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

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First half

At the start of the match, both Chelsea and Tottenham constantly applied high pressure and did not allow the opposition time on the ball. This high pressure resulted in rushed forward passes, which were often long passes in the air, where the ball would be recovered by the opposition, before being pressed into creating the same situation.

After an intense start, Tottenham began to have possession with Chelsea dropping back to midfield in order to defend in an organised block and wait for opportunities to counter. This provided Tottenham opportunities to attempt forward passes to feet and to create chances to score. Dembele was the main player making forward passes to the feet of the frontline, where Eriksen and Lamela could move inside to join Son and Alli. They would play quickly upon receiving the ball behind Chelsea’s midfield line, with first time passes, layoffs to supporting players in space between lines, and one-touch combinations.

Passes and the numbers between lines would also create space on the outside for the advancing fullbacks, to play early crosses into the box. The quick passes among the front four would draw Chelsea narrow before switching wide, while when the passes weren’t on it was due to Chelsea narrowing to cover the central options, thus leaving space on the outsides.

The fluidity of Spurs’ front four moving wide also created opportunities from wide areas. Son making wide runs to the right and Eriksen leaving the left to support from behind would provide firstly a forward passing option up the wing, draw Rudiger out wide, and create a situation which they have scored from before: Eriksen passes into the box from the right for Alli to attack, positioned between Azpilicueta and Moses.

In possession, Chelsea weren’t able to successfully play forward and move up consistently through Tottenham’s pressure in the early stages of the match, but as the half went on they managed to break pressure by finding Hazard behind Tottenham’s midfield line to create a chance for Moses. Chelsea also created opportunities to counter quickly, press high when Tottenham played backwards passes, and won free kicks to provide higher starting positions for attacks.

From counters Chelsea could attack at speed through Willian carrying the ball, and had the option to play to Hazard making runs behind — although thanks to Davinson Sanchez’s exceptional recovery speed, these chances did not result in shots. They did however enable Chelsea to sustain attacks high in the final third, since Hazard would hold onto the ball and allow support to join him instead of losing possession.

As mentioned, Hazard winning free kicks would gain territory and provide Chelsea with a higher starting position for attacks, which was important since Tottenham couldn’t press as intensely from midfield as they could around Chelsea’s own box. As a result, Rudiger could carry the ball forward on the outside of Son, use Willian’s narrow positioning to draw Davies towards him, and find Moses free on the outside, where he would cross the ball into the box for Morata to score.

After conceding, Eriksen began to play ahead of Chelsea’s midfield line when Tottenham had the ball in the final third, In doing so, his influence on the game increased with more possession and facing play with the ball, as well as continuing to use his excellent movement to open space for teammates. With the space he found ahead of Chelsea’s midfielders, after passes back inside from the wings, he found himself in positions to shoot, which saw Spurs equalise just before halftime.

Chelsea had another chance to take the lead before the half was over, but Sanchez was there again to recover quickly and stop Hazard from having a 1v1 against Lloris, before Alonso’s shot went wide.

Second half changes

For the second half, Tottenham changed the positions of their front four. Eriksen moved from playing on the left to playing inside, with Alli moving outside to the left, and Lamela and Son switched positions.

This changed the roles of each position, where Alli and Son would now be able to make runs behind from wide, while Lamela and Eriksen could look to move towards the ball to receive it at their feet to draw Chelsea’s defenders out of their backline.

The new roles then led directly to Spurs’ second goal, where Dier had the ball in midfield without pressure on the ball, allowing him to look up and play the pass behind Chelsea’s backline. Eriksen and Lamela were dropping to look for the ball to feet ahead of Dier on the ball, while Alli’s excellent diagonal run behind Chelsea’s backline from left to right allowed him to get away from Azpilicueta and score with a quickly taken finish.

Chelsea had a positive response to conceding, with attacks in Tottenham’s half and creating a good opportunity for Willian from a short corner, but not long after going ahead Tottenham would go on to stretch their lead through Alli scoring his second goal of the game. On this occasion, Tottenham’s first pass went to Eriksen dropping for the ball to feet, where he could play a perfectly weighted pass behind for Son first-time. Son took the ball into the box and Tottenham eventually scored after Chelsea failed to clear the ball when they were given the opportunity.

Chelsea again responded with attacks and kept the ball deep in Spurs’ half for prolonged periods, before they switched to a 442 to have two strikers inside the box for crosses, but Spurs’ defence remained strong and kept Chelsea out for the remainder of the game.

Conclusion

Tottenham managed to take control of possession in the first half after the opening with a lot of pressure from both sides. Although Spurs could build attacks with their possession in the first half, Chelsea’s counters remained dangerous, and when they could play from higher starting positions (and Tottenham couldn’t press as aggressively) they could create chances, which led to them taking the lead. Chelsea had more chances, but they often didn’t result in a shot from a good position—where Sanchez’ recovery speed prevented early shots inside the box. Eriksen dropping deeper for the ball centrally saw him find space to shoot from outside of the box, where Spurs equalised at the end of the first half, before the permanent switch of the front four at halftime allowed Eriksen and Lamela to go towards the ball from the middle and allow Alli and Son to run behind Chelsea’s backline from wide areas—resulting in both of their goals in the second half.