Picture- Chelsea vs Tottenham clash pic (two players dueling from December fixture)
After a disappointing and controversial result this past Monday night, Chelsea are only one point ahead of Tottenham. The Spurs stole a later winner in their last Premier League affair against Aston Villa with Son Heung-min scoring in stoppage time. This put the pressure on Chelsea to get a result against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side. That didn’t go as planned as everything was going against the Blues on Monday, and Chelsea were beaten by Manchester United 2-0 who completed the double against Chelsea for the first time in the league since 1998. Their record at home has not been kind to them as they have only 18 points at home with five wins, three draws and five losses. More bad news arose on Monday when N’golo Kanté limped off in the 12th minute with an apparent groin injury which could leave him until March according to recent reports.
Tottenham are also riddled with injuries with Son Heung-min fracturing his arm in the early stages of their previous match. The South Korean forward continued to play throughout the game, and inevitably scored the late winner for Tottenham off a mistake from Aston Villa defender Björn Engels. Jose Mourinho tasted a sour defeat the last time he faced his old team, with Lampard outsmarting his former manager in a convincing manner. Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-0 shortly before the holidays with Willian scoring a brace. Since their last encounter, Mourinho’s side have won four of their last eight Premier League games, and have only lost twice. Harry Kane continues to be out with injury and their attacking force has been deplete. But they managed to reinforce their ranks this January, acquiring Steven Bergwijn from PSV, Gedson Fernandes on loan from Benfica and permanently purchasing Giovani Lo Celso who was on loan previously from Real Betis.
Tactical Insight from Opposition:
In their last fixture in December, Tottenham tried to find Harry Kane on long balls from the Spurs keeper, Paulo Gazzaniga, and liked to tuck Lucas Moura and Dele Alli close into to Kane. This worked for a couple times but to Mourinho’s surprise, Lampard decided to go with a back three to suppress any Tottenham attack. Spurs were having a hard time finding any gaps between the lines and thus looked sloppy on the ball. Chelsea did well denying them space, and would trouble Tottenham’s defense with the wingbacks Alonso and Azpilicueta pushing high up the field. Chelsea also played it long to Tammy Abraham who he was able to win multiple aerials against the Tottenham centre backs. Mason Mount stayed close to him, almost as a second striker, to make sure whenever he got the ball down from the aerial there was someone to pass it to. Lampard may not use the same tactics however, as they’re facing a different Tottenham from two months ago. Tammy Abraham is a doubt and we could see a different formation from what they used last time. RB Leipzig managed to beat them at home midweek of the Champions League where Tottenham looked inferior for most of the match. Mourinho deployed a midblock of four with two up front in Lucas Moura and Dele Alli, and tried to catch Leipzig on the counter setting up in a 4-4-2 formation off the ball. Chelsea loanee, Ethan Ampadu started for RB Leipzig at CB after only having limited minutes before, and did a good job breaking the midblock to find gaps between Tottenham defense. Tottenham did a better job in the second half pressing higher, while Leipzig preferred to stay compact and hold their slender lead. Their offensive formation was a 3-2-5 with one midfielder pushing up with the attack, and Aurier as the widest right winger.
Through Jose Mourinho’s short tenure as manager so far, we’ve seen plenty of times where Tottenham looked stagnant, and yet still manage to come out with results like we saw last weekend against Aston Villa. This is due to their attacking quality that sometimes bails them out of tight situations. On paper, what mostly looks like a back four is somewhat of an illusion, as throughout the match Mourinho’s side usually reverts to a back three (especially on the ball). Whoever is on the left, usually Vertonghen or Davies, stay as LCB while Aurier -who is a right back- pushes up the field almost as a right winger. Teams have looked to punish Tottenham by aiming at the space left by Aurier when he pushes up, and exploit the CBs in 1v1 situations. As the weeks have gone by, Tottenham have looked more and more like a defensive counter-attacking side, and it’s likely due to the injuries they have sustained recently. Chelsea should look to attack that right channel, but it will be difficult as our attacking options have been reduced as well. Tottenham still possess the likes of Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn to attack, as well as Dele Alli who-despite being poor as of late- still has the ability to make blind runs behind our lines.
Our Current Form
The Blues have been inconsistent and mostly poor over the last month, only winning one in our last five games, with two draws and two losses. Chelsea’s main scorer, Tammy Abraham, is a maybe for this Saturday while Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic continue to be out with injury. We have looked aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, but the usual story of not taking our chances has allowed the opposition to get back in the game or take the early lead. Chelsea put out one of their oldest lineups this past Monday against United, and it showed why the team drastically screams for upgrades.
Our front line lacked quality and a killer instinct and justified why Frank Lampard wanted reinforcements in January. Willian and Pedro looked poor constantly making the wrong decisions in the final third, while Michy Batshuayi looked utterly lost on the pitch. Olivier Giroud looked lively when substituted on and almost scored, but was ruled offside by a toe when VAR reviewed the play. Mateo Kovačić was bright and sharp in midfield against Man U. He completed the most dribbles in the match with four successful dribbles and had an outstanding 87% pass success rate. His latest exclusion from the lineup has baffled Chelsea fans over the past few weeks, but with Kanté out for a while we will see the Croatian midfielder play more. His ability to break down the lines and opposition press will be key in order to break Tottenham’s compact midblock.
This will be an crucial London Derby as the two clubs look to finish in the top four. And this very well could be a deciding factor for the rest of the season. If Tottenham come out victorious they will overtake Chelsea in the top four. But if the Blues win they will be four points clear of the Spurs. A hefty and busy schedule awaits the boys from the Bridge, and they will have to rally together to fight through the current storm.
Saturday 22nd February 2020
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
Kick off: 12:30 UK time