A scintillating performance at the Lane sees us obliterate Jose Mourinho’s side with it finishing Spurs 5-3 Chelsea in our Premier League clash.
2015 got underway with a bang, as Chelsea were lit up by a dazzling display at the Lane.
The game was fast-paced, frantic, end-to-end and often looked as if it was out of control, as structure was blown away by what appeared to be chaos, organised chaos.
Mauricio Pochettino was left praising the players whilst Jose Mourinho was cursing the officials. The reality was that there were a number of key factors and tactics flowing throughout this contest.
1. Midfield swarm
The first theme was both sides looking to get men in to central midfield to control this area.
Chelsea were playing Willian and Hazard extremely narrow to get them in close to Oscar, Fabregas and Matic. We were doing the same with Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend to aid Eriksen, Bentaleb and Mousa Dembele.
Mousa Dembele was really a key player in all of this. Starting on the bench, the Belgian was quickly called in to action as Ryan Mason went off with a hamstring strain. Mason is very good at moving the ball forward, but in the opening minutes he looked a touch lightweight for this contest as Chelsea sought to gain early control of this zone. Dembele’s introduction added some much needed physicality alongside Nabil Bentaleb and the two became the basis for ball recovery and retention.
2. Numbers between the lines
With these two in here, it drew the Chelsea midfield in to them, allowing us to get Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend between the lines behind them.
Just after Dembele’s introduction he fed a ball through four swarming Chelsea midfielders to Nacer Chadli. The Belgian had got free between the lines with both Eriksen and Townsend, as we had three players to run at Chelsea’s exposed defence.
The passage of play led to a shot for Chadli, but also highlighted a spin off factor. Both teams were moving the ball forward quickly either through or over this congested midfield battle area.
3. Rapid forward passing
The game wasn’t a direct route one long ball contest, but another theme was both sides getting the play moving quickly over or through this congested central zone.
The ball was being quickly shifted from back to front, leading to the rapid tempo of the contest, but also side-to-side from long diagonal switches.
Chelsea took the lead by doing just this. We had a corner that was comfortably gathered by Thibault Courtois. As soon as he caught the ball, he was unleashing a long throw out to Eden Hazard who picked it up out on the touchline in our half.
The throw took a number of our players out of the game, leaving Hazard to run at our defence, jinking past Danny Rose before hitting a shot against the post. Oscar prodded the rebound back across goal where Diego Costa had the easiest of tap-ins.
4. Moving Matic and Ivanovic
Along with congested midfields leading to quick forward ball movement, allowing men to get between the lines, a fourth factor was at play. This was our ability to move around Nemanja Matic, but also to take advantage of Branislav Ivanovic’s positioning.
Mauricio Pochettino arrived with his reputation for pressing, but also using a fluid system that saw the players interchange positions. So far at Spurs we’ve not seen so much of this, but the game featured the inter-changeable nature of our players and it pulled Chelsea all over the place.
Nemanja Matic had obviously been detailed to track Christian Eriksen. Branislav Ivanovic was often following Nacer Chadli. Ivanovic’s attack-mindedness and impetuous nature were something we’d looked at in the keys to Spurs vs Chelsea as something other teams have taken advantage of.
Matic and Ivanovic were pulled around in virtually every goal we scored, a prime example being on our equaliser.
We got back in to the game by taking advantage of Matic and Ivanovic.
Danny Rose played a vertical pass up to Harry Kane with Ivanovic coming tight to the striker. As Kane turned, Ivanovic backed off allowing him to run at the less defensively sound Cesc Fabregas.
Whilst this was going on, Christian Eriksen’s run across took Nemanja Matic with him opening the centre up for Kane. A subsequent run by Nacer Chadli caught Cahill’s and then Ivanovic’s eye, opening up the lane for which Kane could unleash a shot through.
Kane’s low-hit drive skidded in to the corner of Courtois’ net, leaving the Chelsea keeper clasping at air.
We then took the lead as our midfield was pressing over on the sidelines. Our midfield swarm had outnumbered Chelsea in this area causing John Terry to play a hurried pass to Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spaniard was then quickly closed down and under pressure sent the ball straight to Kyle Walker.
Our right back wasted no time in moving the ball quickly forward through the congestion to Christian Eriksen on the run. With the rapid turnover and change of possession, the Dane was able to skip past a hesitant Nemanja Matic and was suddenly free between the lines again with Nacer Chadli.
With Matic out of the game, this exposed the slow Chelsea defence once more. Branislav Ivanovic was pulled over to cover Chadli’s run as he was detailed to track the Belgian, but this left Danny Rose free.
Rose is a player we looked at in the keys to Spurs vs Chelsea for his speed to get up and back. This is a trait he has over Ben Davies that would be invaluable to take advantage of Ivanovic’s positioning and tracking.
As Chadli’s shot rebounded off the post, Rose was there to sweep home the rebound and make it 2-1.
Although Rose scored the goal, Nacer Chadli had once more run-in-behind the Chelsea defence, something he was looking to do all game. He had previously put the ball in the net, but was given offside, here he hit the post, but later he would get his reward.
On the brink of half-time, we added a third through a penalty. The passage of play started with a long switch in play out to Nacer Chadli to navigate the congested central midfield zone once more.
Chadli took the ball down with Ivanovic marking him. He laid it off to Christian Eriksen who had pulled his marker, Nemanja Matic, out of the centre once again.
Eriksen flicked the ball around the corner away from the Serbian, but as he ran after it, Ivanovic recovered to knock the ball back towards Gary Cahill.
Ivanovic’s pass was a touch under hit, which caused Cahill to pause momentarily, allowing Harry Kane to steal in. Kane is an under-rated pressing forward and his willingness to close down and chase loose balls was evident all match. With Cahill’s indecision, the striker nudged the ball past him and his late challenge brought Kane down, penalty.
Andros Townsend made no mistake with he spot-kick to send White Hart Lane in to raptures and Jose Mourinho early to the dressing room.
Whatever Jose said at half time, he didn’t ease his side trying to close down quickly in midfield. Neither did he instruct Matic to let Eriksen drift and hold his central position. Whilst Ivanovic still continued to have his positioning and decision-making exposed.
Three became four as again the ball was moved quickly forward through the congested midfield zone to runners between the lines. Ivanovic’s rashness left him high-up, out of the play and Matic was pulled around once more by our players flooding forward from between the lines.
Nabil Bentaleb got the ball and swiftly moved it forward to Nacer Chadli who was on the run once more. Branislav Ivanovic was caught up the field trying to make an ill-advised challenge and was taken out of the game by the quickness of the play moving forward.
With three Spurs players between the lines and charging at the Chelsea defence, Matic was forced to rotate over between Cahill and Terry. With panic set in as Chadli swept forward, he laid the ball off to Harry Kane who rolled Nemanja Matic like he wasn’t even there and curled an exquisite shot in to the corner.
Another brisk movement of both ball and man caught Chelsea at sixes and sevens and the game was almost up.
Spurs defensive errors
Whilst this was an attacking master class of swift ball and player movement, with interchanging positions dragging Chelsea around, it wasn’t without fault.
The ball was being turned over in midfield and Fazio’s dawdling on it allowed Chelsea back in to the game to make it 4-2. The Argentinean was like a rabbit caught in the headlights and his indecision allowed Eden Hazard to dispossess him, exchange passes with Cesc Fabregas and slot the ball in to the net.
Another error at 4-2 almost changed the game. A shanked shot from Nabil Bentaleb squibbed sideways straight to Fabregas. His long ball downfield saw Eden Hazard looking to race in-behind as the play was quickly transferred from back to front once more. The Belgian was denied by Fazio lunging and getting just enough on the ball to send it back to Hugo Lloris in the nick of time, avoiding a potential red card situation.
Then, Cesar Azpilicueta saw his shot pushed past the post after Chelsea pressing in midfield saw them regain the ball back in our half. 4-3 would have really put the cat amongst the pigeons and tested our resolve.
Whilst there were scares at our end, Harry Kane and Nacer Chadli calmed the nerves by adding a fifth.
The ball was won by the impressive Mousa Dembele in amongst a congested midfield and sent back to Nabil Bentaleb. He exchanged passes with Jan Vertonghen and once more it was sent quickly forward through teh Chelsea swarm to a player between the lines.
This area behind the midfield was open with Nemanja Matic hurtling in to try and tackle Nabil Bentaleb, but the swift movement of the ball forward took him out of the action. What’s more Branislav Ivanovic’s position trying to mark Nacer Chadli saw him also caught out as the ball went in-behind him to Paulinho.
The Brazilian laid it off first time to Harry Kane, who ran behind Ivanovic, pulling Gary Cahill out of the middle.
With Nacer Chadli acting as a trailer and tailing the play, Ivanovic got pulled over, doubling up on Kane with fellow defender Cahill. This left an alley between their position and the rest of the defence that Chadli then accelerated in to. He took the pass from Kane in his stride before firing a shot that went straight through John Terry’s legs, deflecting it slightly in to the corner of the net.
The game was over, but defensive errors saw us allow Chelsea a consolation as well as a great chance for Ramires. The Brazilian slipped his shot wide of the post as he ran in-behind Fazio. However, switching off from a quick free kick saw John Terry tap home as Ivanovic diverted Hazard’s cross.
Spurs 5-3 Chelsea overall
In spite of the errors, this was our best performance under Mauricio Pochettino and some of the most scintillating football we’ve seen at the Lane for a long while.
Harry Kane and Nacer Chadli constantly looking to run in-behind did a lot of the damage. Christian Eriksen’s pulling around of Nemanja Matic was also key. Our players changing positions gave Chelsea’s midfield trouble with whom to track and when to pass them on. This was causing positional errors that were taken advantage of by the quick ball movement through or over a swarming midfield.
Jose Mourinho was quick to bemoan referee Phil Dowd’s decisions, but his side were torn apart by quick player and ball movement that exposed their lack of speed in defence.
Final score: Spurs 5-3 Chelsea