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Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Spurs dominate as Chelsea’s 18-match unbeaten run comes to an end

First half

Tottenham made a strong start to the game, building momentum and sustaining a high position inside Chelsea’s half, and taking the lead. As a consequence, Chelsea couldn’t establish their possession and couldn’t find solutions with the ball to break through Tottenham’s defending. In addition to this, Chelsea were stretched defensively and not compact, leaving spaces for Tottenham to exploit.

Tottenham’s early pressure saw them finding spaces on the wings and passes behind Chelsea’s fullbacks in order to get into crossing positions and to win set pieces — from which they were consistently dangerous. They had a few short corner routines with which they could open up space at the near post, and they also found a mismatch between Dele and Kovačić on the free kick to take the lead.

As Tottenham continued to press high up and stop Chelsea from short building, Chelsea remained unable take control of the game. Chelsea needed to find a way to break Tottenham’s momentum and find a way to move up the pitch collectively. However, when Chelsea had opportunities to do so by winning free kicks in midfield or on the wings, they were too eager and tried to force the creation of chances rather than showing patience to push Tottenham back and take control of the match.

Instead, Chelsea would continue to lose the ball frequently (offsides, misplaced passes, etc.) and the game would continue to be transitional — where Chelsea were stretched and without the close distances needed to recover the ball high up. From these moments, Tottenham could use the runs of Son, in particular, to get behind Chelsea’s backline and create countless opportunities to extend their lead.

After doubling their lead, Tottenham continued to control the middle of the pitch defensively and prevent Chelsea from playing the ball through their central midfielders (especially Jorginho). Even when Spurs began to drop back to defend from midfield and wait for opportunities to counter attack, Chelsea were not in control.

In these moments, Chelsea’s full backs would be the players who would be allowed to receive the ball freely and in space. Without the route through the middle however, their options were limited — they would move into pressing traps or pass the ball into pressure all the while being forced back consistently. For example, when the fullbacks moved forward with the ball into space they would be soon met with pressure from the Tottenham midfield shifting up and to the side, while the only forward option, the winger, would be tightly marked by Tottenham’s fullback.

On the other had, when Tottenham had the ball in midfield, Chelsea didn’t close the spaces or apply pressure well with consistency. Attempts to push up would either open spaces behind the midfielders or lead to disorganisation when dropping back to defend their own third, or both.

Second half

Chelsea had a better start to the second half with more possession from midfield and moving into the final third to create a few opportunities. However, Tottenham’s threat from counters was ever-present, and they added a third goal quickly to kill off any belief Chelsea may have had of a comeback.

In response, Chelsea brought on Barkley for Kovačić and Pedro for Morata, moving Hazard to striker. All this meant however was that as Chelsea continued to create opportunities to cross the ball into the box from playing into pressure on one wing before switching to the opposite (far side fullback is free since Tottenham are shifting to the side of the ball) they now did not have an option inside the box.

This changed for the final 15 minutes with Giroud going on ... and scoring from exactly one of these moves: Hazard draws pressure to him with the ball on the left, switches to Azpilicueta on the right, and he crosses the ball into the box for Giroud to head the ball into the net.

Conclusion

Tottenham produced a very intense and aggressive performance, stopping Chelsea’s possession game through the middle and dominating the first half. With the ball, they played with speed and often got behind Chelsea’s backline, scoring early in both halves and creating a plethora of other chances that they didn’t take. Chelsea couldn’t gain control of the match or stop Tottenham’s momentum in the first half; by the time Chelsea did, it was too late and Tottenham had a two-goal lead, which set up a second half where they could wait for opportunities to score from counters.