CHELSEA'S CHANCES OF finishing fourth takes a big blow as they drew 0-0 at home to Spurs who has a 5 point lead in this race for the Champions League spot. A cagey first half was followed by an eventful second during which the visiting team dictated the play. In the end, Chelsea were lucky to have come out of this game with a point. Match analysis after the jump.
Formations and Selections
Chelsea started with a 4-2-3-1 shape -- Essien and Lampard as double pivot in the central midfield. Selection of more attack-minded Essein over Mikel in central midfield suggested that Chelsea were going to be proactive in attacks which turned out not to be the case. Ramires took the right wing position to help Bosingwa deal with the threat of Bale while Sturridge lined up on the left wing. Cahill and Drogba were preferred over Luiz and Torres.
Redknapp chose a 4-3-3ish formation with Sandro, Parker and Modric in midfield. Van dar Vaart started on the right and Bale on the left. Adebayor was the lone striker. Gallas and Kaboul paired up in center of defense with Walker and Assou-Ekotto on either side.
It was an cagey affair in the beginning of the game with both teams trying to avoid any kind of mistakes. Adebayor and Sandro pressed up aggressively when Chelsea had the ball in their defensive half and Lampard and Essien did not have a lot of space to operate. Parker marked Mata pretty tightly throughout.
On Chelsea's right side, the combination of Essien, Bosingwa and Ramires kept Spurs' Modric, Assou-Ekotto and Bale. It was a good decision from di Matteo to employ Ramires on the right; the Brazilian was immense in defending Bale in the first half.
|Picture 1. Chelsea's Attack from the Left|
On Chelsea's left, Cole and Sturridge had more space to operate because Van der Vaart kept drifting in field while Walker positioned high up the pitch. Thus, most of Chelsea's chances in the first half, and in the second half, came from the likes of Cole and Sturridge exploiting the space on that flank. However, poor crossing and decision-making let Chelsea down on many occasions in this game.
|Chart 1. Chelsea's Tackles and Interceptions in the First Half|
In terms of passing and possession, Tottenham were the better team in the first half but Chelsea's defending was very strong... for the most part. They won all 10 tackles in the midfield and defensive zones and made plenty of interception down the right where Bale and Modric operated. The result of a lot of hard work from Ramires, Essien and Bosingwa on that side. But all this good work they did almost came undone in the dying minutes of the first half when Modric finally decided he wanted to play this game.
|Picture 2. Tottenham Chance in the First Half|
Modric got on the end of a neat pass from Bale on the left. The Croatian's deflected cross was struck by Van der Vaart, forcing a good save from Cech and a last-ditch block from Cole. Stamford Bridge sighed with relief when Adebayor then headed the ball over the bar. This defensive anxiety will carry on into the second half and Chelsea never looked like they were going to win this game from this point on.
Adebayor vs Drogba
|Chart 2. Passes by Adebayor and Drogba|
Both of these players operated as the lone striker for their respective teams but one had a better game than the other. Adebayor was constantly involved in Spurs' attack especially when he moved out wide to the left. He also came back deeper to help out with the build-up. Drogba, on the other hand, had a poor game and was isolated up front. Of course, you can't make a true comparison between the two players without any regards to how their teams performed. Spurs played better than Chelsea; thus, Adebayor looked better than Drogba. But the Ivorian must take responsible for his own performance too and he would probably agree that he could have done better at times to control the ball or get a better shot.
Can't Possess and Can't Counter Attack
It would have been great to see Chelsea put on a dominant performance especially at home. But their inability to keep possession and dictate the play was not their ultimate failure. It is perfectly alright to contain the opposition by defending with determination as Chelsea did in the first half and looked to attack on the break. This is actually a good strategy considering Tottenham looked vulnerable on the wide areas. Get a goal from a counter attack and Spurs will have to put more men forward, freeing up more space for Chelsea to exploit on transitions -- a Napoli approach if you will. But the home side were utterly abysmal in mounting counter attacks -- all of which either ended with loss of possession or aimless cross.
Changes Made Little Impact
With Spurs playing better football in the second half, Di Matteo brought on Luiz for Bosingwa. The Brazilian didn't play much better as a right back than Bosingwa did. The only advantage Luiz gave to Chelsea was an extra aerial presence in the box for set-pieces. At 75th minute, Torres came on for Essien. The Spaniard moved to the right side of Chelsea's attack while Ramires dropped back into central midfield where he usually plays very poorly. The Brazilian is a energetic midfielder who can play in a lot of position but he is a little too slight and rash for a double pivot position.
|Picture 3. Modric to Adebayor|
Thus, it was not surprising that Spurs' best chance in the second half came after Essien was subbed and Ramires failed to deal with Modric who lobbed a pass behind Chelsea defense for Adebayor to run onto. The Spurs striker beat Cech and only a well-timed block from Cahill, who had a very good game in defense, denied Adbayor's shot.
Kalou came on for Sturridge with very little time to have any kind of impact. In retrospect, Kalou should have come on earlier with Torres to freshen up Chelsea's attack. And pulling Essien out and putting Ramires in the central midfield did not help the home side's cause.
It was a blow for Chelsea's hope of finishing fourth but it could have been worse. This performance does not deserve the one point they got but it is better than nothing. Spurs has a better fixture list for the run in than Chelsea. There is nothing else to do but get the best out of the remaining games and hope for the best.
Carefree, wherever you may be...