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Saiguhan Elancheran provides a detailed tactical analysis about the FA Cup semi-final that finished Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur.
Going into the first semi-final of the FA Cup, a lot was spoken about the psychological damage the game could inflict in the title race as one team are the league leaders with the other just 4 points within them at second place. And having said that, the game was expected to be a potential title decider on a slighter note but only for the Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to play it down in the pre-match presser.
A win here at Wembley would’ve sent Spurs into the finals of the FA Cup which would’ve given them the chance of winning their first major trophy since their League Cup success in the year 2008. Spurs would also have loved to register a win as it was Chelsea who stopped them in the final from winning the League Cup, 2 years ago.
Chelsea (3-4-3): 13.Courtois // 28.Azpilicueta – 30.Luiz – 6.Ake // 15.Moses – 7.Kante – 21.Matic – 3.Alonso // 22.Willian – 23.Batshuayi – 11.Pedro
Spurs (3-4-2-1): 1.Lloris // 15.Dier – 4.Alderweireld – 5.Vertonghen // 16.Trippier – 12.Wanyama – 19.Dembele – 7.Son // 23.Eriksen – 20.Alli // 10.Kane
Chelsea – Hazard(Willian 61’), Costa(Batshuayi 61’), Fabregas(Pedro 74’)
Spurs – Walker(Son 68’), Nkoudou(Wanyama 84’)
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte provided certain surprises in the team sheet as both Costa and in-form Hazard were benched and replaced by Willian and Batshuayi. In defence Nathan Ake was given a chance to impress as Gary Cahill paved the way for him. Azpilicueta was recalled into the starting eleven to replace Zouma. A reaction was very well expected from Conte and his men as they had surrendered to a 2-0 loss at Old Trafford in the previous weekend.
On the other hand, Mauricio Pochettino made a few changes coming at the back of a comprehensive 4-0 win against Bournemouth. Pochettino reverted his side into a 3-4-2-1 shape from the 4-2-3-1 which they employed the previous game. They have used this back-three formation five times in the current season and have registered four wins and one draw. Another surprising call was playing Son as the left wing back against Moses. He also welcomed Wanyama and Trippier in place of Walker and Davies.
In the opening minutes of the game Chelsea proved to be quite better as they looked comfortable, stifling out Tottenham’s attacks easily. Willian’s inclusion was a calculated defensive move as the Brazilian offers more in defensive duties when compared to Hazard. Nathan Ake was brought into the squad as played as the left outside back. Moses and Alonso started in their favoured wide positions.
In the below picture we could identify the set up used by Chelsea in the game. It is the pattern which has been followed through the season. While building from the back, Moses and Alonso occupied positions high up the field and flanked the double pivot Kante and Matic. On the other hand, Tottenham played with Kane upfront with Alli and Eriksen behind him, the former in a more advanced role than Eriksen.
Tottenham in their case, went with a much similar set up to that of Chelsea in a 3-4-2-1. Wanyama and Dembele played as the double pivot and this formation was favoured as this gave Spurs a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the previous meeting stopping their unbeaten run. From the below instance we can identify the similar kind of defensive setup possessed by Spurs during their build up. Both the teams going in with a similar set up meant that it was up to the individual battles to bring out the result and the set of players who find space better.
In the below pictures we see the pressing scheme employed by Chelsea in order to win the ball when Tottenham are in possession. Whenever the central midfielders had the ball, either Matic or Kante would start the press as the front three would stay in their position in order to cancel out the passing options for the ball carrier.
Once the ball moves on to the next line of defence, there happens to be a man oriented pressing. Pedro will press Dier and others respectively. Here we could see Matic stops pressing as the ball has reached Dier, Pedro now accelerates in order to press the side back. The same pattern follows when Alderweireld or Vertonghen has the ball as they will be pressed by Batshuayi and Willian respectively.
In the below instance, Willian presses his target Vertonghen in the right flank and when he passes the ball to his only option in the centre, Kante’s involvement can be seen. He bombed forward to press Alderweireld and he was successful in stealing the ball in a dangerous position.
Though Chelsea scored two goals in the half through a penalty and a direct free kick, it was Spurs who dominated the play through Eriksen. Eriksen was easily able to find space between Alonso and Ake, given Alonso moves forward in attacking situations. In the below picture we see Eriksen’s high position up the field and how he was detrimental in Tottenham’s attacking prowess.
Above we see how Son was involved in the Spurs attack and how Spurs attacked through the left. Moses vs Son was unexpected before the game. This tactic was due to Son being more attacking and faster than Davies. Moses often found himself in the Spurs half after the attacking phase and was slower to get back to track Son. And it was evident in more than three instances how Alderweireld found Son in the left flank and the attack proceeded from there on.
The below picture shows how Chelsea lined up and positioned themselves for the first hour of the game. As the score was 2-2 by the end of an hour, it was expected that Spurs would score or at least take it into extra time as the momentum was with Spurs for the larger part of the game. Both Hazard and Costa was brought on after 60 minutes and their impact in the game was quite visible.
Hazard was able to create spaces in between the lines and often dragged out defenders in order to create pockets of spaces for his teammates to make use of. One such instance took place when Matic was able to make use of the space available in front of him score a screamer past Lloris.
The game which was expected to be a potential title decider was won by a side which was able to contain the game and take their chances when it mattered the most. Though Tottenham proved to be a tactically adept side when they came back twice to make the score line level, they were unable to get past the Chelsea defence even with all guns blazing.
Chelsea on the other hand made sure they reminded everyone why they are the leaders after the questions raised as a result of their performance at Old Trafford. The result would definitely boost Chelsea on their title chances and maintain their lead. The 4-2 win means that Chelsea could be in a position to repeat their league double, a feat achieved by them in 2010, should they beat Arsenal in the final and go on to win the league title as well.
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