Spurs vs Chelsea

I have been asked by a regular reader to give my thoughts on the Chelsea game which was always going to be a test so thanks to Andrew Taylor for his email.

Chelsea have not been great this season, hardly surprisingly as the team is not Mourinho's yet, but the two managers not speaking to each other anymore ensured both sides would be determined to win first and not to lose second.

Each manager clearly wanted to out do the other. If you look at the breakdown in their friendship it gives a potential insight into each of them. Andre Villas-Boas basically scouted the opposition and told Mourinho how to beat them. As we know he wanted to develop, to progress.

Mourinho clearly valued and rated his opposition reports and wanted to keep AVB to doing just that, he didn't want him developing. This suggests that the information AVB was supplying was too valuable to Mourinho to lose. The result was AVB left and I think it is safe to deduce that Mourinho was only interested in himself and his own success. When asked by the media he couldn't explain why he didn't want AVB to progress so decided to say nothing and pretend it didn't exist.

Mourinho did mention about developing coaches and reeled off a few names of current Chelsea staff. Apart from Andre Villas-Boas, who clearly wasn't going to be given that development wisdom, who else has Mourinho trained to manage successfully?

This game then was a revenge match, a match to see who was the top dog, a match neither wanted to lose.

The first half saw Tottenham control the game after the initial 15 minutes. One goal scored and chances created but not taken, the second goal was needed as a cushion. Christian Eriksen gave Mikel the runaround and Lampard showed he is not a defensive midfielder constantly being out of position. That was the chance to win the game, to seal the victory, to put one over on the old boss. The chance wasn't taken.

As so often happens at half time the manger changes an approach at half-time and it's a different game. It happens to all teams. Essentially Jose Mourinho sets out to not lose a game at the moment. Take the Old Trafford bore draw where he simply parked the bus in midfield. His aim in the first half was the same again, to go in 0-0. It is an approach they we often adopt ourselves.

The aim if to study the opposition and how they are playing to see where the weaknesses are and devise a strategy to exploit them. Chelsea had Ramires on the right hoping to use his pace as a counter attacking threat, however that didn't work out as he spent virtually all of it defending with Sigurdsson, Naughton Dembele and Eriksen combining well. As usual though AVB attacked more down the right.

The Chelsea threat in the first half was the same Everton used against us at Goodison Park last season, long diagonal balls in behind the full-back, usually the left-back, where with attacking full-backs there is space. The delivery was not great and they were easily dealt with by Dawson and Vertonghen.

Our goal after 22 minutes was basically a replication of the first goal against Norwich City, a ball played from the left into Soldado to lay off for Sigurdsson. Chelsea were at this point reduced to trying to hack the ball away and were clearly rattled. We needed to take advantage but didn't.

Chelsea's approach in the second half was to remove a defensive midfielder and bring on a more attacking player in the shape of the much talked about Juan Mata. Gone were the long diagonals in favour of our approach, dominate the opposition attacking so they can't attack you.

Chelsea wanted to use their playmakers around our box where they can be most dangerous. They started to control the middle of the field and pressure us hoping to push our high line back. We were defending in numbers, our full-backs were tied up and so when we did get the ball we had few outlets to retain possession. That resulted in the ball being turned over quickly and another attack to repel.

How do you counter this and did AVB counter this? Well I think in this instance we saw that winning was everything to AVB, in this game at least. The obvious thing to do would be to shore up the midfield by bringing on Sandro, but the only player you could take off to do that was Eriksen, allowing Paulinho to still perform his duties but with licence to support the attack more as well.

Bringing on a defensive player or dropping the high line back a bit would invite Chelsea on to us allowing them to play where they are dangerous, around the penalty box. The approach AVB adopted was to keep their attacking players as far from our goal as possible. He pushed our defensive high line even higher which gave the impression of last ditch defending but the tactic worked.

Chelsea continually got caught offside, we looked as though we were going to be breached but the bottom line is Chelsea didn't score from open play. The only goal they scored was from a free-kick which we should have defended better, Dembele kept everyone onside.

If you look at the graphic below from the FourFourTwo website you'll see we generally turned the ball over higher up the field than Chelsea, apart from a batch at right-back, indeed 9 of the 39 were in advance of any ball gained by Chelsea.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

AVB left our attacking threat on the field, he trusted his players, trusted his defensive formation and wanted to score a decisive second goal on the break. This wasn't to be. His substitutions were attacking ones which simply retained the formation and system we were playing. If we could score it would be game over. Before Villas-Boas took over we would have possibly conceded between three and five with the way Chelsea played so to only concede from a free-kick is hugely encouraging.

The last ten minutes Chelsea had 10 men and our shots didn't go in. Now most people say Fernando Torres should have been sent off earlier, which clearly he should have and should obviously have received an additional ban but of course the FA have bottled it and let him off scott free, so gouging is now legal, if you are a Chelsea player. I think most people have got the reason he was booked for a second time totally wrong.

They simply are looking at the jump and at his arm but it is the whole incident that must be taken into account and if you look at it in a different light, the light I believe the referee was looking at it in, there is a different story to see. Torres was fired up we know,credit to the guy he was playing well. He was trying to rile Vertonghan, tripping, gouging all the things Mourinho apparently finds 'manly!'

If you watch the incident again Torres does not look at the ball, he looks at Vertonghen, runs at him and jumps into him with absolutely no intent to play the ball. He merely turns his head towards it's general direction at the last moment. He has gone for the man with the ball as a by product. For me the referee has decided that there was intent, that he went for the man not the ball and that is why he sent him off, not as everyone is assuming for an elbow in the face. Looked in that light a second yellow card was entirely justified.

I must mention Andros Townsend who I have been critical of in the past. He stopped taking countless pot shots and produced a performance of far greater benefit to the team. His drag back to leave 2 Chelsea players sprawling on the floor on the edge of the box before playing in Paulinho I think it was showed he is learning and adding to his game. He kept Ashley Cole nullified as an attacking threat. He faded in the secong half and didn't provide the fast outlet we needed to ease the pressure.

All in all it was honours even between AVB and Mourinho, between Spurs and Chelsea. They could have won it but then you could also argue they should have been out of the game in the first half, Torres should have been sent off earlier, Ramires should have been booked for booting the ball away in the first half which would have left him having to be careful. That's now two of last seasons top four played, one at home, one away and we don't look inferior to either of them.

Manchester United fans are probably only now realising just how good Ferguson was. They have looked a team in decline for a couple of years so to have won a title in that time was quite some achievement, take him out the equation and they currently sit in the bottom half. That won't change but demonstrates once again that the opportunity is there this season, this is the time to march forward.

With both Manchester clubs losing the Chelsea point was a point both sides will be happy with.

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