Tottenham Hotspur hosted the defending Premier League champions Chelsea at White Hart Lane today, and to absolutely nobody's surprise, the match ended in a defensive, scoreless draw.
We expected going into this match that Jose Mourinho would do Jose Mourinho things, and we were not disappointed. Chelsea started the match in a strikerless formation, with Diego Costa benched for Pedro, and Eden Hazard playing as a false nine. Chelsea's gameplan was to put men behind the ball and defend, and try to surprise Spurs on the counter.
Spurs started the match in a weird somewhat lopsided formation, with Mousa Dembele starting in central midfield and Ryan Mason drifting very wide to the right. There was quite a bit of fluidity and positional interchange as Tottenham attempted to break down a bunkered Chelsea defense.
It was a weird, nervy first half, with Chelsea content to gift possession to Spurs, but with both teams getting chances. Spurs' best probably came from Son Heung-Min who had a nice header saved by Begovic off a fine cross from Harry Kane. Harry had a few low shots from just outside the box but none seriously tested Begovic. Most of Spurs' first half chances came from the high press when they were able to dispossess Chelsea in their half of the pitch.
While Spurs had the bulk of the possession, Chelsea had a period in the first half where the had Spurs on their back heels. Pedro and Hazard both had shots that went just over the bar and there were numerous moments on the counter that were a bit scary for Spurs' defense.
More critically, three Tottenham players picked up yellow cards in the first half: Kyle Walker and Danny Rose for dumb challenges, and Harry Kane for holding back Willian in the center of midfield on a Chelsea counter.
The first half, predictably, ended 0-0.
Neither manager made any changes at halftime, and the second half was more of the same, but this time Chelsea seemed to have the better of Spurs for the majority of play. Chelsea had only one shot on goal in the entire game, and it was a beauty -- a shot from Hazard from wide left that Hugo did very well to deflect away. Otherwise, neither side really did much to generate much offense as the match devolved into a stalemate.
Erik Lamela made his first return to the Spurs side since picking up an injury while on international duty with Argentina, after coming in for Ryan Mason who limped off mid-way through the half with an ankle injury. Late in the match, Clinton N'Jie was subbed on for Son as Pochettino attempted to inject some pace into the match. Instead, Chelsea had more of the ball in the last ten minutes than they had for much of the rest of the match, and it led to a few nervy moments for Spur' defense.
Ultimately, the match ended in the predictable scoreless draw. Spurs earned a point, but it felt more like they dropped two.
- This was always going to be a low scoring match, so nobody should be surprised by the final scoreline. This was a vintage Mourinho bunker-and-counter match, and Chelsea did a good job of playing deep and compact, turning away most of Spurs' attempts into the box. Even so, Spurs had more, and better opportunities.
- Toby and Jan both had solid matches again, neutralizing much of Chelsea's scoring threat. One wonders what would've happened with Diego Costa in there, but I'm not complaining.
- It's a little tough to give out MOTM honors for this match; I might have to re-watch it. Dembele and Son are strong candidates, and Christian Eriksen also had an outstanding match under difficult circumstances.
- Hugo had a weird match. He was frantic and unusually jittery, but also had at least two instances where he appeared too casual on the ball. But then he went out and made a world-class stop on Hazard. Clean sheet, but he made me really nervous at times, which is unusual.
- Erik Lamela looked really rusty out there in relief of Mason, who had a pretty decent match on balance. Lamela looking rusty isn't a surprise, but I was hoping Spurs would look more like the side that dominated West Ham with him on the pitch.
- If anything, this match showed us how important Dele Alli is to this side at present. Mason was fine, but a little careless with the ball again, even when drifting wide in the first half. I wish we could've thrown out our first choice side today, but I'm guessing Chelsea fans feel the same way.
- Danny Rose had a bit of a shocker out there. He was absolutely terrorized by Willian for much of the game and gave up a stupid yellow card from a really dumb challenge.
- This is by far the hardest match Spurs have until the new year. There are plenty of points that are now available from now until January with Spurs playing West Brom, Newcastle, Southampton, Norwich, and Watford. A draw here doesn't hurt at all, and keeps us ten points ahead of Chelsea, which is a good thing.
- Thirteen matches unbeaten, gang.