or they would use Eriksen to pressure between Matic and Cahill (their front three shifting across) when Dembele was on the left. This allowed Wanyama to remain back and focus on Hazard (along with Dier) and cover deep areas. Wanyama’s physical strength, aggression and speed to turn and stay with Hazard, receiving with back to goal before trying to turn, was solid throughout. When Hazard moved past him, he would foul, while the numbers behind him and support from Dembele ensured Tottenham had a numerical advantage against Chelsea’s front three.

Playing long from Luiz, both in open play and from free kicks, was the final way that Chelsea tried to attack, with little success. The attempted passes behind the defence were either misplaced or won by Tottenham’s backline, while passes to the head of the players on the last line didn’t create situations to immediately progress upon the second ball.

Here, Chelsea are forced back to Courtois, before playing short. On this occasion Chelsea were able to escape pressure, but it was an early signs of Tottenham trying to get Kante to dribble inside before being pressed by both Eriksen and Wanyama. Tottenham left players on the far side free so they could pressure Chelsea centrally.

Vertonghen was aggressive throughout, allowing him to overpower Pedro on a couple of occasions in the first half, either by winning the ball or by fouling. These fouls prevented Chelsea from sustaining attacks when progressing up the right in the first half.

In the situation shown below, Wanyama is able to win the ball from Kante after he dribbles inside and into Tottenham’s double pressure. Later on in the first half, Eriksen would pick up the ball from a situation like this before having the shot from outside the box.

In the second half, Chelsea made some slight changes. To get Hazard on the ball more, often he would move deep to receive the ball facing play, before moving forward and playing diagonal passes to Pedro. From there Pedro would play a layoff to Kante moving forward at speed. Costa made more runs behind on the left and was found in more of these situations than in the first half. From the back Luiz started playing more hard and long ground passes to the players between lines, often finding them, unlike with the long passes in the air in the first half. Finally the switch of Pedro to left wing-back led to a few more crosses than when Alonso was there, while the long balls from Courtois also changed here, where Moses was the new target—Moses was potentially the best option for playing long to in this game, as Walker competed well with Alonso in the air.

Conclusion

Tottenham found ways of creating good situations defensively to both prevent Chelsea’s front three from facing the backline with the ball and drawing them inside in midfield to areas where they could trap them. They also found a few weaknesses that Chelsea have defensively and exploited them. Chelsea still managed to create, but crucially didn’t take advantage of the chances that they made in the first half and at the start of the second half.