TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Super Sunday's match-up between Spurs and Chelsea.
Tottenham v Chelsea | Sunday 22nd December 2019, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Super Sunday offers up a mouthwatering London derby as Jose Mourinho takes on his former club as the race for the top-four intensifies.
Tottenham have been buoyed by the Portuguese manager’s appointment after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking seven games ago, and Spurs have subsequently shot up the table, finding themselves in fifth, only three points behind Chelsea in fourth.
Meanwhile, the Blues have struggled in recent weeks in the Premier League, falling to surprise defeats to Everton, West Ham and Bournemouth, however, Frank Lampard’s side were particularly wasteful in the former two fixtures, and will be keen to bounce back in front of goal at White Hart Lane.
As ever with these ties, it has the feeling of a classic encounter, and with the added edge of Mourinho taking charge against his former club, it promises to be a cracker.
Spurs utilising the counter
Since arriving at Tottenham, Mourinho has been keen to employ counter-attacking football, and this was on display once again in a last-minute victory at Wolves last Sunday.
With Harry Kane providing the focal point up top, he has looked to utilise the pace of Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura on the counter, as well as Dele Alli’s ability to break beyond Kane, with the English attacking midfielder particularly impressing in this role against Bournemouth.
This tendency to counter-attack has seen Mourinho’s men more than happy to concede possession in games, as seen at Molineux, with Tottenham enjoying only 42% of the ball, and a pass success rate of 73%.
There has been added solidity and balance to back the back four and midfield, and in particular a switch at full back to use Jan Vertonghen has helped alleviate some of Spurs defensive woes from the start of the season, allowing a more reserved back three at times for Mourinho’s side.
With Serge Aurier expected to push on and provided the width down the right in attack, Vertonghen, and one of either Eric Dier or Moussa Sissoko in holding midfield, will move across and cover, leaving them less vulnerable to the counter that plagued Spurs defensively earlier on.
This has, on the most part, proved effective, however, the defensive worries of Aurier have still been on show, particularly troubled by Marcus Rashford in defeat at Old Trafford, whilst the unique threat of Wolves’ front line did cause Spurs problems last week, with the wing backs overloading Tottenham out wide, highlighting a potential area of vulnerability.
Blues to attack the flanks
An intriguing battle could play out from a statistical point of view if Christian Pulisic starts, with his willingness to run at opposition defenders showcased by his average 2.6 completed dribbles per-game. However, he is dispossessed an average of 2.6 times (second- highest in the league), and comes up against the tough-tackling Aurier, who averages 2.8 tackles. So this could open up some interest in both the tackle and card markets on the defender.
Chelsea’s full backs love to bomb forward and provide the width to attacks, and such as Wolves were able to on Sunday, it could see the Blues look to utilise this option. 42% of Wolves attacks came down the right flank, and with Vertonghen’s lack of pace, coupled with the less convincing defensive contribution of Son, it could see the Willian/Reece James combination have plenty of joy down this flank.
Whilst it was a unique threat from Adama Traore from Wolves, Chelsea’s utilisation of both flanks could also cause Spurs problems down Aurier’s side, as once again Lucas Moura can leave his full back exposed, and these overloads could see plenty of chance created.
However, although this can be one of Chelsea’s main threats, it does point in the direction of one of their main weaknesses, and that comes in being vulnerable to the counter, particularly becoming evident in recent weeks for Lampard’s side, as well as a susceptibility to crosses.
Aurier and Vertonghen have been utilised in wide areas for crosses by Mourinho since his move to London, and with Son and Moura allowed to drift centrally to create further space out wide for the full backs, this will be an area Spurs look to target.
Chelsea themselves have conceded goals off crosses by the bucketload in recent weeks, and Everton’s opener a few weeks ago is a particular worry, whilst Antonio Rudiger’s reintroduction at the back has done little to stop these concerns, with Lille netting in the Champions League down this avenue.
The defensive work of Pulisic can be exploited much more than Willian’s down the opposing flank, and this plays into the hands of the more adept attacking full back Aurier, and this is certainly an avenue where Spurs may be able to find joy on Sunday.
Jorginho will be expected to control the midfield, and with Spurs opting for Sissoko and Dier in recent weeks in central areas, it would be no surprise to see the Italian dictate proceedings alongside N’Golo Kante and Matteo Kovacic. Mason Mount was preferred in a deeper role last week, but the magnitude of the match, and higher need for defensive responsibility and contribution should see Croatian Kovacic start.
It is a more industrious central midfield that Mourinho has opted for, further reinforcing their willingness to attack wide and counter, and the quality of possession Chelsea are allowed in these central areas will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match.
It is set up to be an enthralling encounter, particularly with two sides struggling so much at the back but with the attacking threat to compensate, and knowing the master-tactician Mourinho, he may well have a surprise up his sleeve.
The betting angles
The open nature of the game, with both sides possessing the pace on the break to threaten one another, immediately makes the card markets an area of interest.
Anthony Taylor is on the whistle for this, and his card-happy record further reinforces the chances of cards. Often lively, tetchy affairs between these two sides, it must also be factored in, and as a result it becomes hard to ignore each side to see Over 1.5 Cards at 11/10 (William Hill).
Goals unsurprisingly take appeal in this one, once factoring in the defensive worries both sides have. Chelsea look vulnerable both to crosses and the counter, playing into the hands of Spurs, whilst the Blues themselves are still creating a high volume of chances, it has just been an issue of being clinical enough to take them.
Available at 4/5 (Bet365), Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score is a stand-out option in this game, in what should be an open, lively affair.
The issues of Chelsea’s backline from crosses, coupled with the improved form of Dele Alli, does point in the direction of a much longer price for Sunday’s clash.
The English attacker does possess strong aerial ability, and his late runs into the box are often hard to pick up. Coupled with Aurier’s crossing ability, and Spurs’ willingness in recent games to target these areas, he does take appeal at 14/1(Sky Bet) to score a header, as a longer shot.
Tottenham v Chelsea – Over 1.5 Cards Each (11/10 William Hill)
Tottenham v Chelsea – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)
Tottenham v Chelsea – Dele Alli to score a header (14/1 Sky Bet)