Chelsea vs Spurs: how to banish the Blues

With a trip to the Bridge for Chelsea vs Spurs in the offing, we break down how to beat the Blues.

Chelsea are having a season that will live long in our collective memory, but they’d like to quickly forget. Champions twelve months ago and now mid-table mediocrity, the wheels have spectacularly come off. That doesn’t mean they will rollover, and given recent comments in the media by Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, this is their cup final. So, lets check out what should we be on the lookout for in Chelsea vs Spurs this time.

Chelsea conceding chances

A well-drilled back four was almost impregnable during the good times under Jose Mourinho. Now, it looks like a real mish-mash given age and injury.

With the Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta back line there was little to exploit. Apart from maybe getting in-behind Ivanovic when he got caught forward on one of his trademark surges up-field.

That has all changed this season. In recent matches, the avenue to attack is the one between Ivanovic, now playing as a left-sided centre back, and the full back on this side, Baba Rahman. The pair have very little co-ordination between them, often get separated and Ivanovic’s rashness to go for the ball gets exposed.

Take Chelsea’s recent 1-0 loss to Swansea as an example.

Gylfi Sigurdsson gave their back four a torrid time with the space he was afforded between the lines to pick passes. Here he slides the ball through the gap between Ivanovic and Rahman for Angel Rangel to get clean through one-on-one with Asmir Begovic.


Rangel gets in the corridor between Ivanovic and Rahman.

Later and Sigurdsson bursts through Rahman and Ivanovic, who both get sucked in, leaving Jon Obi Mikel to have to come across. Mikel couldn’t stop Sigurdsson dribbling beyond him and crossing for Jack Cork to head over with the goal gaping.


Ivanovic drawn out and Sigurdsson bursts through.

Swansea did score in the game and we’ll come on to that in a minute as it highlighted another issue.

Following the Swansea defeat, Chelsea’s entertained Man City in their last home Premier League match, a 3-0 annihilation. The Citizens scored three times on the counter attack, but exposed this space between Ivanovic and Rahman all game.


Man City shots (blue) and goals (yellow) vs Chelsea.

It was highlighted on the second goal, as Aguero neatly spun in through this gap with Ivanovic facing the wrong way. City then added a third as Ivanovic’s rashness to get pulled up the pitch, away from his backline colleagues and towards the ball, was exposed. Aguero drew him in and then flicked the ball in to the path of Fernandinho, who then rumbled forward and was brought down by Thibault Courtois for a penalty.


Ivanovic drawn out, Fernandinho gets in, leaving Mikel trailiing.

The move, as many others did in that game highlighted the Ivanovic/Rahman channel, but also Chelsea giving up way too much space between the lines, a continued problem for them.

Exploiting space between the lines

Chelsea’s ageing backline used to be protected by Nemanja Matic roving around in front of them and quashing attacks. Matic has had his issues this season and Jon Obi Mikel has not been an able deputy. This has given opposition teams space between the lines to exploit and has often been Chelsea’s downfall.

Go back to the 1-0 loss to Swansea and Gylfi Sigurdsson ran Mikel ragged in this space. It culminated on his goal where he drifted off Mikel, who got caught in the corridor between Ivanovic and Rahman, to fire home.


Sigurdsson drifts away from Mikel to score.

Space between the lines was also there for Man City on a number of their attacks at Stamford Bridge. The image up the page from City’s third goal was caused by Ivanovic being drawn up field and in to an impetuous challenge, but it was also a result of Mikel getting caught trailing the play.

City were able to run and manipulate through this zone by their use of two playmakers in Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri. Whilst we don’t have two trequartistas to pull the strings, we do have plenty of speed to counter attack with.

Lightning quick breaks forward, like those we saw recently against Stoke should be in the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs. What’s more, without Dele Alli, moving Christian Eriksen in to the number ten position or maybe Mousa Dembele further forward could be a sneaky strategy.

Stopping Chelsea’s scoring channels

Although Chelsea have changed managers, there chance generation is still remarkably similar. The Blues continue to play through balls in the inside channels. This then leads either to a direct shooting opportunity or to a short cutback or pullback inside the penalty area.

Last weekend’s 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth was a prime example, especially if you give Cesc Fabregas room to play. He assisted on three of their four goals, all with neat through passes that set up easy shots for Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard.


Chelsea shots (blue) and goals (yellow) vs Bournemouth.

Hazard’s return is also interesting. Not because his drop off in production has mirrored Chelsea’s fall this year, but just because how many of their attacks run through him.

Hazard and Costa love to play one-twos along with passes and movement for each other. This is especially true through the inside left channel, one that both players look to exploit. The space between the right-sided central defender and full back is one we’ve frequently witnessed them attacking and having success through. Roll back to Chelsea 3-0 Spurs a couple of seasons ago and you have plenty of video to highlight this.

We have a real quandary over how to stop this, not through tactics but personnel. Eric Dier’s concussion, and if he is cleared to play in time, is a major issue as he is the perfect player to clog up the inside channels where Chelsea look to play their through balls.

Chelsea vs Spurs overall

With Leicester set to play first once more, this match could have a lot hinging on it or relatively little. Chelsea will be up for the game given that they’d love nothing more than to finally derail any lingering hopes we have of the title, if Leicester haven’t extinguished them already.

This match may well play perfectly in to our hands. Speed and lightning fast counter attacks are what Mauricio Pochettino preaches and Chelsea are ripe for allowing them.

We need to pick ourselves up after the sucker punch suffered against West Brom. A Leicester loss would give us a lift, but automatic Champions League qualification still needs to be ensured.

Chelsea vs Spurs prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Spurs.

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9 Responses to Chelsea vs Spurs: how to banish the Blues

  1. Jerry Ward 30th April 2016 at 7:35 am #

    Great stuff Mark thanks as always

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th April 2016 at 4:27 pm #

      Cheers Jerry. Hopefully we’ll be back to winning ways! COYS

  2. Brett Sydney-yidney 1st May 2016 at 2:39 am #

    What a pity Alli isn’t available to exploit those channels, maybe Lamela and Kane can in his absence?!
    Lets hope Dier is back in good nick to keep an eye on Costa, Hazard and Fabregas attempting to exploit any space between the CB’s and midfield.
    Thanks for your insights and examples as always.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st May 2016 at 11:10 am #

      Cheers Brett. Alli’s ban is unnecessary and will be very significant should Leicester lose to Man Utd. They should win the title, but if they lose it puts an awful lot of pressure on their game with Everton, even though we know that Chelsea will probably roll over.
      I like Kane going through that channel, but he naturally drifts out to our left, the opposition’s right side, where he will run in to the stronger Azpilicueta and Cahill. He doesn’t do it all the time though – his one-two with Alli where he hit the post vs WBA is a perfect example of what we need to do against Chelsea. Also, Lamela does cut in from the right and looks for the reverse pass through there as well, so we may see some success from this ploy.

  3. James 1st May 2016 at 7:28 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    If Dier is out, who would you like to see in that role? I remember the difference Dembele made coming on in the corresponding fixture not so long ago and concerned that we look a little light in midfield without Ali. For that reason I’d like to see Wimmer drafted in – who do you think would be up to the task?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd May 2016 at 3:06 pm #

      Hi James, I hope Dier is good to go, but i’d go with Dembele and Mason if not. I’d considered either Wimmer or Vertonghen, but without having seen either play in defensive midfield before in a competitive fixture its tough to know whether they have any experience at having played in that role. Remember how like a fish out of water Dier looked there at the start of the season? It takes time to settle in to the CDM role and unless they frequently do it in training, then it is a risk to play either Wimmer or JV in place of Dier for me.

      My team (if Dier is out) would be:
      Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose
      Mason, Dembele
      Lamela, Eriksen, Son

  4. anotherwisemonkey 2nd May 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Lamela could be key in this match. I hope Chadli comes back into the side, although I expect Poch will go for Son. Chadli gave Chelsea a torrid time in the 5-3 win at the Lane, and also scored away at Arsenal last season, whereas Son has yet to deliver in the big games. I’m sure he will, given time and an injury-free run, but I’d go with the slightly less mobile, more physical player in what will be a bruising derby.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd May 2016 at 3:08 pm #

      Some good points about Chadli. Poch doesn’t seem that keen on him and i think its due to his work rate without the ball. That’s why i think Son will get the nod.

      • anotherwisemonkey 2nd May 2016 at 6:48 pm #

        Agreed. That’s his weakness and why Son is a better fit in the long run. I just think Chadli is a better fit tonight.