Having drawn Chelsea in the FA Cup semis I thought I’d do a quick belated analysis of our 2-0 League victory from back in January.
Both teams opted for a 3-4-3 formation and it’s no coincidence. Both teams – due to creativity at the back and physicality in midfield – build their attacks in similar ways.
Chelsea (and Spurs) like to build in something of a 1-4-5 shape.
This means Chelsea often outnumber the opposition on their defensive line and by forming a horizontal line of 4 in deep midfield become difficult to press.
Drawing the opposition midfield out towards them Chelsea then make quick, vertical combinations with attacking players who drop into pockets of space in the now vacated midfield and are able to get in behind.
To disrupt this Spurs took a bit of a risk at the back by matching Chelsea man-for-man – with Dier vs Hazard being the biggest scare. Contradictory to what I said earlier Spurs’ shape was actually more of a 3-5-2. Dele and Kane pressed the Chelsea CBs relentlessly, preventing the two wider defenders from advancing into a midfield four. Instead instead they were forced to rush passes into midfield, to the marked wing-backs or to play the ball long.
Tottenham’s midfield three sat deeper preventing passes into the feet of Chelsea’s attacking three but were very quick to press Kante and Matic who were often receiving the ball with their backs turned.
As the match went on, Hazard, getting frustrated, would then drop deep to get on the ball which succeeded in little more than disrupting Chelsea’s man-to-man threat up front.
Chelsea did not press our centre-backs when in possession but instead sat off allowing them the ball deep preventing them from crossing the half-way line.
With good movement and passing Spurs were repeatedly able to build the ball from left to right. Often going from Vertonghen pushed into midfield to Walker high-up on the right.
Eriksen caused Matic problems with his movement as he has done on several previous meetings. This time, starting deep and arriving late to receive a pulled-back pass from Walker. Matic repeatedly moved too deep and too narrow too early leaving Eriksen to Cahill who was uncomfortable coming out from his backline.
Kane could then drag Luiz over to the near post; leaving Azpilecueta and Moses to defend Eriksen’s crosses to Dele at the far post. Azpilecueta’s ability to read the game defensively is very strong but his height limits him. Moses, taller, is simply a poor defender.
Closer to the game I will put together an article on how Conte and Pochettino may adapt to what happened in this game.