Tottenham Club Focus – The right tactics lead to a better performance against Chelsea

Unusually for the matches between top seven teams this system this London derby remained goalless, Tottenham Hotspur leaving Stamford Bridge with a point that increases the doubt on Chelsea being able to catch the Champions League places.

Aaron Lennon was again missing for Spurs denying them natural width on the right, but Emmanuel Adebayor returned to action after injury. Unlike previous matches where manager had Harry Redknapp maintained a 4-4-2 formation against Chelsea he changed tactics and sent the team out in a 4-5-1 with Sandro coming in for the missing Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart nominally starting on the right wing. With Chelsea normally in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation this ensured Spurs were not outnumbered in midfield and gave them much more fluidity; the formation enabling Spurs to switch with ease to a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 as the match dictated.

With Spurs’ recent form of one point from 12, and confidence arguably low and with Chelsea manager, Roberto Di Mateo having stated that this was a must win game to have a chance of catching fourth, Redknapp might have anticipated Chelsea starting at a high tempo. This may have helped decide the formation and Sandro starting, with perhaps the most important point for Redknapp not to concede, keep it tight and stop Chelsea from building momentum. If so, the tactic worked. In the first half a congested midfield ensured the teams cancelled each other out. Also both teams were prepared to keep the ball along the back four. However, whilst Spurs were prepared to be patient and retain possession, Chelsea were more direct, launching long balls from defence, particularly trying to find space behind Spurs’ fullbacks. Despite this, on the stroke of half time, Spurs had the best opportunity to take the lead with van der Vaart shooting direct at Petr Cech.

The second half brought more urgency from both sides. Chelsea appeared to have woken up to the fact they needed to win the game whilst Spurs, growing in confidence and getting more space as the half went on may have realized three points were theirs for the taking. Chelsea may have started the half the better with Mata playing more central but still trying to play more direct balls ending in a penalty shout when Ramires fell in the box. Spurs were creating half chances but were let down by wayward shooting and again were creating half chances from set pieces – the ball passing the first defender for a change. Chelsea responded with a Mata free kick against the post then Adebayor on a through ball rounded Cech only for his goal bound shot to be blocked by Gary Cahill; soon after Gareth Bale rocketed a header against the cross bar. The final 15 minutes of the game belonged to Spurs, pressing for a win culminating near the end with a good save by Cech from a Bale free kick.

Spurs played well and overall looked the better team, perhaps deserving to take all three points from the match. There may still be a way to go before hitting the heights of earlier in the season, but after recent results this performance may certainly see them on the right path.

Man of the Match

Kyle Walker played well in defence but also gave width in Lennon’s absence going forward and could have scored. Luka Modric grew more and more into the game and dictated Spur’s tempo as he did so but man of the match could be said to be Emmanuel Adebayor. Despite not scoring his work rate as a lone striker, pulling wide, dropping deep, holding up the ball and dribbling forward committing Chelsea defenders showed how much he has been missed by Spurs in his absence.

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