Dele Alli scores during Spurs vs Chelsea at White Hart Lane, London.

FA Cup Semi-Final: Spurs vs Chelsea: tactical scouting report

The FA Cup Semi-Final between Spurs vs Chelsea promises to be an epic Wembley battle, so we look at the key Tottenham tactics.

The Premier League’s top two go head-to-head on the hallowed turf with a place in the FA Cup Final at stake. Both teams have won one match apiece this season and Spurs vs Chelsea at Wembley Stadium promises to be another classic contest.

Ahead of the match we delve deeper in to the key weaknesses of where our opponent is vulnerable.

Space behind the defensive midfielders

Chelsea’s defensive midfield has played a key part in their success under Antonio Conte. N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas have all operated in their pivot, which looked almost impregnable during their spate of clean sheets.

However, Chelsea have wobbled in their recent Premier League matches. What’s more, the defensive midfield duo has been vulnerable in all of these games. Crystal Palace and Manchester United exposed them in their victories. Manchester City also ran riot in the space that they left in spite of defeat.

The issue for Chelsea has seen the pair become separated from their three centre backs. Once a highly effective shield, Kante, Matic and Fabregas are getting caught playing too high and leaving space for opponents to run in to.

Chelsea’s last match with Man Utd saw the Red Devils expose this space time and again. Marcus Rashford scored the opening goal, but after Ander Herrera won the ball back in a position that saw both Matic and Kante caught far too advanced up the field.

Matic and Kante caught beyond the ball highlighting the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium, London.

Matic and Kante caught beyond the ball.

Herrera could run straight forward into the space left by the Chelsea defensive midfield duo. No pressure on the Spaniard allowed him to release Rashford’s run in-behind.

Man Utd continued to work the space between the lines that Kante and Matic left. The Red Devils should’ve added a second goal soon after. The following video shows Paul Pogba easily playing a pass in to Rashford in this space beyond the defensive midfielders. Rashford’s flick finds Jesse Lingard, who can then bring Ashley Young in to play in another chelsea weak spot, the space beyond Victor Moses.

Amongst the analysis of Manchester United’s tactics against Chelsea, this seemed to get lost. The Red Devils clearly wanted to hit this space behind the defensive midfielders as soon as possible.

This clip shows Michael Carrick winning the ball back as Man Utd press Nemanja Matic. Carrick immediately looks for Rashford’s run in to the space behind Kante.

Manchester United aren’t the only side that has looked to get in to the big spaces left behind Chelsea’s defensive midfield. Manchester City ran riot in here during the first half of their defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea went with Kante and Fabregas in this match and David Silva had a field day during the first 45 minutes. This clip shows how Man City were directly looking for Silva in this space for him to release the faster attackers against the slower Chelsea back line.

Once between the lines, Manchester City, just like Manchester United, looked to use their speed against Chelsea’s slower back line.

Pace is something Crystal Palace have in abundance up top and they combined it with getting behind the Chelsea defensive midfielders.

Again, one pass splits Chelsea wide open and finds a runner in Christian Benteke in the space beyond N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. Benteke can use his speed to attack the slower centre backs and score.

After a spate of clean sheets, Chelsea have conceded at least one goal in their last ten Premier League matches. The space behind the defensive midfield duo from them playing too far away from their centre backs has been a big factor. The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Chelsea should seek to expose it.

Twin striker trouble

The above videos not only highlight Chelsea’s vulnerability in the space behind their defensive midfielders. Opponents that have had success against Chelsea have also either played with two strikers or got a second player forward to join the front man.

Manchester United went with the paring of Rashford and Lingard up top. Crystal Palace used Wilfred Zaha to operate higher up with Christian Benteke.

Palace got Zaha up with Benteke showing what the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium should look to do.

Palace got Zaha up with Benteke.

Manchester City played with Leroy Sane looking to join up with Sergio Aguero. The pair was fed by through balls from David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne.

Each team achieved their aim of getting two men up top from different formations. Manchester United went 3-5-2, Crystal Palace a 4-2-3-1 and Manchester City a 4-3-3.

Spurs have also used this tactic to get two up top against Chelsea. In Spurs 2-0 Chelsea at White Hart Lane, Mauricio Pochettino opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation. The manager had Dele Alli race forward to join Harry Kane up front.

Dele Alli joins Kane in the box to score during Spurs vs Chelsea at White Hart Lane, London.

Dele Alli joins Kane in the box to score.

Dele’s bursts in to the box netted him two goals from soaring above the smaller Cesar Azpilicueta. Matching up on Chelsea’s smallest centre back will be key on crosses and the balls in should be targeted here.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Chelsea need to focus in on getting Dele Alli forward to join Harry Kane once more. Chelsea’s back line has very little speed in it and they can be exposed due to the space that the defensive midfielders leave.

Given Chelsea’s vulnerability to two front men, Vincent Janssen may also have a massive role to play. If we are in need of a goal, don’t bet against seeing a Janssen and Kane partnership with Kieran Trippier supplying the ammunition.

Space beyond Victor Moses

Son Heung-Min may be back on the bench in this game if Mauricio Pochettino returns to 3-4-2-1. However, the speedy South Korean will have a part to play in this match if we are in need of a goal. Son’s runs in-behind have been a feature of his recent scoring spree and they will cause Chelsea trouble.

At Stamford Bridge, Mauricio Pochettino used Son to play high and cheat in-behind wingback Victor Moses. Moses is a highly effective attacker from wide, but equally as liable defensively. If Moses does indeed play in this match, it’ll be an area to watch to see if Pochettino attacks it.

Press or counter attack?

Manchester United did extremely well by counter attacking Chelsea. The Red Devils man marking of Eden Hazard and countering was highly effective.

However, pressing has also undone the Blues recently. Manchester City scored their goal at Stamford Bridge by forcing Thibault Courtois in to a kicking error. Crystal Palace netted their first goal during their win by hemming Chelsea in and then hoovering up the resulting poor clearance.

Pressing has been our calling card under Mauricio Pochettino. I don’t see that changing despite Man Utd’s success with their man marking and countering ploy.

Spurs vs Chelsea outlook

Of the FA Cup Semi-Final teams, Chelsea is arguably the best draw for Spurs. We match up incredibly well with them and have the tools to emerge victorious. Our biggest concern is the Wembley hoodoo that has hung over much of our season.

Key areas to watch will be just how Mauricio Pochettino uses Dele Alli to get up in support of Harry Kane. If Son Heung-Min starts, will he look to hit the space behind Victor Moses?

The ever-busy Christian Eriksen will be the key player on the pitch. Our playmaker will revel if Chelsea continues to leave spaces between their defensive midfielders and centre backs.

Spurs vs Chelsea prediction: Spurs 2-1 Chelsea.

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9 Responses to FA Cup Semi-Final: Spurs vs Chelsea: tactical scouting report

  1. Ilikespurs 21st April 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Great write up as usual. I’m so excited and yet so nervous about this match. I think if we win it catapults us for the rest of the season. And if we lose, I’m worried that it has an equally negative effect on our mentality. It’s just a massive game!

    So what would you do-would you start Sonny and go with a back 4, or start Dier and go with a back 3? Because of the Blues vulnerability to speed, I’m very tempted to want to take the game by the scruff of the neck and start Sonny and go all out on the press and attack in waves right from the start. Why save him to chase the game when we can use him to get an early lead and have them chase us, thereby opening up even more space when we counter their attacks.

    Whatever happens, this team has played like a trophy winning side this term. But they need to earn that on the pitch, and put a lot of ghosts to rest. COYS!!

    • YouShubes 21st April 2017 at 11:29 pm #

      we watch Spurs all the time and if we don’t know what Poch is going to do fucks know what Conte will do to prepare for this

      His ability to play with a pretty settled 343 at the back has benefited him greatly,,,now injuries and lasagne seem to be making it difficult for him to continue this (for which I and many Spurs feel awful about)

      I do like that we have two settled systems we can play

      My hopes are that we start 3421 and keep that general shape. Assuming we can get a lead I would look to make changes with the Palace game coming up…Poch has the ability to bring on the likes of Sonny, Trips and Jansen who I feel have his trust.

      Dembele runs out of gas around the 70th minute. In the absence of Winks I would play Eriksen deeper once Mousa goes off and bring on Sonny whose pace against a tiring Chelsea could prove invaluable.. I also would not be averse to bring on Trippier late on to use his crossing ability and the ability of our players to ghost in to keep Chelsea entrenched.

      So nervous ahead of this game…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st April 2017 at 11:39 pm #

      I’m with you on that Ilikespurs. This is the biggest and most pivotal game of the season so far. I’m both nervous and excited for this one.

      I’m in favour of the back three and Son in the bench. I’ve two reasons for this. Firstly, I think the back three formation can more easily find Chelsea’s weak spots with Dele and Eriksen playing more from the centre behind Kane. Secondly, until he proves us wrong, Son has often gone missing in the big games against big teams. He’s scored against more average opposition, but he often can be very peripheral versus the bigger teams.

  2. Steve 22nd April 2017 at 7:59 am #


    Fairly new reader of your incisive previews. But a quick question: your semi-final post ended with a suggestion that Betfair is offering 50/1 odds on a Spurs win for £1 stakes. Not a betting bloke, this seemed too good to be true.

    Not being a wagering afficionado, I registered and could find no reference to this promotion on their site.

    Any more detail, like a promo code or other bona fide reference, so I can get £49 for free?

    cheers (AND COYS!!!)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2017 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Steve, you have to click on that link and that takes you to the page where it will give you the offer along with full terms and conditions and the chance to register. You then place a £1 stake on Spurs to win the match. It is for new accounts only, so if you have a Betfair account it won’t work. The bet can’t be part of an accumulator either. It must be a single bet on Spurs to win the match in 90 minutes of £1. It is for UK customers only, so it won’t work if your IP address is not UK. Let me know if you still have trouble.

      This is the link you need to click on for the offer.

  3. Paulo 22nd April 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Back 3 with Son on the bench for me.. COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2017 at 10:09 am #

      Fingers crossed, Paulo. COYS!

  4. Daudi 22nd April 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Jitters coming in fully right now…

    We can still manage a back 3 with Son in, 3412 with Son partnering Kane up front, what do you think Mark… but its more likely to be Dele with Son benched.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2017 at 3:54 pm #

      Nervous excitement for me. Fully believe in this team!

      3-4-1-2 is a possible formation, but it would lose one of Dele or Eriksen, unless we drop Dembele and play Eriksen or Dele deeper. However, that would be too many players out of their prime locations just to get Son in and i’m not a fan of major changes to accomodate one player.