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Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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How did Lampard out-tactic Mourinho did this time?

Spurs counters

During the opening stages of the game, Spurs set up their block in midfield, seeking to counter attack.

They found opportunities to recover the ball ahead of their midfield line, with Lo Celso and Lucas moving inside onto Chelsea’s wide central defenders advancing with the ball, while the two sitting midfielders picked up loose balls from Chelsea’s central midfielders. Lucas running off the back of Azpilicueta was the clear initial threat from this situation, but Spurs were unable to execute upon their opportunities to do so. Additionally, the quick passing and movements between Lucas, Bergwijn (making runs outside to the left), and the supporting midfielders also presented opportunities to break through Chelsea’s backline.

Once reaching the final third, Spurs won set pieces, which allowed them to attack the box with numbers and sustain attacks high around the box upon by recovering Chelsea’s attempts to clear or counter from deep — leading to a shot for Lucas from the edge of the box.

Chelsea with the ball

Spurs tried to close down Chelsea’s short options to force Caballero into playing long or into a mistake with his distribution, but nothing came from these situations. Instead, Chelsea would take the ball up to midfield while Spurs dropped back.

Spurs shuffled the midfielders to the sides to keep their back five intact and stop passes out to Chelsea’s wing-backs. When Lo Celso pressed Rüdiger back inside to Christensen, Spurs would push up and try to apply pressure on the ball high up.

However, when Chelsea were able find the wing-backs, there were opportunities to exploit the space left behind Spurs’ backline without pressure on the ball.

Chelsea could also get behind Spurs’ backline by playing through the middle and into the frontline. Paying off Giroud and seeking the direct pass behind (Jorginho first time pass for Giroud) were both options, the latter of which led to Chelsea taking an early lead in the game.

Following the goal, Spurs began to push up and press more aggressively from midfield, with their wing-backs up high to press Chelsea’s on the ball. Chelsea also continued to open up and press high and aggressively, which would see the game devolve into many turnovers or lost possessions, without either team taking advantage for around 15 minutes.

Following this period, Spurs and Chelsea both created opportunities. Spurs combined quickly with the movements of Lucas and Bergwijn towards the left, and from set pieces. Chelsea got behind Spurs’ backline with continued play off the narrow front three, pressing high, and sustaining attacks by recovering the ball quickly.

Second half

Chelsea’s high pressing forced Spurs into attempting long balls up the channels early on in the second half (Bergwijn running wide as outlet), where Chelsea could win throw-ins and create chances directly from them (shots for James, Alonso and Barkley). Alonso would take advantage of his opportunity to shoot from one of these throw ins to extend Chelsea’s lead to two goals.

The game would continue in an aggressive way with many turnovers and stoppages from the ball going out or fouls, similar to the period following Chelsea’s first goal. Both teams would lose possession in decisive moments as they reached the final third, which perfectly suited Chelsea to let the clock run down.

Chelsea’s pressing from their frontline became more selective as the half went on, and they would instead drop to midfield and wait for the backline and midfielders to pressure the forward passes played into Spurs’ front three.

Abraham and Willian came on for Chelsea to provide speed to attack the opening spaces for counters and fresh legs to pressure the ball (Mount dropping deeper into midfield), and Chelsea would have three good opportunities to extend their lead further before the end of the game, through Abraham, Mount and Alonso’s free kick.

Spurs used all three changes, with Lamela making the main difference, providing his qualities between lines and in the final third to support attacks. He’d go on to force Rüdiger’s own goal at the end of the game, but it wouldn’t be enough to change the result.

Chelsea vs. Spurs xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Spurs created a few opportunities to counter early on in the game, but without continued pressure, Chelsea began to find spaces to get behind their backline and would go on to take an early lead. Chelsea’s high pressing throughout the game caused Spurs problems, and by winning the ball, Chelsea would launch attacks and extend their lead early on in the second half. Chelsea dropped off and countered more as the second half went on, creating chances to extend their lead before Spurs scored a late consolation goal.