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Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham (4-2 p/k), League Cup: Tactical Analysis

Tactical breakdown of Chelsea finally getting the upper hand against Spurs and advancing to the League Cup final

First half

Tottenham made a good start to the match with possession, drawing pressure on the ball from Chelsea deep inside their own half, before making forward passes to the front three to feet. Upon receiving the ball, the front three could combine or lay off the ball to support between lines and in space facing play, then look to move forward — full backs overlapping on the wings to provide width and advance up to Chelsea’s box for crosses. It was from here, however, that Tottenham couldn’t create chances in the final third, despite the platform they created in midfield. They could play off Llorente as a target man and look to find him from crosses, and the supporting two of Eriksen and Lamela could make short depth movements behind in the final third, but overall they lacked the quality in the middle that they had in the previous meetings.

Tottenham fielded their most physical backline and midfield of the three games against Chelsea so far this season, which caused Chelsea problems, but Spurs lacked the physical intensity from their frontline to press as aggressively and effectively as they had in prior meetings. By Spurs not pressing as effectively when shifting their diamond shape to the sides in high areas, Chelsea were able make use of the wings with quick attacks and push the visitors back to their own box quickly.

Winks was more aggressive than the left central midfielder had been in the previous meetings to prevent switches to Azpilicueta, when Chelsea tried to play through pressure from deep areas, but when moving into midfield and the final third this changed. Winks had to remain narrow to protect the back line, which left Azpilicueta with space to run behind for long passes by David Luiz and 1-v-2’s against Davies (later Rose) during broken play Chelsea’s second goal coming from just such a situation. Similarly, Emerson’s speed to make overlapping runs would provide Chelsea with another option to get behind Tottenham’s backline from the left with Giroud attacking the front post inside the box — getting behind the opposition back line from the wings and having a consistent option inside the box have been two options with which Chelsea haven’t had success recently.

After the two goals in the first half (both from set pieces), Chelsea went into the break ahead in the tie and with good control of the match, but in a dangerous situation with a one goal lead.

Second half

In the second half, Tottenham switched to a back-three (five) with Dier dropping into the back line. This provided extra support for defending wide areas and allowed the wing-backs to move higher, find space, and provide width and depth during attacks — Chelsea’s front three pressuring the ball and the two high central midfielders pressing Tottenham’s central midfielders opened up a gap between Chelsea’s fullbacks and Tottenham’s wing-backs to receive the ball in space.

Tottenham’s good start to the half with the tactical changes saw Rose get behind Chelsea’s backline on a few occasions, before his cross found Llorente at the far post to score and level the tie on aggregate. Chelsea reacted well to conceding with Kante setting up Giroud for a 1-v-1 immediately (later in the half Kante would set Hazard up for another 1-v-1 as well), before the game became much more aggressive, physical and transitional in midfield.

Tottenham’s chances generally came through quick and long counters from the back from this point on, started by the long and accurate long distribution from the goalkeeper, Gazzaniga. Chelsea were able to maintain their position in midfield and create chances both from the wings and the middle, with dribbling, quick combinations and crosses to enter the box. However, despite the number of chances Chelsea created to win the game they were unable to take them and the game would be decided by penalties.


Without the same intensity, quality, and depth from their front three as in previous meetings, Tottenham were unable to cause the same problems as they had, either through pressing or counter attacking. This opened up the wings for quick attacks by Chelsea and allowed the home side to maintain their position in midfield for prolonged periods. Tottenham’s changes in the second half helped them push up to defend the wide areas in midfield and made them more dangerous in attack through Rose’s mobility on the left, which would see them pull back the goal to level the tie on aggregate. From that point, Tottenham had chances from long counters started by Gazzaniga, while Chelsea were able to hold their position in midfield, push Tottenham back to their own box and attack with speed on the wings and in the middle. Chelsea didn’t take advantage of these opportunities to win the game in normal time however and needed penalties to advance to the final.

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