Two key battles that could define Tottenham’s game against Chelsea
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is set for a reunion with Jose Mourinho when the Blues take on Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League this weekend.
The Stamford Bridge outfit made a solid start to the 2019-20 season but over the past couple of weeks, their form has dipped. Having lost four times in their last five outings, Chelsea’s last away win in the league was in the first week of November when they beat Watford. Since then, they have continuously dropped points against big sides and also against the so-called weaker teams.
Lampard has chosen to rely on his young brigade to pull him through this season but it looks like the likes of Mount and Abraham are running out of steam. Thus, the Chelsea boss should opt for a more cautious approach when he takes on Mourinho’s Spurs this weekend.
Spurs, after taking 12 points from a possible 15 under their new boss, have the chance to climb above their London rivals and climb into the top-four.
Here are the 2 battles that could possibly decide the outcome of the game.
Jorginho and Kante vs Dele Alli
Bournemouth successfully nullified Chelsea last week by shutting down the passing line from Jorginho and Kante to the attackers – and that is a pattern that Lampard’s team is guilty of relying on. Jefferson Lerma and Philip Billing sat on top of Jorginho, which meant the Chelsea centre-backs were forced to pass around their midfield metronome.
This limited their ability to break through the Bournemouth lines. Clearly, the Chelsea centre-backs don’t have the technical precision to feed the forwards. Hence, Dele Alli could be tasked with a similar role this weekend and the young England midfielder certainly has the intelligence to perform his job to a high standard.
Jorginho versus Dele will also be crucial from Spurs’ perspective. Dele’s movement – alternately drifting off the front line to occupy the No.10 space and making runs ahead of Harry Kane – is difficult for even the meanest defences to cope with.
Chelsea don’t play with an anchorman, which makes them potentially vulnerable to incisive attacking movement in the defensive midfield zone where Jorginho and Kante operate.
This season, Kante has racked up an average of 1.7 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per game [courtesy: Whoscored] while teammate Jorginho has managed an average of 2.3 tackles and 2 interceptions per 90 mins [courtesy: Whoscored].
Dele Alli, who has become the focal point of Tottenham’s attack under Mourinho, is flourishing after experiencing a difficult start to the season under Mourinho. In his first two Premier League campaigns for Tottenham, he scored 28 goals and set up 16 assists. He managed 14 goals and 13 assists combined across his third and fourth seasons at the club as Pochettino tasked him with playing a slightly deeper and more reserved role.
Before Mourinho’s arrival, he had been involved in only one goal in the league. His turn in form, especially as a scorer and creator of goals, has been remarkable.
In the ongoing Premier League season, Alli has managed to score 5 goals and tee up a further 3 goals. He has averaged 1.4 key passes per game and boasts of a pass success percentage of 81.6%. He has also averaged 1.2 shots and 0.8 dribbles per game [courtesy: Whoscored].
One of Dele Alli’s biggest strengths is his movement. The reserves of grey matter are well-stocked when it comes to floating into dangerous areas. Alli makes excellent use of the space he creates for himself and is usually lethal once in scoring range. It’ll be Kante’s task to track the advances of Alli in those pockets of space in front of Chelsea’s back three and beyond.
Dele needs to sit on top of Jorginho and Kante when Chelsea have the ball but the reverse is also true. Their tussle should prove decisive.
Aurier vs Emerson
The high defensive lines of both teams, coupled with their mutual interest in funnelling attacks through the centre of the pitch, threatens to make this a suffocating, claustrophobic affair. The technical quality floating around in the middle – from Willian and Mount to Alli and Kane – means the two formations will be narrow. And the most important space will be on the flanks, where two pairs of attacking full-backs would wrestle for control.
The most intriguing battle will be between Emerson and Serge Aurier. Emerson is usually tasked with overlapping Pulisic to drag defenders away from the American as he cuts inside, with Cesar Azpilicueta on the other side. This ensures that Chelsea have enough to defend counters. Aurier, then, could be the man to break quickly ahead of the Blues’ high line.
Aurier has managed 2 assists in 12 games this season, along with an average of 1.1 key passes per 90 minutes [Courtesy: Whoscored]. Emerson, meanwhile, has failed to provide assists but has notched up an average of 1.2 key passes per game [Courtesy: Whoscored].
Spurs’ ability to fly down the wings is particularly important because of their lightning-quick attackers. Son and Lucas have been lethal under Jose Mourinho and have added a different dimension to the attack.
Emerson, on the other hand, will have his task cut-out against the two. Often labelled as an attacking full-back, the Italian must be wary of the threat that Spurs pose during counters. Son and Moura both have shown that they can capitalize on small mistakes from defenders and make them pay – evident from their game against Wolves.