A 28-year unbeaten streak, ended in a span of 20 minutes. Let’s look at the numbers and see how we let such a tragedy take place.
(NB: Chelsea stats on the left — or orange in graphics — and Tottenham on the right — or blue on graphics. We didn’t choose these colours.)
It is a rather common sight in Chelsea’s games against the rest of the big six, the Blues dominating shooting opportunities while losing out on the possession game. This may go counter with the expectations of the fans especially when you are playing with home advantage, but you cannot fault a strategy if it is working.
No surprises then that Chelsea were also superior in almost all defensive actions but interceptions, in which we recorded one less than Tottenham’s 12, and blocks, where the Spurs were way above us with 12 to the Blues’ 2.
Nevertheless, the stats give evidence to what we were seeing on the pitch. Chelsea were the better team, even after our opener from Álvaro Morata’s 7th headed goal of the Premier League season which had Tottenham opening up and looking for the tie. In fact, we got closer to score a second than Spurs did in getting their goal.
But then came Christian Eriksen. And everything started to fall apart.
Unfortunately, you are not seeing the wrong number there at the second column of the chart. Chelsea did not record a single shot on target in the entire first half despite 7 attempts while Tottenham hit 4 in 6, 2 of which converted by Dele Alli.
After half-time Tottenham got back to imposing themselves in possession, but once the lead was confirmed they were allowed to sit back and sweep balls from danger. Thus the jump in clearances from 6 in the first half to 22 (!) in the second one.
Chelsea made up for their low numbers in ball retention at the second half, but it was still not enough to get anything from it. Thus Tottenham ran out as winners in a Stamford Bridge game for the first time in 28 years.
As aforementioned, Chelsea got zero shots on target in the first half. So, it is proper to highlight that the first half was great, and the second one was very, very poor for us.
Both Chelsea and Tottenham got a high number of shots outside the box, each with 6 attempts from that area. However Tottenham have a specialist in this aspect in Eriksen, while Chelsea do not. Which brings into question, given how it is a trend seen over the entire season, why we take so many of those when they serve more to hamper attacks than anything else.
xG map for Chelsea - Tottenham. Spurs' efficiency was the key to a competitive match -- got in behind twice, scored both times. pic.twitter.com/zhnFOhchHI— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 1, 2018
Despite shooting less, Spurs got better goalscoring opportunities as shown by the Expected Goals map above. It is however strange that at least at the beginning of the season, we were quite good in containing these chances against our goal. But now, we simply fail in reproducing this form while our attack continues to falter. No wonder Chelsea would be 15th if the season had started in January 2018 instead of August 2017.
The battle for the midfield was not as hectic as it was last season, when Mousa Dembelé and Victor Wanyama did what was once thought impossible and swept aside N’Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matic. Still we rarely used the centre of the pitch in our advances, resorting to the wings instead as they were left almost entirely forgotten by Tottenham when it came down to defending.
Honestly, I was expected a bit more of action taking place at Tottenham’s right flank given how often their players drifted to that area. But as the game went by, and with Dele Alli gaining momentum in his act as a centre-forward in place of Harry Kane, they started to taper their attacks and were successful in doing so.
Complementing the information from the attack sides map, we see how Chelsea did not even attempt to make dribbles from the middle to the attacking third in central areas of the pitch. Instead we were attacking the wings while Tottenham spread themselves out in a more balanced act.
Eden’s form has been lacklustre to say the least but he was still a statistical force last Sunday. He topped Chelsea’s charts in key passes with 6, dribbles by completing 5 of 7 attempts and fouls against him by drawing 4 of those. However, he did not record a single shot in the entire game while being the team’s worst in dispossessions (4) and unstable touches (3, tied with Kanté).
In terms of individual expected goals and expected assists, it was Morata with the former (0.98) and Moses with the latter (0.57) leading the chase. Not much of a surprise here as it was their combination — and a flurry of Tottenham’s defensive mistakes — that lead to Chelsea’s lone goal in the match.
One negative aspect of the affair is how Willian was easily contained by Tottenham. With the chunk of Spurs’ focus on Eden, the Brazilian was not as great as he has been in the last matches, and thus no longer able to fill in for Eden’s “disappearing act”.
No one in Tottenham was as prolific as Eden in dribbling terms. But their efficiency was spread out across 4 players in Dembelé, Erik Lamela, Alli and Son Heung-min with each completing 2 dribbles in the game.
Something similar took place in the shooting category. The trio of Alli, Eriksen and Son had 2 shots on target from 3 attempts each, with the Englishman scoring 2 goals and the Danish international converting one of his shots.
The brace from Alli has him leading the expected goal ranks in Tottenham’s team with 1.0, while expected assists had Dier. He who gave Alli that amazing assist to Spurs’ second goal in the affair.
After the game there was some blame directed at Caballero for how he was at fault for the goals we suffered last weekend. But at least in the eye test it is hard to find any fault in his goalkeeping as the first goal was a ball that only a goalkeeper with the wingspan of an albatroz would be able to grasp; the second was a chance that should not have been created, and Caballero did the most to defend it; and the last one was a cluster of errors from our defence, with no defender being able to clear the ball from danger.
As for passing stats, Caballero did well for the occasion. Tottenham’s high pressing did not allow him to play from the back and so he had to resort to long balls. Something similar took place with his Tottenham counterpart Hugo Lloris and he was better than the Frenchman with long passes, hitting 7 in 14 compared to 5 in 13.
Passing distribution between the two sides was quite similar, with Tottenham dominating possession in the first half and Chelsea doing so in the second. As for where the action took place, it was fairly divided between our defensive third (28%) and Tottenham’s (30%), the rest of which happening in the middle of the pitch (42%).
First and foremost, we need to bring forth explanations for the two new stats included in the table above. As per the words of Scott Willis at the Short Fuse:
xG Chain: every player in a possession chain are credited with the final xG of the shot. Example: Player A passes to player B, Player B passes to Player C, who Passes to Player D who crosses the ball for Player A to shoot with an xG of 0.05. Players, A,B,C,D all get 0.05 xG Chain, Player A gets 0.05 xG, Player D gets 0.05 xA. A longer explanation here.
xG Buildup: this works the same way as xG chain but no credit is given for assisting or taking the shot. This focuses just on building up play. Using the same example as above: Players, A,B,C, all get 0.05 xG Buildup. Player D does not get any buildup credit because he assisted the shot, Player A does get credit because he started the move that lead to his shot.
And in these stats, goalscorer Morata and centre-back Andreas Christensen were our top players. The latter is evidence of Christensen’s contribution to our passing game as one of the main outlets, along with his backline colleague César Azpilicueta, in this aspect of our play.
Passing volume was however dominated by Kanté, who got 51 passes right in 60 of his tries while also recording the most touches in Chelsea’s camp with 85. And Willian, who was not much of a threat in offence had the team’s best passing rate at 91.2%.
And overall, our pass success percentage was rather... poor. The 77.7% rate stands 6.7% below our 84.4% average in the league, which is the league’s second best being only below Manchester City’s 88.9%.
There were still some positives from our long ranged attempts. From the backline Antonio Rüdiger completed 7 of 10 passes from 25 yard and beyond, one of those being the switch that initiated Moses’ play to get Chelsea ahead in the scoreline. Other players who had a good day in this aspect are Marcos Alonso (2 in 3), Kanté (3 in 5), Cesc (4 in 4), Hazard (3 in 3) and Willian (2 in 3).
The bulk of attempted and completed passes was with Tottenham’s backline and midfield, especially right-back Kieran Trippier and midfielders Dembélé and Dier. The latter was also Tottenham’s best in long passes by completing 6 of 9 attempts.
xG Chain was topped by Alli, who scored 2 of Tottenham 3 goals with a 1.12 rate. Meanwhile xG Buildup was concentrated within 3 of Spurs’ defenders in Trippier, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sánchez on 0.6, 0.56 and 0.49 rates respectively.
No mentions of crossings because both sides were poor. Moving on...
Not only were Tottenham efficient in offence, they were also quite good on the defensive side of things. They were vastly superior to Chelsea in clearances and blocks, outshining the Blues’ work even when the hosts had less time on the ball.
Ben Davies did not have a good day.
Individual defensive performance went just as expected for Chelsea. Kanté dominated the tackling department by completing 7 in 8 attempts, followed by Rüdiger with 5 in 6 and César Azpilicueta making 100% of 4 tries.
There was also Christensen recording 5 interceptions, tied with Kanté in this category; and 4 clearances from Azpi, followed by none other than Morata with 3.
One major letdown was Cesc. The midfielder seems to have lost many steps on the pitch this season in everything that does not involve passing, oftentimes getting caught leaving loads of space behind him. To make matters worse he only completed 2 in 7 tackles attempted last weekend.
The number that certainly jumps the eyes are Sánchez’s 11 clearances. Overall the 21-year-old Colombian defender had a good day in his main task even if he did have a slip in his box that could have brought some real danger into Lloris’ dominions. His partner at centre-back Vertonghen also did well with 3 aerials won in 4 challenges, 6 interceptions and 6 clearances.
There’s also Erik Lamela, right winger turned tackling machine who recorded 5 successful recoveries in 6 attempts — though many of those with major help from the lenience of referee Andre Marriner. Dier, being a midfielder turned defender, was too prolific with tackles by succeeding in all 4 of those he tried to go for.
Meanwhile, Alli in his day emulating club and international teammate Kane got the best out of aerial challenges in 4 of 7 occasions.
Chelsea’s positional map was also a perfect reflection of their 3-4-3 tactics if it wasn’t for Cesc playing higher than Kanté on the pitch and “hugging” Willian’s right wing to help our offensive forays. And the flanks of the defensive line played quite high, with Christensen dropping back from his central position.
Tottenham’s centre-backs sat deeper than ours, but their lines upfront were higher than Chelsea’s. It is also not perplexing that the free flow of their 4 attackers had them moving out of their positions on paper. Son, listed as a no.9 veered to the right of right winger Lamela. Meanwhile, Eriksen and Alli changed places with the Englishman projecting himself as a spearhead/target for Tottenham’s attacks multiple times.
One thing to take note: wide defenders on both sides occupied nearly the same positions on average. And the four of them were pushing themselves high up the pitch, leaving loads of space at the back. Which is how two goals, one from Chelsea and the other from Tottenham, got their first gear.
This was, once again, a day in which Chelsea played at the highest of their capacities but faltered in carrying their intensity for the entire game. And when they let themselves down in this regard, Tottenham came out and pounced to great effects.
We could go as far as to say that we did not deserve to get out of the game as losers, the 2-goal gap between Chelsea and the visitors being too wide to tell the full story of the game. But last season, we were the ones doing what Tottenham did to us last Sunday.
However, we have long lost that edge and who knows if we will be able to find it until the season is over.
Nevertheless, time to move on. As always, it is good to remember that better days shall come.