Son Heung-Min celebrates a goal during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea: overloading counter attacks

Flooding three players in to aggressive counter attack positions saw a flurry of chances and goals as it finished Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.

Mauricio Pochettino deflected all of plaudits towards his players, but there was a ton of excellent scheming by the Spurs manager. Given two weeks to put together a plan during the international break, Pochettino plotted superbly. The result was a plethora of chances and a score of Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea that actually flattered the away team.

Tottenham’s overloading counter attacks

Pochettino’s plan had many sub plots, but the overall objective was to overwhelm Chelsea’s back line by running three players constantly in-behind it.

Kane, Son and Dele hit the spaces beyond the Blues back line during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Kane, Son and Dele hit the spaces beyond the Blues back line.

Spurs operated from a 4-3-2-1 setup that saw Dele Alli almost man-marking Jorginho to stop him dictating the pace of the game. Around Dele, Moussa Sissoko and Christian Eriksen took care of N’Golo Kante and Matteo Kovacic.

Spurs outnumber five to three in central midfield during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Spurs outnumber five to three in central midfield.

As a result of Pochettino overrunning the Chelsea midfield by five players to three, Eric Dier and Son Heung-Min were left free. Dier could clean up any loose passes or blown coverages. Son could race out on the counter attack with his direct runs.

The South Korean star could’ve easily netted a hat trick from the chances that he had in this free rampaging role. In spite of the near misses from his directness on the counter attack, Son did eventually get his goal. He showed great resilience to keep plugging away and making the runs even though he saw his efforts thwarted by Kepa Arrizabalaga or fractionally miss the target.

Attacking Alonso

Another sub plot was Tottenham attacking the space beyond Marcus Alonso. Some of our post game chats from Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham centred on this topic. Chelsea have been very strong down this flank with Alonso and Hazard this season, but it has also been their defensive weakness. Spurs took advantage to net two goals.

The plan to attack Marcus Alonso started from the off. Spurs not only deployed the Kane, Dele and Son trio to stop Chelsea playing out from the goalkeeper, but also used Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko to attack the Chelsea left back.

Two early corners were the early outcome of the plan, but also a Harry Kane header from Serge Aurier’s cross.

Spurs were then 1-0 up within just seven minutes as we sought to attack the space behind Alonso once more. Serge Aurier played Harry Kane in-behind the Chelsea left back. David Luiz was pulled out from the centre and fouled Kane as a result.

Kane runs behind Alonso and is fouled by Luiz prior to Dele Alli's goal during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Kane runs behind Alonso and is fouled by Luiz.

Christian Eriksen delivered a wickedly curling cross in to the Chelsea six-yard box. Dele Easily lost his marker, Matteo Kovacic, and glanced his header home. He wheeled away in celebration as Chelsea probably wondered why Kovacic was detailed to mark the player who loves a headed goal against them.

Dele and Jorginho

A further sub plot was Dele Alli detailed to effectively man-mark Jorginho.

Dele isn’t the first player that would spring to mind to shadow an opponent. However, he was highly effective a covered a ton of ground to do it. He wasn’t just tasked with rushing and harassing Jorginho, but also being involved in our counter attacks. Dele not only got the ball moving from deeper positions, but also arrived late in to the box to get on the end of chances.

Jorginho was knocked out of his stride by Tottenham’s tactics. However, Chelsea’s deep-lying playmaker wasn’t good when out of possession.

Jorginho wasn’t helped by the play of N’Golo Kante and Matteo Kovacic around him. The pair frequently weren’t in defensive position and gifted Spurs space to play around or through Jorginho who was left with large parts of the pitch to cover.

Spurs added a second goal as a result of this. Harry Kane’s opportunistic effort caught Kepa off-guard. However, Jorginho was dragged around and easily navigated in the build-up.

Kane was allowed to move in to the space Jorginho had vacated. Antonio Rudiger was given a decision to make as a result. Rudiger neither went with Kane nor did he track Son’s through run as Spurs sought to jet players in-behind the Chelsea back line once again.

Jorginho is draged out due to Kante and Kovacic, giving Rudiger a decision to make during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Jorginho is draged out due to Kante and Kovacic, giving Rudiger a decision to make.

Kane’s shot showed just what a calculated marksman he is. The ability to see the open lane and pass the ball in to the net is one of his most underrated skills. It’s why Kane scores more than his fair share from outside the box. David Luiz turning his back helped, but this was vintage Harry Kane getting back to his lethal best. Spurs two up and cruising.

Perfect Son storm

Spurs had a plan and a number of sub plots. These ploys all perfectly came together as Son finally got on the score sheet.

The lightening quick counter attacks that got beyond Chelsea’s back line were once more in evidence. Son being able to dart forward and use his direct running from his free position was equally prevalent. Furthermore, Spurs attacked the space left by Marcus Alonso’s forward run, which forced Jorginho to cover way to much ground so that he was dragged out of position.

Dele Alli started the counter attack as he had done so many times during the match. On getting the ball, Dele immediately saw the space left by Alonso and sent it in-behind for Son’s run.

Dele sends Son in-behind Alonso, dragging Jorginho out during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Dele sends Son in-behind Alonso, dragging Jorginho out.

Jorginho tried to get out and stop Son, but was no match for the South Korean’s pace. Recognising the mismatch, Son slowed to lure Jorginho in and then sped away to use his superior acceleration. David Luiz wafted a leg and Son blew past him like he wasn’t there to finish. Tottenham 3-0 Chelsea and all of Pochettino’s plans had come to fruition.

Chelsea space out wide

Tottenham’s tactics had centred on rapid counter attacks, but were formed by the five versus three mismatch in the middle. As a result, Chelsea was given space on the flanks when they could move the ball quickly and Spurs’ central numbers couldn’t shift over fast enough.

The issue that Chelsea had was that Alvaro Morata was constantly running offside and ruining a number of crossing opportunities. Even on one where he forced a great reaction save from Hugo Lloris at his near post, he had made his run too early and raised the linesman’s flag.

Maurizio Sarri then withdrew the striker. However, playing an attacking trio of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro equally meant that they had no target man. Olivier Giroud’s introduction changed that and the visitors gained a consolation.

The build-up saw some smart play by Eden Hazard. Tottenham had shifted the central weight of numbers towards his flank. Hazard’s raking cross-field pass picked out a wide-open Cesar Azpilicueta.

Hazard picks out a free Azpilicueta over the mass of defenders to cross for Giroud's goal during Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.

Hazard picks out a free Azpilicueta over the mass of defenders.

The Chelsea full back took time to take the ball down, but Ben Davies wasn’t quick enough to close and then stood off, allowing the cross to come in.

Oliver Giroud arrived unmarked to nod home. A well-deserved clean sheet was gone with the score at Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea and the disappointment on the face of Hugo Lloris was clear for all to see.

Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea overall

A brilliant tactical game plan from Mauricio Pochettino that was expertly executed by the team.

Our counter attacking game was potent and lethal, stemming from the mass of numbers in central midfield to overwhelm Chelsea’s trio. Dele’s marking job on Jorginho not only hindered the Blues’ build-up, but also sprung a number of counter attacks for Son’s direct runs.

Final score: Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea.
MOTM: Dele Alli.

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18 Responses to Tottenham 3-1 Chelsea: overloading counter attacks

  1. YouShubes 25th November 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    Stop Jorginho stop Chelsea…Silva had clearly pointed the way but this was a tactical masterpiece from the Pochfather…

    A well rested Sonny was fizzing with energy, and but for Kepa he could have had a hat trick…Luiz who was so good against United 2/3 weeks ago looked like he was stepping on to a whole series of rakes…

    Dele was MOTM as he was required to play with great discipline and restraint,,, he really is blossoming into an all round midfielder…What I could not understand was why not remove Jorginho…he was completely neutralised…

    We had a bit of luck with the penalty not being called against us but TBF even if they had tied the game felt we had the quality to continue to execute the Poch masterplan.

    As good as prep as we could have hoped for the inter game…wonder if we will deal with Brozovic the same way…somehow I don’t see Icardi getting as many offsides as Morata

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 12:17 pm #

      Really good tactics from Poch to not just neutralise Jorginho but also to overrun the middle of the pitch, press and look for really rapid counter attacks. Dele played several really good long passes – the one where he sent it about 60 yards that Son brought down and curled past the post with his left foot being a prime example. We’ve seen Poch flirt with counter attack eg v Real Madrid and Dortmund last season, but then put it back in the cupboard. I’m hoping that he tries this method more often versus the likes of Man City and Liverpool as it can be very effective without being too negative.

  2. ashley collie 25th November 2018 at 10:16 pm #

    Well noted, Shubes. Mark, great analysis, as usual. Got a couple of questions. In a couple of reports, our formation (which was fluid) was noted as a diamond, with Dier at the fulcrum/base, Eriksen and Sissoko slightly higher and Dele at the point behind the two forwards. It ties in with you mentiong we were overloading the midfield. Thoughts on this diamond (it was brought up on BTSport postgame by Ryan Mason)? Also, why was the high press working, did we see that their back four were vulnerable, so it made sense to press them and then quickly attack, which we did? Why does it work in some games, why do we employ it at some times and not at others? What factor did having some fresh players (Sonny and Davies didn’t go on international duty, and Sissoko only came on as a sub for France, etc) play in our increased pressing levels??? Enquiring minds and all, mate! Cheers!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 12:42 pm #

      It can be thought of as a diamond. We’re really splitting hairs to be honest. For me it was more 4-3-2-1 as Son was dropping in with Dele and then breaking out to get up with Kane, which is slightly different to the 4-3-1-2 they were suggesting. The team was fluid though and if Son was caught forward then Kane dropped in to his role and left Son as the centre forward, which highlighted how everyone understood the different roles in the system and could operate in any of them. The diamond system is ever so slightly different, but its easier to convey in a post game chat that that’s what it was as most people are now familiar with the term and will get it immediately – just like how playing as a number ten is now a common place term and easily understood. The key really was that Spurs wanted to get three players up in to quick aggressive counter attack positions – Kane, Son and Dele – and they achieved it with really great success.

      The press was working as Chelsea didn’t have Jorginho as an out ball. Therefore we could close down and hound knowing that Chelsea wouldn’t go long. They really wanted to play through Jorginho, but with Dele man marking him it made it difficult. They didn’t want to go long as Morata is not good at being a target man (not sure why they didn’t introduce Giroud earlier?!) and with Hazard and Willian liking the ball on the deck, it made moving the ball forward much more difficult for them. We gave them the flanks, but they really didn’t want to accept the invitation. The difference was quite easy to see as Hugo was frequently going long for Kane when Chelsea pushed their front three up, but Kepa and their centre backs continually wanted to play out.

      It works depending on the opponent. Whether they sit back or are aggressive themselves? Whether they have a target man or two? eg Burnley, that can hold the ball up well. Whether they have a keeper that can distribute accurately eg David de Gea. How much speed they have to burn any blown coverages eg Liverpool with Salah, Mane and Firmino. How fatigued our players are and how much preparation they’ve had. Poch had 2 weeks to scheme this plan and with teams like England playing last Sunday, the players had almost a full week to work on the system. Now we have a game almost every 3 days so its way harder to plan, work-up and train a setup for a specific team. There are tons of other factors – injury, travel and something might seem like a good decision, which then backfires. For example, Dele man marking Jorginho could’ve back fired if Sarri say had Switched Kante in to defensive midfield and gone with Barkley and Jorginho further forward, brought on Giroud and played more direct and worked Hazard and Willian off the knockdowns.

      Overall, it’s all a factor of the amount of time to plan, rest, condition and then manage and quickly switch in-game.

      • YouShubes 26th November 2018 at 1:11 pm #

        That fluidity is a well known calling card of Ajax…I hope Eriksen agrees a new deal as without his ability to move the ball so well we can be clunky…We got him cheap as he little time left on his contract with them…

        Hope history does not repeat

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 1:20 pm #

          He is on a pay him whatever he wants deal for me. Along with Kane and Dele, he is irreplaceable and his signature has to be secured. Don’t even risk losing him by trying a low ball offer!

  3. Mark from Virginia 25th November 2018 at 11:45 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    You’re consistent efforts to accomplish these game write ups continues to amaze me. Our concern about Chelsea attacking our right side turned into their weakness, which was masterfully exploited by Kane, Son, Sissoko and Aurier. I thought Aurier was immense and played a major roll in shutting the constant attack on that side. He won header after header!

    It seems Sarri doesn’t have a plan B at the moment – a position Poch was in a couple years ago! The Blues kept attacking our right side even though it wasn’t working. Does Hazard lack confidence in his left foot?
    Jorginho continued in the ineffective lone DM role even though it would have been more sensible to at least have Kante play along side him – essentially a 4-4-2.

    I agree for sure about MOTM Dele – he was incredible! He was on the left side of the field just moments before his pass to release Son for the third goal. A few minutes earlier, Aurier and Dier tried unsuccessfully to feed the same type of ball to Son – I wonder if this was a tactic discussed during halftime.

    This game was refreshing and a welcome reminder of what this team is capable of. We are entering the 2nd third of the season – a time when Spurs have gone on great runs of form the past few seasons. Let’s hope the trend continues!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Mark. We were very good down our right side to neutralize Chelsea’s threat on this flank. Aurier was really good and had one of his best outings for us. Sissoko equally so. He really seems to be playing with some confidence, loks much more composed on the ball and having the crowd behind him has given him a lift too.

      Sarri does seem to be in that position of not having a plan B. I don’t know if he just wants to play his way and won’t budge for anything or he thinks he doesn’t have the players to do much else. I guess we will see in the next couple of transfer windows as I think he needs a few players in to achieve what he had going on at Napoli.

      Dele’s passing was really good in this game. There were several long balls he played that perfectly found their target – often Son. Very encouraging signs that he’s back to his best!

  4. Erik Zen 26th November 2018 at 8:47 am #

    Thanks Mark as always.

    Exhilarating to see Alli, Kane and Son on the score sheet, just like old times! Loved the monster press, I’ve missed it so much.

    Re. Your observation about attacking the left side of Chelsea, I was worried when it always seemed like we were holding back off Alonso and inviting him forward. But clearly that was done in order to bash him on the break?

    Our first choice front line started here for the first time, meaning also that Moura was nowhere to be seen. I wonder if in a way his jazzy running has been a bit disruptive to our game plan so far. I think they need to get used to playing together. Still, although I appreciate his talents, he can sometimes seem a bit Townsendy with the blind alleys and missed chances. I guess he’ll be better as an impact sub for now.

    Annoyingly the Arse keep winning. Something’s got to give next weekend! COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 1:11 pm #

      Yes I felt that we may be baiting Alonso a bit. We definitely got after him early on – the Aurier cross that Kane headed straight at Kepa and then Kane’s run to win the foul for the free kick goal by drawing Luiz across.

      I too was curious to see if Moura featured given we had Kane, Dele and Eriksen all back available. I think Poch may be keeping Moura and Lamela for Inter so that Eriksen and Son can play against Arsenal, but that’s just my thoughts and we’ll see. I think Son was the choice here as he is so much more of a direct runner than Moura. Poch needed direct counter attacking players and whilst Moura can be devastating in his own way, Son is definitely the much better player for the job. You could see that whenever Son had the ball he was going straight towards goal. eg the move where he got the ball and immediately spun Rudiger to run in on net for a 1v1 chance that Kepa saved. The 1-2 with Eriksen that he blasted over. The long ball that he took down from Dele’s pass, drove past David Luiz and curled his shot around the post. And the goal. It was really noticeable how he didn’t hang around when the ball came to his feet and his first move was always aggressive towards the opposition goal. This was definitely instructions from Poch as although Son is usually a direct player, he was super direct here. Literally every time he touched the ball he was driving towards goal.

      I like your Moura and Townsend comparison, but I really hope it doesn’t play out this way! I think Lucas has more end product, but I can also see how him being on the field disrupts the rest of the team.

  5. Matt 26th November 2018 at 12:26 pm #

    Great analysis as ever Mark. Considering this was our best performance of the season and managed largely without Moura, Lamela, Verts I wonder if our supposed lack of depth is a little over stated? Seems to me to date we’ve looked tired and lacking a pre season. For once the international break worked in our favour. We’re looking fresher, the press is back and and we’re starting to use that searing pace we have. And dare I say it, getting the all forward quicker sometimes to mix our game up. Less tica taca!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 1:15 pm #

      This team has more depth than a lot of people give it credit for. I think we’ve shown that given we’ve got 30 points already and haven’t hit our stride yet. For me, i’m hoping that all the injuries turn out to be a good thing and its allowed the World Cup players some resting time before rehab and returning. A number of them have had some decent time out, which will hopefully see them back and at full throttle. We were certainly at the races this weekend!

  6. Luther 26th November 2018 at 4:48 pm #

    We won. We won.

    Best game of the season so far! Happy we didn’t insist on keeping possession. Dele definitely rivalling Kane and Eriksen as our MVP.

    I’m done.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th November 2018 at 10:08 pm #

      Bring on Inter and the Goons!

  7. Toby4eva 27th November 2018 at 12:08 pm #

    Love your work as usual Mark!

    And all the learned responses of course.

    Beating Chelsea comprehensively is a watershed moment.

    That was satisfying.

    The Italian coached team conceded 8 goals in 12 previous games – unbeaten. That equates to conceding 25 goals per year and an automatic top three spot.

    We should have put 8 past them in one game!!!!!

    30 from 13.

    Gazza v2.0, Verts, Lamela, Winks and Lucas on the bench.

    Rose, Davidson and Trips out.

    (I say old chap, read that again Squadron Leader).

    Big week to navigate and will be interesting to see if we go all out from the off against Inter.

    I suspect we will try to slow the game down early doors with the old Poch fully patented “play out from the back and ensure 89% possession at home” routine.

    Then go for gold in the second half with an eye to maximising freshness for the Woolwich stoush.

    Tasty run after that over the Festive.

    Anyone for Aaron Moooooooy in January chaps for 40 mill?

    Would have been a snip for half that in July of course.

    Unlike another “midfielder” in our usual starting XI, this is a chap who fundamentally understands the value of managing the football in a forward position up the entire length of the pitch and shows advanced knowledge of where to actually place the football to advantage to ensure optimal mathematical velocity of his teams goal total.

    And all the while currently playing amongst two teams of complete walkers (not a typo).

    But speaking of which, he is about unfashionable as the Strayan Rugby team of course at present, despite possessing more talent in one foot than 16 collective brains…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th November 2018 at 6:11 pm #

      We did make exceptionally light work of them, which, as you point out, was even more impressive given how few they’ve conceded.

      Against Inter I expect us to play at a high tempo. Italian teams like slow games, so letting the tempo drop will play in to their hands. I don’t think Inter have the ability to match us for speed – as we saw in Milan – and so I’d pack our team with it. The only question for Poch will be who can manage to play in this game and on Sunday ie Eriksen and Dele’s ability to play 3 matches in 7 days.

  8. Toby4eva 28th November 2018 at 6:58 am #

    You are probably (your usually are) right about the tempo.

    Maybe we do go the other way and try to fly out of the blocks and get an early lead – then shut up shop.

    But that doesn’t go too well for us in big games….

    That’s my basic concern – how the Gaffer manages the quality across the week.

    And I forgot to mention Sonny’s gem of a goal.

    What a moment!

    How we love him.


    • YouShubes 28th November 2018 at 3:09 pm #

      we did no play full blast for 90, once we were 3 nil up I think we managed the game quite well

      One game at a time….would not be surprised if we went to a back 3 vs the Goons and played deeper due to the speed of PEA