Christian Eriksen put in a virtuoso display as he was the source of everything in his side’s performance.
Club football returned with a banger as Chelsea FC faced Tottenham Hotspur FC in a thrilling contest, at Wembley. Maurizio Sarri had no answers for Tottenham’s pressing which was too hot to handle and Chelsea’s defence was all over the place in this game.
Christian Eriksen put in a virtuoso display. The Danish midfielder made six key passes in the first half itself. Dele Alli bagged the first goal from a well-executed set piece routine, Harry Kane got the second with a great shot from distance that fooled David Luiz and Kepa Arrizabalaga and Heung-Min Son made a mockery of Jorginho and David Luiz and scored from a stunning run. The scoreline could have been worse for Chelsea as Alli and Kane missed a couple of sitters as well. Olivier Giroud came on from the bench to pull one back for his side late, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
Watch: Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea
Mauricio Pochettino played his cards to perfection in the game and Sarri’s unbeaten start to life at Chelsea has come to an end. Let’s look at the tactical aspects that decided the game.
Lineups and formations
Tottenham started with a 4-1-2-1-2 formation which shifted to a 4-4-2 while defending with Alli and Kane staying up front. The formation shifted to 3-4-3 during the match with Serge Aurier stretching the play from the wing when Tottenham were in possession. Jan Vertonghen is still recovering from his knock and Juan Foyth partnered Alderweireld in defence. Foyth and Aurier covered Eden Hazard well in the game who was the only player that tried to tick for Chelsea.
Chelsea deployed a traditional Sarri 4-3-3. Mateo Kovačić partnered Jorginho in midfield and Kante played as an advanced midfielder. Hazard started on the left wing and the few times Chelsea were in control of the match in the first half were when Hazard was dropping deep to orchestrate.
Mauricio Pochettino’s pressing tactic was brilliant
Tottenham players were insane and incessant on the press which decided the game in their favour in the very first minute itself. Sarriball dictates building from the back with Kepa, Luiz, Rudiger and Azpilicueta involved but the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Heung Min Son and Christian Eriksen blocked out passing lanes and pressed them as a collective unit extremely well. Even when Chelsea beat the first line of pressure, Sissoko and Dier were quick to contest second balls and recover possession. As a result, Tottenham dominated and were meaningful in possession which resulted in chances. This pinned Chelsea to their own half for most of the first quarter of the game and that is when Tottenham forwards did the damage.
Chelsea’s defensive faults exploited
David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger had a game to forget. The Chelsea backline was caught in a storm for most of the game. Their positioning and tracking was pathetic and they were all over the players. Pochettino employed excellent positional play and Kane, Alli and Son swapped and exchanged positions on the pitch at ease which further tormented Luiz and Rudiger. Many of Tottenham’s chances came from the right flank. Willian was too slow to track back and Azpilicueta stayed too deep that invited Eriksen, Davies and Alli too wreak havoc down the wing and the half-space.
In the case of the first goal that came from a set-piece routine, Jorginho was tasked at the near post who isn’t the tallest of players. Dele rose high and capitalised with a powerful header which was too much for Kepa to handle. Tottenham’s second goal came from a buildup down that Chelsea right flank where Eriksen exploited the space between Willian and Azpilicueta and played a ball to Harry Kane. Rudiger failed to cover him as the Englishman took a strike from distance and comically enough, David Luiz moved out of the way instead of blocking it which caught Kepa off-guard. The third goal came from some incredible play from Son Heung-min. Dele Alli played him through on the counter and he beat Jorginho in pace to win the ball. Jorginho was no match for his speed and Son brushed past David Luiz with ease as if he wasn’t even there and then slotted the ball home with his left foot. David Luiz’s schoolboy defending against Son summed up the game for Chelsea at Wembley last night.
Tottenham neutralised Chelsea’s attempts at building from the back
Tottenham’s press meant that Chelsea had no other option than to resort to long balls and look for players. Their centre-backs were forced to play it long and they lost possession many times this way since Hazard and Willian aren’t exactly the strongest aerially.
Second half tweaks
In the second half, Tottenham resorted to a 4-2-3-1 while defending. The idea was to catch Chelsea’s high line on the counter with Alli, Kane and Son leading the charge. Tottenham’s third goal came from one such move. They should have won by a much bigger scoreline had Harry Kane and Alli not missed sitters right in front of goal.
Maurizio Sarri got some of his decisions wrong in the game. Let’s take a look at how Chelsea could’ve rescued the game:
3. Sarri should have started with Giroud instead of Morata
Alvaro Morata was caught offside multiple times. He also failed to combine and link up with Kovacic, Hazard and Willian the few times Chelsea tried creating chances. Olivier Giroud’s link-up play is superb and he should have led the offensive charge in the game. Giroud is also taller and stronger which came in handy when he pulled a goal back from an Azpilicueta cross late in the game.
2. Kante should have played deeper
As good as Jorginho has been at building from the back, he isn’t the best when it comes to tracking and retrieving possession off it. The midfield was run over by Tottenham and in a game like this, Kante’s ball-winning abilities should’ve been brought to the fore.
1. Changes should have been made to the right flank
Pedro should have started instead of Willian on the flank. He provided more spark after coming as a sub than Willian did all game before that. Cesar Azpilicueta sat too deep that invited pressure and threat down the flank. The one time he went forward in the game, his cross from the right foot found Giroud’s head and the ball went home.