Chelsea (3-4-3) | Manager – Antonio Conte
Caballero // Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger // Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso // Willian, Morata, Hazard
Tottenham (4-2-3-1) | Manager – Mauricio Pochettino
Lloris // Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies // Dier, Dembele // Lamela, Eriksen, Alli // Son
Made using TacticalPad
Tottenham travelled to Stanford Bridge bearing the weight of a massive hoodoo on their shoulders. Not a single win away at Chelsea in 28 years. However, this Spurs side managed to overcome a turbulent first half and leave with all three points for the first time since 1990.
Both sides set up in their expected shapes. The 3-4-3 that has become so synonymous with Chelsea of late was combated with Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1, however both XI’s were missing key personnel with Chelsea stopper Thibaut Courtois not being able missing through injury and Tottenham’s star man Harry Kane only being fit enough to make the bench.
The absence of Courtois didn’t affect how Chelsea approached the game as Conte stuck with his usual methodology. A solid back three screened by a double pivot of Kante and Fabregas (the latter being given more creative freedom), with the forward-thinking wing-backs, Alonso and Moses supporting Hazard and Willian, with Morata spearheading the attack. Seeing as Tottenham provide a great deal of attacking threat, the Chelsea defence sat deeper than usual, in order to limit Spurs’ play and profit off of counter-attacks.
Tottenham on the other hand were presented with the difficulty of not being able to start Harry Kane. This meant that Pochettino had to adjust his attack slightly. He persisted with the usual high-line at the back with Dier and Dembele sitting just ahead of Sanchez and Vertonghen, but with Kane not being fully recovered from his ankle injury, Pochettino decided to start Heung-Min Son up front. Son was supported by a trio of Lamela, Eriksen and Alli.
It became clear in the opening stages that Tottenham were going to struggle to create chances without Kane’s presence up front. Chelsea’s deep block didn’t allow much space in behind for Son to exploit, meaning Spurs were forced to play to the Korean’s feet for most of the first half. This caused congestion in Chelsea’s half as Lamela, Eriksen and Alli tried to play off of Son, attempting neat, one-touch passing sequences in front of Chelsea’s back three which were being snuffed out almost every time.
Chelsea meanwhile were having much more success on the ball. Feeding the ball to their front three as quickly as possible was clearly their aim, often finding their wingers via target-man Morata. This allowed Chelsea to repeatedly create overloads in the wide areas, as Alonso and Moses would push on while Hazard and Willian occupied the Tottenham full-backs. It was evident that Tottenham’s forwards were not tasked with tracking the runs of the Chelsea duo, meaning that the home side would often have a man spare when taking on Trippier or Davies.
This allowed Chelsea’s wing-backs to cause constant problems for Spurs. Alonso had the ball in the net just before 20 minutes, as he managed to get free of Trippier and Volley Kante’s pass into the corner of the net, but he was just caught out by Spurs’ offside trap and the goal was disallowed. Minutes later and Victor Moses collected the ball from Hazard and fired a shot on goal that was deflected before it could seriously trouble Lloris.
Tottenham ignored these warning signs however, and were ultimately punished when Chelsea took the lead after half an hour thanks to Alvaro Morata. Rudiger stepped into midfield under very little pressure and sprayed a pass out to the right flank to Moses. Willian’s run inside had taken Ben Davies with him, gifting Moses the entire wing. The Nigerian made the most of this, as he drove with the ball before whipping in a really good cross for Morata to head into an empty net after Hugo Lloris made the wrong decision to come for the cross.
Tottenham continued to use short, fast passing to try and break Chelsea down, utilising the versatility of their front four to rotate, and interchange positions. This almost worked for them when Eriksen went through on goal following some clever play from Alli and Son, but Caballero dealt with the threat. As the half drew to a close, Chelsea’s defence dropped deeper which limited the space in behind, but played into the hands of long-range specialist Christian Eriksen who stunned Chelsea with a dipping strike from distance to level things on the stroke of half time.
Pochettino made a tactical change at half time that may have been the deciding factor in the affair. He swapped the positions of Son and Lamela, meaning Tottenham would now operate with the Argentinian as a false nine, who unlike Son, would drop a little deeper creating the space in behind himself.
This created an issue for the Chelsea defenders. If they track Lamela’s movement then they risk getting dragged out of position, creating gaps for the likes of Alli and Son to exploit. However, if they let Lamela roam free then it’s possible he’d find space to receive the ball, turn, and play the killer final ball that Spurs had been lacking whilst his teammates make runs off of him.
This ultimately leads to Tottenham’s second, as Dier picks up the ball in his own half while Lamela drops towards him to show for the ball. Wary of this, Rudiger pushes up to be in a position to pressure Lamela if he receives the ball. However, Alli reads the situation brilliantly and makes a run into the space left by hesitant Chelsea defence which Dier spots, and picks out excellently before Alli gives the move the finish it deserved. Spurs had found a way to open up Chelsea.
Just minutes later, Alli doubled Spurs’ lead from a move that once again stemmed from Pochettino’s half time change, as Son, now playing wide right, managed to find space in behind Marcos Alonso and latches on to Eriksen’s ball. Son carried on his run into the box, and despite selfishly ignoring his options in favour of a shot which was saved by Caballero, Dele Alli did eventually convert from close range.
Chelsea continued to threaten in the wide areas, before eventually switching to a 4-4-2 when Giroud came on for Moses, but by then their belief had evidently drained. Eriksen maturely slowed the tempo of Tottenham’s passing play, and substitutes Sissoko and Wanyama helped to shore things up in Tottenham’s midfield as the managed to see their historic win through.
Chelsea’s deep block and wide overloads looked as though they may be enough to give Chelsea yet another home win against Spurs and close the gap on the top four. Tottenham struggled to threaten with their narrow, intricate passing which Chelsea dealt with well, but it was the half time switch which swung the tie in the visitor’s favour.
Conte was slow to react to going behind, and as a result his side went on to be beaten comfortably. Tottenham now look nailed on to finish in the top four, whilst Chelsea have an awful lot to do if they wish to be playing Champions League football next season.