Match Review: Tottenham vs. Chelsea #TOTCHE
A Blue day.
White Hart Lane | January 4th 2017
On the back of 13 victories in succession, Chelsea faced Tottenham away on Wednesday. At stake was an opportunity for the Blues to clinch the all time record of 14 successive victories in a row within a single season and match it for overall successive victories. More importantly though the blues had the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table to 8 points with Liver-pool dropping points in mid-week.
For Tottenham it was an opportunity to get one back after two successive disappointments at Stamford Bridge, the first of those denied them an opportunity to win the league last season and the latter earlier in the current season when Chelsea came back 1-0 to defeat Tottenham 2-1 at home. Tottenham is also the first team Chelsea have played twice since their winning run began, and given the intensity of their first encounter it was always likely that the inevitable end to such a long winning run would coincide this return fixture at White Hart Lane. Chelsea lost 2-0 on the day and failed to score for the first time since the 3-0 loss to Arsenal over three months ago.
Chelsea came into the game in their usual 3-4-3 outfit, such predictability compared to Totten-ham’s flexibility is easier to prepare against. The only changes made were Fabregas returning to the bench for Nemanja Matic who he replaced against Stoke, and Pedro returning from suspension and into the starting line up in place of Willian. Tottenham mirrored Chelsea’s formation like they did in the first fixture to good effect.
Pedro was the catalyst of brilliance that triggered Chelsea’s comeback in the previous meeting between the two teams at Stamford Bridge, it was perhaps this and his brilliant display against Bournemouth that factored into Conte’s decision to drop Willian who is theoretically more disposed to these types of games in which much physicality and intensity is expected.
Right from kick off, Pedro struggled to get into the game. He was all over the place, unable to keep possession and unable to pressure Tottenham’s back line in any way. His ineffectual presence would have contributed to the lack of chemistry and fluidity amongst the attacking three, but it would be harsh to lay blame on him. Diego was frustrated all night being heavily marshalled by Toby Alderweireld and could barely get a sniff of goal. Hazard was overall the best of the lot and eventually had an amazing second half performance but it was a little too late from him as his inability to shake off the attentions of Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier in the first half was only compounded by the fact that he missed two of our best opportunities. The first of these was only five minutes into the game when Matic’s ball over the defensive line of Tottenham was weighted perfectly for Eden Hazard who had more than enough time and space to control the ball and hit the target with no pressure from the out-of-position Tottenham defenders. The Belgian chose to let the ball bounce and then scoffed his shot comfortably wide of goal.
Tottenham grew more into the game as the first half elapsed, and managed to create a few half chances but their best work was done in frustrating N’golo Kante into several misplaced passes and loss of possession. The French man was good defensively but was a non-factor in possession with Dembele out muscling him on many occasions to create opportunities for Tottenham and prevent Chelsea from having any meaningful possession. Tottenham had won the crucial midfield battle. However Chelsea were solid out of possession and managed to snuff out most of Tottenham’s chances but in the added time of the first half Dele Alli found the breakthrough. Eriksen’s superb cross found Dele Alli unmarked in Chelsea’s box and the midfielder beat Courtois comfortably with a measured header. Although Alonso at no point in this game offered any defensive solidity and Eriksen was not closed down quickly, fault for this goal was mostly with Victor Moses whose defensive inexperience showed as he failed to join the rest of Chelsea’s defensive line who had stepped up and would have put Dele Alli very well offside if not for Moses. And so Tottenham led Chelsea 1-0 at the interval
Without a doubt Conte fired up his team for the second half, but that too was expected and Tottenham would have been looking to weather the storm and strike when the opportunity came. They did just that. Chelsea came in looking much sharper in on the ball and began to dominate the game in a manner that better resembled what is now expected of Conte’s men. Many chances were created in the process, Diego Costa especially testing Lloris with a well hit shot on target that was saved. However the best of the bunch came only 5 minutes before Tottenham’s second goal. Moses played a cross hoping to find the head of Diego Costa, but Alderweireld beat Costa to provide the defensive header. Alonso who had provided the initial attack was in Tottenham’s box to return the header towards goal and it went into the path of Eden Hazard who hesitated to attack the ball before heading wide although being unmarked only a couple feet away from goal.
Tottenham’s second goal was almost a mirror of the first, Alonso was again was easily evaded by Kyle Walker and even his foul was not enough to stop Tottenham’s attack. Martin Atksinson played the advantage which allowed Eriksen - ignored by Matic - to pick out Dele Alli - not marked tightly by Azpilicueta - in Chelsea’s box, and again, cool and composed, the youngster beat Cortouis easily for Tottenham’s second goal. Chelsea continued their attempt to get back into the game and substitutions were in order. Marcos Alonso came off for Willian and that was followed by Fabregas and Batshuayi coming on for N’golo Kante and Moses respectively. This saw Chelsea play 3-5-2 but although Fabregas’s introduction allowed Chelsea to have more possession and create a few more chances, Tottenham were resolute, resilient and never looked like buckling. And so it ended 2-0 to Tottenham at the final whistle
The loss against Tottenham leaves Chelsea 5 points clear of the second place and 8 points clear of 5th placed Arsenal. On the back of a 13 point run, a loss was always inevitable but now we would have gotten that out of the way hopefully and focus on putting together another run of good results. Although the performances of Alonso, Kante and Pedro left much to be desired, as well as Hazard’s wastefulness in front of goal, it must be said that Chelsea lost well in a sense. We were not overrun in any way and 2-0 was quite flattering to Tottenham, the game was much closer and resembled a draw more than any side taking all 3 points. It speaks volumes that the goals conceded all from crosses and momentary lapses in defence. Tottenham were simply more clinical when it mattered and that took them over the line in an otherwise even game. This is by no means a disaster but it will reignite any waning flames seriousness and concentration in the Chelsea camp, and that is a good thing.
Next up for Chelsea is Peterborough United in the FA cup as the premier league goes on break. Conte has confirmed Zouma and Batshuayi would be starting so that’s exciting. The premier league returns next week as Chelsea take on Leicester City who would also be meeting us for the second time this season. It’s getting messy at the top and at the bottom with so many teams vying for the Championship and to avoid relegation so every three points is valuable ruthlessly fought for especially as Leicester seem to be turning a corner themselves on bad results. A bounce back will be necessary for confidence but another slump will give the rivals more hope and confidence. Get locked in Chelsea! #COY