What: English Premier League
Who: Tottenham vs Chelsea
When: Saturday 20th October, 2012, at 12:45 UK Time
Where: White Hart Lane, London, England
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo will navigate his team through a third London derby here, after facing QPR and Arsenal earlier this season. Meanwhile, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas is looking to beat the club that sacked him last season and his opponent in the opposite dugout is his former assistant manager when he was at Chelsea. However, away from the drama and histrionics off the pitch, a pulsating 90 minutes awaits at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham – Style of Play
Now that Villas-Boas is at the helm of Spurs he will seek to deploy the tactics and philosophy which he wanted to make work at Chelsea, and which have become synonymous with him. At FC Porto, the system was very much focused on the attacking aspect of the game and had the thought that if his side were good enough going forward, then they would score more than the other team, no matter how many they leaked at the back. Possession is an integral part of the way Villas-Boas likes to play and with that comes a high line to cut off large parts of the pitch to pressurise the opposition into their own half. The full backs are allowed to fly forward at times and are often the players who keep the width, as the wingers are huge providers of goals and assists, meaning they must come inside.
However, after the steep learning curve at Stamford Bridge, it can be suggested that Villas-Boas has reined in how vibrantly his team attack, with the need for a more solid base in defence; the ability to switch between the two formations of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 shows this. Against Reading recently, it was clear to see that when going forward Villas-Boas’ main attackers were Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe. However, when Spurs were being attacked themselves, Sigurdsson dropped deeper to make a pair with Moussa Dembele, to which Sandro responded by dropping deeper still into a role protecting the defence. Villas-Boas’ days at Porto saw him employ an unusual but effective method of playing with a rotating midfield, where the three midfielders’ roles changed throughout the game, according to the result at that moment.
Chelsea – Style of Play
As of yet, a specific style of play cannot be attributed to Chelsea under the permanent management of Roberto Di Matteo. The football from this season has been of a much higher quality than that which Chelsea fans had to endure last year. With Villas-Boas, the Blues played slow, methodical possession football and when they were involved in highly energetic games were often the ones coming away with nothing as a result. Last season, Di Matteo reverted back to default, using the players he had to make a defensively solid team which could keep clean sheets and beat teams by the odd goal or even by two. It led Chelsea to win the FA Cup and the Champions League.
This season, Chelsea have been a different outfit thanks to the big money signings of Eden Hazard and Oscar, who have both made the side better technically. To balance out the outstanding technique they are blessed with, Di Matteo initially decided to go with a defensive winger in either Ryan Bertrand or Ramires. However, he has more recently decided to try to play Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata all in the same team.
Tactical Strengths and Weaknesses
As much they can in the game, Spurs will look to use the wing areas. Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Bale and Lennon will be the “out ball” for the men in white when they are on the wrong end of pressure. Also, something Spurs have shown not only under Villas-Boas, but Harry Redknapp, was the ability to attack well from their defence in a matter of seconds. Last season, using Bale, Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafael van der Vaart and Lennon for stunningly quick attacks caught their opponents out cold and bore fruit.
Defensively, Tottenham still look questionable when attacked. Newcastle, West Brom, Norwich and Manchester United have shown how to make the defence shake and with the attacking prowess that Chelsea have, it would not be strange to see Spurs’ defenders uneasy during the game. In the match against Manchester United, Defoe was very isolated for large periods due to Spurs sitting deep to spring upon their opponents, especially in the second half. Against the Chelsea defence, Defoe will have to rely on his pace and the quality of the service in behind for a fruitful afternoon.
The Blues’ main threats on the pitch are surely Hazard, Oscar and Mata. Although Hazard and Mata will play from the wing, they will cut inside to make life difficult for the full backs. It will give the full backs a problem as they will be faced with the decision to either go and track inside or leave them for the more central players to deal with.
Fernando Torres provides an extraordinary problem for Chelsea when it comes to their chance conversion. The Spaniard has been amongst the goals this season, but it is questionable whether he can keep this up; Torres scored just six for Chelsea in the Premier League last season. The way to solve the problem would involve Torres being demoted to second striker, but he would still start games. Ramires would be moved onto the substitute’s bench, with Oscar lining up alongside John Obi Mikel. Daniel Sturridge is the only viable option to play in front of Torres at present though.
Chelsea – Key Man – John Obi Mikel
For years, the tall Nigerian midfielder’s appearance in the Chelsea side was met with disillusionment from his own fans. They complained that he was unreliable on the ball, ill-disciplined in the manor he carried out his defensive duties and slowed down the Chelsea attack. It has only been this season and towards the end of the last campaign that it is apparent how important he is. Mikel’s role at Chelsea is similar to that which Sergio Busquets performs at Barcelona and Michael Carrick at Manchester United. He not only keeps the ball well, whether under pressure or not, but is also the focal point to which the players pass to maintain possession.
Tottenham – Key Man – Moussa Dembele
After his performance against Manchester United with Fulham, Moussa Dembele was signed by Tottenham to fill the hole that had been left by the transfer of Luka Modric to Real Madrid. Since his arrival, he has become an impressive fixture in this new look Tottenham team. Not only does he give the team a good way of counter attacking through his runs from midfield, but he also offers balance in defensive midfield by teaming up with Sandro. His role will be a vital one against Chelsea.
Key Area – Protecting and Exploiting Zone 14
In modern football, the 14th zone on the pitch has become increasingly important, when before, it was hardly seen as necessary to deploy a player there. Now, the team is built around the player who occupies this space. In this game, the team which make the most of this zone will probably be the victors.
In Chelsea’s case, the key will be attacking it while it is the opposite for Tottenham. Mata, Hazard and Oscar are attacking midfielders, who all work best behind the striker. Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole will be the ones who will explore the wings and test the full backs on most occasions. It will be up to Tottenham to stop these from dominating the game and getting the Blues the three points.
One of the ways that Spurs could stop this from happening is by having their wingers tracking back. This will allow the full backs to tuck in and one of the central defenders to step up. With Dembele, Sandro and a centre back, they could have a man-to-man marking system for each of the attacking midfielders. It may impact on the team’s attacking impetus, but much of their play is centred on the counter attack and with Bale and Lennon on the wing; it would not be hard to change from defence to attack in an instant.
This game is incredibly hard to predict. There is much more going on than just a tactical battle on the pitch. Psychologically, Villas-Boas will have drilled into his players the importance to not just the fans, with it being a heated London derby, but also for him given his history with Chelsea. However, a game where Chelsea will have the lion’s share of possession given the players they have, is likely. Bale against Ivanovic will be an interesting battle, especially looking at how Paulo Ferreira performed against the Welshman last season; it was a very polished display from the former Portugal international and he coped with Bale’s pace very well. While Tottenham will put up a good fight, Chelsea can sneak a slender victory.
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