Two goals from Dele Alli exposed their weakness in the inside left channel to earn a vital win as it finished Spurs 2-0 Chelsea in our Premier League clash.
First up before we get in to the game, an apology for the recent lack of posts. Life has been pretty busy of late and time to write up matches and tactically preview games has been non-existent. Thank you for all the kind messages, emails and words of support for the blog. Its amazing to know how many avid readers it has. I’ve tried to respond to everyone and I really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch.
On to the game. There really was a lot going on here and I really only have time to focus on the main issue that swung and won the match.
Dele Alli in the inside left channel
Chelsea have been an all-conquering defensively impenetrable machine throughout their unbeaten run. The one weak spot in their armour has been the zone behind Victor Moses and around Cesar Azpilicueta. Teams that have created chances have exposed Moses’ sluggish positional recovery and thus isolated Azpilicueta.
In the match at Stamford Bridge that finished Chelsea 2-1 Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino had clearly cottoned on to this. To expose it he tried to have Son Heung-Min cheating up field on the left. Son was looking to remain forward and run in to this space every time we won the ball back if Moses was caught up the field.
Mauricio Pochettino kept the same plan, but just altered the personnel and team shape to execute it. This time rather than having Son start out wide and work his way in, he went with Dele Alli setting up in the inside left channel already. Alli’s task was to float in the space behind Moses and around Azpilicueta.
It was a cunning ploy. The tactic got Dele Alli 1v1 against Azpilicueta, but eventually matched them up in the air. Azpilicueta is a good defender when the ball is on the ground, but aerially it’s a different story. Alli is much more stronger and powerful than the converted full back. Stationing our best crosser on the other side in Christian Eriksen to deliver the service and Pochettino had created the mismatch that he wanted.
Spurs 1-0 Chelsea
Eriksen’s positioning was equally interesting in this game. With Kyle Walker bombing forward on the overlap, the Dane drifted in to and out of the half spaces in the inside right channel. It gave him a certain amount of freedom as neither Nemanja Matic nor N’Golo Kante could consistently pick him up.
It manifested itself on our opener. Walker surged forward to suck the Chelsea defence in before releasing the ball back to Eriksen who was in acres of space inside him.
Meanwhile in the middle, Dele Alli was ghosting in to position. He was looking to run the space in the inside left channel beyond Victor Moses and around Azpilicueta. Dele Alli was aided by Azpilicueta being partially attracted inside by the run of Harry Kane. The Spaniard had cover and should’ve left Kane to David Luiz. However, getting sucked in opened up the space for Alli to steal a march behind him.
As the ball went back to Eriksen in space, Chelsea tried to push up and play offside. However, Victor Moses highlighted his slow defensive awareness once more by playing everyone onside. Moses couldn’t recover, neither could Azpilicueta and both cannot match Alli in the air as he guided the ball in to the net. Beautifully worked, beautifully executed and beautiful to watch.
Spurs 2-0 Chelsea
Taking the lead on the stroke of half time was a perfect moment to score. Adding a second just after the interval as Chelsea were starting to gain a foothold really knocked them for six.
The strike was a carbon copy. Alli’s run in the inside left channel exposed Victor Moses’ slow recovery and matched him up aerially against Azpilicueta.
The trap was once again set on the right. Walker bombing forward to suck in the Chelsea defence, which allowed Eriksen to drift in to a huge hole in the inside right channel. Dele Alli at first raced in to the box with Azpilicueta isolated and 1v1 against him as Victor Moses had to stay with the run of Danny Rose. Alli then reset knowing the cross was coming and pointed where he wanted it.
Slow to react, Moses was again caught on his heels. This allowed both Alli and Rose to get beyond him. In turn it left Alli matched up aerially with Azpilicueta, which is no contest. Alli was always going to win any half decently played in ball. Eriksen provided it. Alli’s ability to cushion the header whilst going backwards, keep it down and guide it back across goal in to the far corner was sublime.
Spurs 2-0 Chelsea overall
The stand out takeaway from this game was just how much Mauricio Pochettino schemed and built on his previous plan for this match. He’d identified Chelsea’s weakness in the inside left channel for the game at Stamford Bridge. He then tinkered with those tactics to optimise them here. A different formation, combined with altering the starting position of the player to expose the space beyond Victor Moses and get around Cesar Azpilicueta, was pure genius.
Final score: Spurs 2-0 Chelsea.
MOTM: Dele Alli.