Fernando Torres replaced Samuel Eto’o in Chelsea’s attack. Andre Schurrle dropped to the bench in favour of Ramires on the right side, whose inclusion can only suggest that Mourinho wanted to keep Tottenham’s left side secured down. Tottenham remained unchanged from their narrow 1-0 victory over Cardiff, Kyle Naughton continuing to earn his place in front of Danny Rose. Both sides lined up in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, although noticeably in the second half, with Tottenham’s dominance and Dembele pushing up the field, they morphed into a more unorthodox yet fluid, 4-3-3, with Paulinho sitting behind Eriksen and Dembele. No team in Europe’s top five leagues had conceded less goals than Tottenham (1), who had only won three of their 42 Barclays Premier League games, against Chelsea. The last 3 competitive meetings between the two London teams have produced 16 goals in total (an average of 5.3 a game) so goals were expected.
Box to box Lampard
Despite Jose Mourinho’s insistence that Lampard would become similar to Claude Makalele with regards to only playing the biggest games of the season, the England international has played a majority of game so far into the season, however, the large number of matches does not seem to be hindering the quality of his game. Despite the pivot not being his natural role, Lampard had a good game defensively against Tottenham, especially considering his side were under threat for the first half, contributing a tackle every 12.7 minutes and winning 100% of his aerial duels. This is ever more impressive considering John Obi Mikel, whom he played alongside at White Hart Lane, a natural defensive midfielder, contributed no tackles at all and won none of his 50-50’s. However, this can be attributed to Lampard’s trademark runs forward, which left Mikel isolated against the advancing Spurs duo of Dembele and Paulinho, joined by Eriksen, who simply played their way around the Nigerian. His replacement for Ramires in the pivot proved to be a wise move, with Ramires’ natural mobility being used to stifle the creative runs of the aforementioned duo, and led Chelsea to a succession of counter attacks.
A worry for Tottenham fans will be the lack of goals from open play from big money signing Roberto Soldado. Since his arrival at White Hart Lane, the Spaniard has managed 2 goals in 6 appearances, both from the penalty spot. This poor run of form from open play continued against Chelsea, with Soldado Nonetheless, the Spaniard was a danger man, and Chelsea reacted to this knowledge accordingly, with both John Terry and David Luiz remaining near to him at all times, both of them superior to him in the air, and with John Obi Mikel in the first half and Ramires in the second shielding the defensive duo and cutting off the supply to Soldado. This resulted in the frontman moving wide to the left side inhabited by the under duress Ashley Cole, where he received most of his passes and was less of a threat. Because of this isolation of the striker, this perhaps explains his miserable pass completion rate of 27%, 4 in 15 as well receiving only 15 passes in the 77 minutes he completed. Despite this poor turnout in front of goal, Soldado did contribute the assist for Tottenham’s goal, cleverly laying the ball into the path of Gylfi Sigurdsson for the Iceland international to calmly finish.
One positive Chelsea fans could take from the game was the sparkling cameo from Juan Mata. Cast aside by Jose Mourinho due to his defensive capabilities, or lack thereof, the brilliant number 10 was called upon in the second half to provide some creativity and attacking fluidity Chelsea desperately needed. Naturally, Mata bagged an assist with a beautifully whipped ball onto John Terry’s head. It would be natural to talk about how Mata affected the game from an attacking viewpoint, however I will look at how Mata participated defensively, if at all, to see if he has adapted his game in order to gain a regular place. Despite his slight frame, Mata was involved in three tackles, winning one of those in a strangely physical display, but the most impressive stat in my eyes is his 7 ball recoveries, despite the fact that half of them were in Tottenham’s attacking third, Mata clearly understands that he must be more proactive in defending and impressed me with his display and effort in his cameo. I was not the only one Mata (no pun intended) impressed, with manager Jose Mourinho saying “Now I like what I see when he plays for 45 minutes. I’m a very happy manager when I see Juan Mata playing like this. I can tell you now that he will play against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League on Tuesday — he deserves that chance. I want my players to tell me they want to play. Juan told me that.”
Mata, speaking to BT Sport after the match, said: “I just tried to do my best for the team. Everyone wants to play. I respect all of my team-mates and I want to enjoy it on the pitch. Today I did it.” So what’s next for Juan Mata and Chelsea, will he regain the starting place most feel he deserves? Can Spurs realistically challenge for the title? Will Roberto Soldado find his feet in the Premier League and earn the Golden Boot? Time will tell.