Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis

Tottenham hosted Chelsea on a sunny Saturday afternoon for their second London derby of the season. The big draw however, was the battle between the two managers, AVB and Mourinho, who had worked together in the past. Of course, the other big motivation was AVB going up against his former club. In truth, a lot more was also at stake, with 3 key points being the biggest prize for the winner.

Spurs started the game strongly, with a back-line of Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson and Naughton. In midfield, Dembele and Paulinho were the pivot, with Eriksen ahead of them. Townsend started on the right, and Sigurdsson on the left, Soldado was the one up front.

Mourinho elected to start without Juan Mata once again. The back 4 saw only one change, Luiz in for Cahill. In midfield, a conservative choice of Mikel and Lampard started behind Oscar. Hazard and Ramires were the chosen wingers behind Fernando Torres.

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Ramires To Counter

Mourinho expected AVB to set his team up to attack Chelsea from the off, and therefore put Ramires on the right hand side to defend, and then counter with pace. Of course, this didn’t work out that well, because Spurs played a lot down their right, and Chelsea’s left. Ramires also wasn’t able to contribute enough in an attacking sense, and left Chelsea a little short of bodies up front.

Naughton on the left

Kyle Naughton also started on the left ahead of Danny Rose, who usually plays there. Naughton has played there on occasion, but has been a bit uncomfortable at times. Today though, the logic behind playing him there was to exploit the right footedness of the Chelsea defenders. With Sigurdsson continuously moving infield, Naughton was expected to provide the width against Ivanovic, and this was made easier, as he always cut inside, onto his right, and Ivanovic’s left foot, making it tough for the Serb to stop him.

Chelsea Pressing

Through this season, Chelsea have tried to show their opponents out wide, and then press them using the full backs. This in turn allows them to get their full backs forward, and then spring quick counters down these areas. Chelsea were no different today, and made Tottenham utilise the wide areas quite a lot. The most touches from both sides were for Kyle Walker and Ashley Cole.

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As a result, the threat for Spurs also came down mostly from the wide areas. The Spurs goal came from a few passes from the wide areas too, with the likes of Naughton and Eriksen involved.

Spurs Line

AVB was quite proactive with the way he set his team up. He probably anticipated that Mourinho was going to set his team up to counter attack, and therefore, didn’t push his defensive line up very high in the first half. Instead, it stayed quite deep in order to stop the Chelsea counter attacks. This was quite a surprise to Mourinho, and it led to blunting of Chelsea’s attack. In fact Spurs made 10 interceptions in the first half alone, and a number of them were quite close to their own penalty area.

Spurs first half interceptions. via squawka.com

Spurs first half interceptions.
via squawka.com

In the second half though, Chelsea changed their tactics a little, and therefore AVB pushed his defensive line up again, in order to stop Chelsea. The flexibility that was shown by both AVB and the Spurs team bodes well for the future and is a great strength for this team.

Chelsea Tactics

In the first half, Chelsea looked to counter through the wide areas, and that’s why the pacy Ramires was deployed on the right, and Hazard on the left. However, this didn’t work out too well for the Blues, and in the second half, they switched their style. Ramires was sent back to the centre of midfield, and Mata was brought on to play on the right side, as a play maker who was slightly narrow. Oscar played the same role on the left hand side, and Hazard moved into the centre.

INFOGRAPHIC: Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

Chelsea began playing a style that required more dribbles, and gave Torres the freedom to run at the Spurs defence. This led to a lot of discomfort for the two centre backs, and Vertonghen was probably lucky to see Torres sent off. Of the 11 dribbles that the away side attempted, 8 were in the second half. This was why the Spurs’ defence pushed up, to stop the dribbles, and this worked well, as only 3 of the 8 dribbles actually succeeded. This, in a way played into Mourinho’s hands, and he encouraged the likes of Mata to try a lot more through balls. This also worked well, with a number of chances coming about from this tactic, especially the one for Andre Schurrle.

Midfield Battle

In the first half especially, Chelsea were out fought by Paulinho and Dembele. Dembele in particular was spectacular, making 4 tackles, 8 dribbles, and completed 53 passes at a completion rate of 91%. This meant that Paulinho could run up and participate in attacks a lot more. His runs from deeper areas caused Chelsea quite a few problems, with the Brazil international even hitting the post on the stroke of half time. In the second half though, Ramires dropped deeper into the holding role, and he made a huge difference. While Mikel was quite cautious and sitting deep, Ramires and Lampard were very aggressive, attempting 13, and winning 12 tackles. Ramires and Lampard both executed 4 tackles each. This was key to Chelsea’s dominance of the game in the second half.

Over to you! That was our analysis of the derby, was there anything particular that you (tactically) noticed? Let us know by dropping a comment below.

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Vishal Patel

Editor and Co-Founder
Massive Chelsea supporter. Follow Mourinho and love Ronaldinho. Enjoy discussing tactics anytime, anywhere. Enjoy watching the Italian National team as well.
  • brian benson

    You say Chelsea changed to a more central attack in the 2nd half. This put pressure on the Spurs CBs. AVB changed to a high line, but did his miss by not introducing Sandro to protect the CBs. Or was he worried that Sandro’s problem with fouls would lead to Chelsea set plays? I think it was a foul on Ramires run at the CBs that drew the tying free kick.

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  • torres

    Bull shit,please don’t act as if you are Michael cox
    Chelsea played with a style that require more dribbles-wtf do u even mean by that

    • Vishal Patel

      I mean that they relied on dribbling ability more to attack.

  • Gilzean

    Dribbles from their mouth…..

  • EJ

    When Mourinho brought Mata in for the defensive minded Mikel, i thought AVB failed to counter that by bringing on Sandro. Spurs lose the battle in the middle of the pitch and as you’ve mentioned Lampard and Ramirez winning key tackles in second half. Having a quality player like Eriksen makes no sense if Spurs do not have possession of the ball. It was a disappointment for me that Sandro was not brought on.He would have added more presence in middle of the pitch and also contribute on defending againts set-piece.

  • Vishal Patel

    Agree with some of the comments above. AVB missed a trick by keeping Sandro on the bench. The big Brazilian certainly adds defensive presence in midfield, and might have helped to break up the Chelsea momentum. His changes were all like for like, unlike Mourinho who made a tweak to his system.

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