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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.