Sunday’s much anticipated Chelsea match against Tottenham Hotspur turned out to be a cagey, goalless affair at Stamford Bridge. Both teams began the weekend in the top three, and after ninety minutes, nothing’s changed. Spurs are still top, just ahead of Liverpool, with Chelsea two points behind.
It was the type of match we used to see from José Mourinho’s Chelsea teams, where beauty was in the eye of the beholder — defensive resilience and tactical execution. Fast forward to 2020, and Mourinho has now indoctrinated the Northern Londoners and Chelsea have embraced a more dynamic attacking approach.
Much of the build up pre-match focused on the two head coaches, with Frank Lampard seeing his young Chelsea side get the better of Spurs twice in the league last season. Although, few mentioned this season’s League Cup loss on penalties back in September. But that was ages ago in this pandemic filled year.
Despite the goalless draw, Lampard expressed his delight with what he saw from his team. For much of his tenure, he has talked about seeking balance in his young attack-minded squad.
“I thought we dominated big parts of the game. Everything that we talked of before the game in terms of nullifying their counter attacking threat we did really well, so that part off the game was fantastic. We almost gifted them one at the end and I thought we created enough.”
“It is difficult to create against Tottenham when they have a low block, the whole team defending centrally. We had to try to go round them and try crosses and have shots, but it is hard. You have to try to stop counter attacking in transitions. I thought that part of our game was excellent. Sometimes you rely on a bit of magic, sometimes when you have that dominance it can happen. I am sort of balanced after the game. Big parts were great, hence the clean sheet. But a game we maybe should have won.”
Defensive balance within Chelsea’s performances has grown exponentially with the introduction of both Édouard Mendy and Thiago Silva. Chelsea earned our clean sheet tonight, largely nullifying Spurs’ counters.
Édouard Mendy has now kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 29, 2020
◎ 6 games played
◎ 89% save percentage
◉ 5 clean sheets
Squawka x @WrldSoccerShop pic.twitter.com/3ayfK5Su2M
While José Mourinho set up his Tottenham side to be defensively solid and patient before picking their moment to counter, Lampard set up Chelsea to be the more proactive team.
Unfortunately, Chelsea’s key attackers lacked the clinical finishing touches tonight. Tammy Abraham had chances after the break, especially a couple coming from precision crosses from Reece James. Mason Mount also had a great shot that resulted in a fantastic save from Hugo Lloris, and Olivier Giroud almost got a sneaky one at the end. The only goal scored in the match was offside, when Timo Werner strayed too far past Joe Rodon in the early stages of the first half.
“It’s clear that Tottenham, when they play against this type of game they try to adapt the style of being organized and counter attack. The manager sets that tone. They have great players in those areas to play in that way. Kane and Son we know about.
“We were at home, we wanted to control the game, we did. We could have had a bit more magic or something drop for us at the top of the pitch, there was only really one team for the majority of the game who was searching and that was us. We have been playing pretty well and we wanted to win. In the end we didn’t quite have enough at the top end to do that.”
Lampard has good reason to be pleased with most of his team’s performance, albeit disappointed to have not come out with the full three points. However, the reality is that Tottenham this season are in the evolving process into “Second-season Mourinho” on the expressway to title-town, if history is any indication.
“I’m not frustrated too much. Maybe my face and the sound of my voice sound frustrated. We wanted to win the game and the frustration of sorts is because we deserved to win the game in terms of chances and territory. But you only get what you deserve if you score the goals, which we didn’t do. So that’s the minor frustration today. I thought we played a really good game.”
“There was one team pushing strongly to win the game and the other team were trying to stay in the game and get a draw probably at the end for sure. In terms of where we are at, I am pretty happy. Bringing signings into the club it doesn’t mean everything works, we have to gel, we have to work, we have to build relationships with the players and we are doing that. We are not in a bad place at all.”
Mourinho claimed that his Tottenham side are not in the title race as he once did six years ago in The Second Mourinho Era, once again comparing his side to a “small, young horse - a pony. We are just a pony, and you see the difference.”
Lampard is well aware of his team’s position in the table and the burgeoning title expectations that come after a string of positive performances. Chelsea’s form has grown exceedingly positive since our last loss.
“I don’t think the result either way today would have changed the idea that there’s a long way to go. There are so many games to go I don’t think it would have changed anything. I suppose it’s irrelevant what the feeling is after the game from Jose’s point of view for us. We just have to focus on ourselves. We know it’s tight at the top. There are not just ourselves, Tottenham and Liverpool that are in the race, there are a lot of teams around us in this season which is looking slightly different to recent seasons. I don’t know what to say about that to be honest.”
- Frank Lampard, Source: Football.London
Up next for Chelsea in the Premier League are Leeds United at home next weekend, which will mark the return of up to 2000 fans in attendance.