Tactical Analysis: Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur

By Luismi Loro

02-December-2020 on Analysis

11 minute read

In our weekly series of tactical analysis, professional analyst Luismi Loro uses Nacsport, in conjunction with InStat and KlipDraw to break down some of the weekend’s biggest games.

 

London calling this week and the big derby clash between Chelsea and Spurs. This was not a pretty game for the casual spectator but was a tactical feast as both Lampard and Mourinho battled to stay of the Premier League.

 

Over to Luismi for his analysis…


Note: This article was translated from Spanish and pics are captioned in Spanish. We have provided a translation for captions in italics beneath each picture.

Introduction

 

After Liverpool could only share a point with Brighton on Saturday, both Chelsea and Spurs knew that the top spot in the Premier League was at stake as they faced each other on Sunday.

 

A win would take Chelsea into that coveted position whilst a draw would be enough to keep Tottenham at the top. This was to be a battle of two different tactical systems and two different playstyles.

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 1

Team formations and line ups courtesy of Instat

 

Key Points

 

A Match of Precaution and Defense

 

The final result of this match, a no score draw, speaks volumes as to the nature of this game. Both teams knew the importance of the winning and, in trying to minimise errors, robbed the spectator of a colourful encounter and memorable football.

 

Having said that, at a tactical level, there was a lot going on under the bonnet and it proved to be a fascinating battle. Although Lampard and Mourinho had differing tactics, the strategies of both were simple and clear. 

 

Chelsea on the Attack

 

Chelsea took to the pitch with an offensive 4-3-3, constantly looking for link ups out wide between wing back, midfielder and winger.

 

Their tactics here were clear. Up front, when the winger cut inside, the corresponding midfielder pushed out to cover and provide continued depth to the attack. Lower down the field, when the winger attacked the centre, the wingback would push up to cover and provide this continuity. This was especially true on the left side of the field, where Werner was the wingman and constantly pushed his opponents on the inside.

 

Chelsea managed to penetrate Spurs’s defense a few times using these tactics, but generally, Mourinho’s team defended against it effectively. The best chance came in the 2nd half when they managed to break through the Spurs midfield line and a great scoring opportunity fell to Abraham, who failed to make the most of it.



Chelsea vs Spurs 2

 

Triangular formations of Chelsea on the wings. Combination of winger, midfielder and third man

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 3

 

The help of Sissoko on the right wing

 

Chelsea found it difficult to generate danger. Even when they pushed hard from midfield, taking the defensive line into the opposition half, they couldn’t gain any advantage. Spurs were just too strong in defense.

 

Tottenham Hotspur on the Attack

 

Spurs lined up in a 4-2-3-1, changing to 4-4-2 in the mid-high block. The two forwards, Kane and Ndombele, generally stepped out of the battles in midfield, preferring to join up with the rest of the time around the position of Chelsea’s defensive pivot, Kanté. The thinking here was that, given the lack of space for them to play in, they could steal through passes from the opposition defense and counter quickly.

 

Another attacking method utilised by Spurs was to play the ball wide, pulling Chelsea’s defense out to the wing, allowing them to see a bit more space on the inside.

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 4

 

All video illustrations done with KlipDraw

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 5

 

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 6

 

Spurs leaving players in the centre to cover pivot and pressing on the wings

 

In the mid-low block, to counteract Chelsea’s triangulation on the wings, Spurs used man marking with the midfielders who followed their man to the inside or wings when they made the break. This freed up the wingers who could make runs without fear of losing their man. It also freed up the central defenders who didn’t have to break formation in order to defend as the central midfielders were already covering. There were many examples of this, especially Sissoko vs Werner.

 

In this way, Tottenham neutralised the Chelsea triangle (winger + midfielder + wingback) with their wingback, central midfielder and lateral midfielder. 

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 7

 

Sissoko sticking to Werner like glue when he cut inside

 

This meant that Chelsea’s possession was not very productive. On the flip side of the coin, when Tottenham started with the ball, they had a lot of problems playing the ball out and linking up for long periods of continual attack.

 

They tried their best to get the ball to the forwards,  to connect with Son on diagonal runs while Kane dropped back to collect, pull the opposition with him and free up space in the middle.

 

Spurs failed to generate any scoring chances with combination plays as they simply couldn’t find the space on the inside they needed. Even when they did find a little room to maneuver around Kanté, Chelsea tracked back quickly, stopping the quick attack dead.

 

It is true that this was part of Mourinho’s plan which was to steal and counterattack. 

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 8

 

Receiving from the sides of Kanté (pivot)

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 9

 

Chelsea’s defense against Tottenham started from a 4-3-3, transforming into a 4-4-2, with one of the forwards tracking back into midfield. In the mid-low block it became 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1.

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 10

 

Low block in 4-1-4-1

Dangerous Counterattacks

 

The few scoring chances during the game camefrom counterattacks. In the 1st half, Tottenham only had two opportunities to run, where they recovered the ball on the inside and took it to the wings with Son or Bergwijn or with the surprise inclusion of Reguilón. 

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 11

 

Counterattack pushing out quickly

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 12

 

Chelsea had plenty of possession but their clearest chance was a disallowed offside goal by Werner after a quick transition when Sissoko lost the ball.

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 13

 

Chelsea on the counterattack

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 14

 

In the 2nd half, Chelsea had full control of the game but couldn’t generate many chances beyond a few floating crosses and shots from outside the area. Spurs couldn’t get the counterattack going and, in the end, were satisfied to see the game out for a draw.

 

The last chance of the game fell to Chelsea after a mix up between Tottenham’s keeper Lloris and defender Rodon. The failed pass back fell to sub Giroud whose attempted chip was easily gathered by Lloris.

And so the game ended 0-0 and Spurs remained at the top of the table.

 

Conclusion

 

Chelsea vs Spurs 15

 

15 players chasing the ball

 

• A well thought out tactical game by both managers with each limiting the other in their own style.

 

• Chelsea more proactive with the ball while Spurs more content to sit back and wait for the opportunity to counter.

 

• Neither team took big risks with mutual respect and fear of losing their place at the top of the table was the order of the day.

 

• Strong defensive tactics at the expense of the essence of the game: goals.

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