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Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Chelsea win the tactical battle against Spurs

First half

Chelsea were more aggressive in their defensive approach than in the previous match, against Manchester City, but did maintain the strength of their deep defending when required to.

Spurs began in a 4-2-3-1 and tried to press Chelsea high, but Chelsea were able to break it by playing central passes (central defender spare man) and moving forward with the ball from midfield while Chelsea’s wide central midfielders would run behind the wingers who would remain to occupy the opposition full backs.

After around twenty minutes, Spurs switched to their 4-4-2 diamond and began to have much more success when pressing high to the sides, which Chelsea didn’t adjust to for the remainder of the half — only breaking through in moments where Spurs’ pressing was lacking intensity or finding spaces in midfield from long goal kicks.

Spurs’ tactical switch improved their pressing because it meant that Chelsea’s spare man was no longer one of the central defenders but rather the far side fullback, who was being pressed into a corner. Spurs could now shift their entire midfield and the front two, while pushing the fullback up high, to cover all of Chelsea’s options around the ball while maintaining ball pressure to prevent switches.

Chelsea’s own pressing from Spurs’ goal kicks was also successful, both in stopping Spurs advancing with the ball and winning the ball up high in positions where they could have opportunities to create, with one great chance from Pedro intercepting Lloris’ attempted pass to the side.

Second half

In the second half, Chelsea found success against Tottenham’s pressing by playing some quick and close combinations, finding early passes to Higuain and Hazard to combine and move past Tottenham’s midfielders, and, when Tottenham began to tire and couldn’t maintain the intensity of their pressure, began to use switches to the right. Chelsea also reacted well to losing possession, recovering the ball quickly and continuing to play forward with the ball to prevent Tottenham from causing problems with counters.

Attacking the right side in this way allowed Azpilicueta and Kante to get behind Eriksen defending and cause Tottenham problems. Kante’s mobility was something the opposition were unable to contain for the second game in a row, while Azpilicueta (and Pedro) could create 2v1s against Davies, which would lead to Chelsea taking the lead.

After Chelsea took the lead, they began to defend their own half to prevent Tottenham creating chances — they were only able to create a few opportunities when they could combine quickly between lines — and play long from goal kicks to not allow Tottenham the platform to press them high. Even when Chelsea were unable to recover the ball in midfield after playing long, they were in positions to continue to defend in numbers. Furthermore, when Chelsea could advance forward into the final third with the ball it would provide them opportunities to press high when they lost the ball, rather than relying upon always dropping back to defend their own box and allow Tottenham to build momentum.

Late in the half, after Chelsea extended their lead by playing long to Giroud and pressuring the second ball (Trippier putting the ball past Lloris into his own net), Spurs switched to a 3412 to try to bring the game back, but Chelsea’s defence remained strong and kept another clean sheet — third in a row.

Conclusion

Chelsea made an aggressive start to the match and were able to keep the ball and advance against Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1. After switching to a diamond midway through the first half, Tottenham had much more success with their pressing and it took Chelsea until the second half to adjust. As Tottenham tired and were unable to sustain their constant high pressure, Chelsea used switches to the right to get behind Eriksen and create 2v1’s against Davies, which would see them take the lead. Following the goal, Chelsea became more defensive and used long balls to prevent Spurs from pressing them high — before extending their lead through an individual mistake.