Dele Alli scores to make it Spurs 2-0 Chelsea in the Premier League match at White Hart Lane.

Spurs 2-0 Chelsea: exposing the inside left channel

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.

The performance of our season so far. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen created two carbon copy goals, each time exposing the weak point of their defence to make it Spurs 2-0 Chelsea.

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.

Dele Alli worked the inside left channel during Spurs 2-0 Chelsea in the Premier League.

Dele Alli worked the inside left channel.

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.

Dele Alli ghosts in to score as Moses and Azpilicueta are distracted during Spurs 2-0 Chelsea in the Premier League.

Dele Alli ghosts in to score as Moses and Azpilicueta are distracted.

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.

Dele Alli in space signals where he wants the cross to make it Spurs 2-0 Chelsea at White Hart Lane.

Dele Alli in space signals where he wants the cross.

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.

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18 Responses to Spurs 2-0 Chelsea: exposing the inside left channel

  1. Overcspurs 5th January 2017 at 8:55 am #

    So the chelski Achilles heels exposed! Let’s hope more teams give them sterner tests.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th January 2017 at 9:06 am #

      We’ll see how many more teams now follow our lead…

      • YouShubes 15th January 2017 at 7:09 am #

        few teams can match our personnel so I am doubtful…I am hoping City et al can do us a favour

  2. Mos 5th January 2017 at 10:32 am #

    Firstly, great to have you back, had a feeling it would be tough for you to resist a post after that win so made sure I checked the site.

    I have to say I am very impressed by Poch’s tactics. When he first came to the club I had the impression that he was all about player “effort” which was plenty, but I had been a little nervy about the constant 4-2-3-1 formation and thus lack of flexibility – I guess I thought (a little like Arsene) he was good at developing talent but only did things one way. Yesterday was the second significant streak he broke this season, the first was against City, who at the time seemed as indestructible as Chelsea, and paved the way to a mini meltdown – lets hope a Chelsea meltdown follows this win.

    In truth I always felt we would win or draw against Chelsea, our players seem to always turn up for the big games of late, little worried about a draw against Pulis though.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th January 2017 at 4:44 pm #

      Thanks for having faith and checking in ;) A Chelsea mini meltdown would be nice. Hopefully we don’t suffer a hangover from the euphoria of this game. Fortunately we do have the FA Cup next, but Tony Pulis afterwards is a master of the 1-1 against us!

  3. joneme 5th January 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    Really love your sightful Spurs-analysis, Mark. I’ve recommended your site to my fellow Spurs-fans back in Norway and we appreciate your remarkable tactical analysis. If we are going to buy one player in January, which player do you think we need? And may Winks be a new Mason and eventually sold for 10-15mill, or does he have the potential and ability to outshine Mason/Huddlestone and be a regular first team-player in a top Premier League-team?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th January 2017 at 5:11 pm #

      Thanks Joneme and also for the recommendations.

      In January, above all else, I think we need another playmaker, someone that can push Eriksen and also be a rotation option. It’s the one area we really need to strengthen. It is going to be difficult to recruit this player in January though as they are tough to get. Ante Coric would be a nice addition.

      The other position to strengthen is our number 8 as Moussa Dembele can’t play every game and we need another option. With Morgan Schneiderlin available I can’t see why we’re not making a run at him. Seems an obvious choice and with Wanyama looking twice the player he was at Southampton, I’m sure Schneiderlin will too.

      Harry Winks is a class above Mason. Whether he’ll be a first team regular remains to be seen as he is slightly undersized and needs to strengthen and bulk up a bit. However, he does have his uses and is a nice player to have in certain situations. Hopefully Poch can bring him on and develop him as he is certainly a nice player with the ball at his feet.

  4. steedman 5th January 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    What a pity, that some of our great commentators, like ALAN sMITH (ex GOONER?), and the equally great defender PHILLIP NEVILLE (ex ? and sadly England), cannot see things that to anyone with a slight amount of football ability can?

    The great commentator Smith decided that Ali should receive ‘his’ man of the match, he seemed to have no idea what had occurred over the 90 minutes, despite all the tech advice to hand.

    Please rid us of these idiots.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th January 2017 at 5:12 pm #

      If only it were that easy… I’d really love to see some of these TV networks give someone else a try other than what seems to be jobs for the old boys network.

  5. Mark P 5th January 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Happy New Year and great to have you back. I completely understand the your absence when “life” is happening! I agree wholeheartedly that we need another playmaker if not to push Eriksen, then to have a back up. Chelski may have been found out yesterday, the coming weeks will be interesting to watch.
    I noticed another major tactical contribution yesterday. The attacking and holding midfielders were responding very quickly when we lost possession, essentially shutting down any attempted counterattacks. I believe this was key to the win. Also, there seemed to be a concerted effort to “show” Chelsea the horizontal pass while restricting vertical penetration. This was especially evident (to me) in the second half.
    Mark from Virginia

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2017 at 3:47 am #

      Happy New Year! Some excellent observations. Yes there was a concerted effort to push Chelsea out of the middle. Very few teams can match up with Kante and Matic but Dembele and Wanyama were excellent at controlling the central zone.
      Any players you’d like to see us pursue in January?

      • Mark P 6th January 2017 at 4:53 pm #

        Agreed. Beyond reality = Luka Modric, my favorite player. Within reality = Maybe Junior Stanislas , I like what he’s been doing at Bournemouth. Otherwise, someone older would be best – someone in the image of Van der Vaart or Schweinsteiger, towards the end of their career and willing to play occasionally. Personality will be a huge factor of course. I’m interested to know what you think.

  6. brian 5th January 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    What a great Christman period for Tottenham.I thiught we out played Chelsea all over the pitch.
    Chelsea really only created one chance for thwm selves,and that was in the first 10 minutes.
    When hazard got clear.But other than that,they crated nothing.It will be Interesting too se what Poch,
    Does for the Villa game.Its a cup tie,and I hope he treats Villa with respect.As cup games,
    can prove to be quite tricky..Plus I certainly do not want us to adpt,the Gooner arrogance.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2017 at 3:49 am #

      Hi Brian, yes I’d like to see us take the FA Cup seriously as well. It’s only a few games to reach Wembley, where we should now feel some kind of home advantage!

  7. Matt 5th January 2017 at 11:03 pm #

    Great to see you back Mark! An oasis of calm analysis in a land of noisy opinionated blogs. You’ve captured the tweaks and nuances perfectly. For me, taking a step back and looking at the framework within which they occur, I’d have to go 3 at the back from now on, it frees up walker and rose and creates space and movement up front. Stops us getting too narrow. Also we get Dier and Wanyama on the pitch. What do you think, play a 3 from now or continue to switch?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2017 at 4:03 am #

      Thank you for kind words Matt, it’s good to be back. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you talk about freeing up the full backs. Both the 4-2-3-1 and 3CBs formations allow them to get forward and provide width which is key to our attack. The 4-1-4-1 didn’t allow them to do this and it also exposed Wanyama which is why Poch has binned this, for now.

      Three at the back also, I think, allows us to get more out of Trippier and Davies. Both are good crossers but lack searing speed to get forward and back defensively when playing in a back four. Three at the back allows them recovery time to get back, but also a higher starting position. It also means we can rest and rotate our full backs to get more from the squad.

      Finally, a back three also allows Vertonghen to get forward and his surprising forward bursts have caught defences unaware or a man short to stop him.

      At the minute, I like both 3CBs and our 4-2-3-1 but am leaning towards the former. That being said, many more teams will continue to trial 3 CBs due to its success, which could start to mean that sides cancel each other out. Then we’ll be looking for a new solution.

  8. Matt 6th January 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Good point. It seems to me though that 3 at the back seems to free the full backs more. I don’t have the stats but I can recall more assists when we’ve played that than the 4231. Also we just seem less narrow. May of course be my prejudice colouring my memory!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2017 at 3:07 pm #

      Yes I think it does as the full backs have a much higher starting position and slightly less defensive responsibility due to the 3 CBs and Wanyama.

      The 4-2-3-1 sees our advanced midfield trio much narrower and so allows the full backs to overlap as well. However, they have much more ground to cover and more defensive responsibility. Thus it suits the much more rapid and athletic Walker and Rose than Trippier and Davies.

      Both formations have their uses for me. Plus, we’ve not seen yet if Poch will go 3-5-2 to get Janssen and Kane on the field together. Maybe a solution vs WBA who gave Chelsea a ton of trouble and really stifled them.