Defending From The Front Helps Chelsea Get Back On Track
In dropping Diego Costa, Jose Mourinho was seen to be sending out a message to his underachieving centre-forward, but in many ways it was something of a defensive move which needed to be made.
As Liverpool showed at Manchester City last weekend, when visiting underdogs – and that’s what Chelsea were here – are able to defend from the front then it puts pressure on the hosts, with the mobile quartet of Willian, Oscar, Pedro and Eden Hazard all chopping and changing and occupying Tottenham’s defenders and the withdrawn Eric Dier.
None of the four are famous for their defending, but with the creation of clear-cut opportunities proving beyond the Blues in their first half, the hard work of those four became all the more important – with Hazard commendably taking the lead on that front.
Nemanja Matic Continues To Be The Strangest Story Of The Season
Remember the Nemanja Matic of last season? Striding, colossal, a Serbian brick wall in the centre of the pitch which few, if any, would pass?
Well he continues to be absent, and although the nature of this game and Tottenham’s disjointed and reshuffled midfield meant that he wasn’t exactly punished for his sloppiness, Matic was again slow and cumbersome in the centre, with much of the game passing him by.
Dele Alli’s Absence Was Clearly Felt
We could all see how frustrated Mauricio Pochettino was when Dele Alli’s foolish booking against West Ham last weekend ruled him out of this game, and the influence that the young midfielder has on this Spurs team was clear to see when he wasn’t there.
Alli often sets the pace and triggers the pressing game in Pochettino’s plans, and without him the hosts were a little lacking in midfield, with an early injury to Moussa Dembele somewhat hindering the Belgian and Ryan Mason proving anonymous before going off injured.
Tottenham’s Home Form Will Be A Concern
When Spurs have won at home this season then they’ve generally won well, as Manchester City can testify, but this was the third time that one of the better sides in the division has forced them to retreat into their shells somewhat.
Everton, Liverpool and now Chelsea have all left White Hart Lane with fairly comfortable goalless draws, and Spurs will feel as though they missed opportunities to really flex their muscles against sides who they’ll have identified as key opponents.
There has been a lot of talk about how Spurs have become ‘nastier’ during what has been a hugely impressive campaign so far, but they showed glimpses of their old selves in these matches.
Jose Mourinho Will Be Happy, Even If No-One Else Will
Had Chelsea lost this match then they would have slipped to 13 points behind Spurs, a vast gap to a side who surely aren’t going to win the league title this season.
This result at least prevented that, and it showcased some of the qualities that the Blues have been missing from their game this season – qualities which we used to associate with a Jose Mourinho team.
Chelsea were solid, organised and didn’t really look like conceding a goal – all things which the manager will be happy to take with him back to west London, even if his players still didn’t convince anyone.
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