In a match where both teams would have liked to get three points to close the gap between themselves and the table toppers up north, both teams had to settle for just one point on the day.
Spurs without winger Aaron Lennon brought in midfielder Sandro for just his 4th Premier League start of the season. Chelsea swapped new boy Oriel Romeu for Jon Obi Mikel in the holding midfield role and Andre Villas Boas went with Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres for yet another big game.
Tottenham show intent from the off
Chelsea in what can be called their ‘new regular selves’ sat deep early on and invited Spurs onto them. The North Londoners obliged and pushed their fullbacks high up the pitch with their wide men tucked in and found space in what was supposed to be a compact Chelsea unit. Spurs moved the ball superbly and matched this with some intelligent running off the ball. The Blues were outnumbered 5v3 in the middle of the park as their wide men and fullbacks did not follow Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart when they made runs infield. Tottenham controlled possession, dictated the tempo and made the most of the space afforded to them to dictate the early proceedings.
Chelsea fail to track runners
Villas Boas started with Mikel probably to do a job against a direct opponent in van der Vaart or maybe Modric playing behind Adebayor. This would have been a typical holding midfielder/trequrtista (attacking midfielder) battle. However, this was not the case. As can be seen in the above diagram Tottenham played with no set player in this area but were still able to dominate it. This was done through intelligent runs from deep or wide positions by their midfielders into this area when Mikel was dragged out of position while covering teammates. The Chelsea players whose job would have been to keep tabs on these players failed in their task and this did not help them win the midfield battle. Spurs’ midfielders showed great fluidity and chemistry when they attacked the space between the lines and overloaded Mikel.
In the attacking phase Chelsea also struggled to get going. Their ball movement was too slow and players’ off the ball movement was non-existent. They struggled to hold on to the ball for long periods and establish a rhythm. Ashley Cole and Jose Bosignwa/Paulo Ferreira failed to get into advance positions to supplement the attack. According to the Chalkboards below, Cole and Bosignwa both attempted two passes each (one of which was the assist for Sturridge goal) in the final third of the field. Reason for this was their failure to establish a hold in the midfield which would have allow them to bomb forward and offer width to the attack.
4-5-1 > 4-4-2/4-2-2-2, Harry!!! (Well, at least in this case)
Despite the scores being level and Chelsea getting off more shots that Tottenham in the 1st half, the home team was definitely in control. Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp perhaps looking to test the defensive capabilities of makeshift centreback Bosignwa (put there when Ivanovic pulled up lame) took off van der Vaart and replaced him with Roman Pavlyuchenko. Spurs were now lined up in what seemed to be a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 shape. This move was perplexing as Tottenham were now undermanned in the centre midfield area. This meant that Luka Modric, who took up van der Vaart’s right midfield position, had to close down Oriel Romeu (who replaced Mikel in the holding midfield role in the first half) whenever he got on the ball. His direct opponent Ashley Cole now had the space to get forward and support Juan Mata on the left flank and overload right-back Kyle Walker. Chelsea exploited this left sided match-up for much of the second half . (Show A.cole vs Sturridge)
Tottenham struggled to get into rhythm with this new system. They also switched to a more direct style of passing, part reason was due to Modric’s change of position. In the first half, he dropped deep from his central position to assist with building possession from the back. With the change, in the central midfield 2 of Scott Parker and Sandro they no longer had this type of player (a deep lying playmaker) to help with the ball circulation. The two wide men still drifted inside at every opportunity and looked to overload the midfield area (similar to the first half) and supply the creativity in the attacking phase.
The substitution, negatively affected Tottenham’s play as they were no longer able to dominate in the central midfield area to the same extent as they did in the first half. The space which they now afforded the visitors helped them dictate proceeding as they were the better team in the second half.
Chelsea’s play in the second half was incisive as they went on to look for the winner. The tactical switch from the host now meant that their deepest midfielder, Romeu, had more time on the ball and was allowed to play more progressive passes than Mikel in the first half. Tottenham passing became a bit careless and the Blues took advantage of this and had them on the back foot for long periods of times.
Tactically, this game was more interesting when analysing Spurs’ play. Harry Redknapp seem to have his tactics spot on in the first half and with great movement, passing and a speed advantage was able to get the better of Chelsea in terms of passage of play. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to convert this dominance into goals. In the second half, his tactical switch played more to the advantage of the visitors as they were allowed to get back into the contest with the extra space give. Pavlyuchenko who may have been brought on to be a game changer was ineffective.
Andre Villas Boas would be happy with the one point on the night but would know with the guilt edge charges his team got they could have left the ‘Lane’ with all three points.