With COVID shuttering most clubs’ plans for preseason tours, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea decided to do a Premier League series of “friendly rivals” dubbed The Mind Series to benefit a UK mental health charity. Chelsea hosted Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, and while both teams seemed to take the match seriously, the match featured a good amount of rotation. Tottenham got second half goals from Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn to counter a brace from Hakim Ziyech, and the match ended 2-2.
Here are some of my match notes and observations from the game.
Match Notes and Reactions
- This was the match Lucas Moura came down to earth a bit. Chelsea started a VERY strong side, and Lucas was not at the same level that he showed in the earlier friendlies against lower level opposition. He got smartly tackled by Kante for Ziyech’s first goal (admittedly, it’s Kante) and coughed up the ball super easily and seemed to have his head down a lot again. That said, he had some bright moments in the second half and his goal was well taken, if hilariously deflected.
- This is not going to be Tottenham’s starting defense, but it’s worth noting that Chelsea’s attack of Ziyech and Timo Werner carved Spurs’ back line open pretty regularly. They were probably lucky not to be down more early on, and some heroic last ditch defending kept the Blues out. Spurs grew into the match with time, though and the defense looked more structured than I’ve seen it in a while, so there’s that. Even Doherty looked decent.
- Tottenham looked really exciting when they got the ball forward but the midfield was a hot mess and didn’t do a great job of progressing the ball. Dele in particular looked very uncomfortable in the deeper midfield role, but I also don’t think Hojbjerg and Skipp are a central midfield pairing you want if you’re going to do ball progression. Tanguy and Gio will help with that. Dele wasn’t great, but he got I think rather unfairly slagged off in this match, when his role was more to receive the ball going forward and DO FUN STUFF. The midfield didn’t get the ball forward much, and so the second part didn’t really happen.
- On Skippy: I think, based on this match, that people who were calling for him to be a regular starter are a bit over their skiis. Skipp was fine. He wasn’t great, though he grew into the match. He did look overmatched against a very good Chelsea team that should contend for the title. I think Skipp looks like a player who should be a Hojbjerg rotation option and a regular cup player. That’s probably 1500 minutes or so, and that’s FINE for him this season. No reason to throw him into the deep water quite yet.
- I thought Gollini should’ve done better with Ziyech’s first goal. I’ll let him off the hook for the second goal as it took a wicked deflection. Gollini does a good job of cutting out the angles on shots and he made some pretty good saves on the day, but the long range shot blocking does worry me based on today’s evidence. I don’t think Hugo has much to worry about, yet but Gollini was pretty good on balance.
- It looks to me like Spurs aren’t yet fully comfortable with Nuno’s tactical system. That’s to be expected. It looked like the players weren’t making the cuts and moves that Nuno expected them to make, so some of the attacks fizzled. That said, you do get a sense of what Nuno is trying to do, and if they can sort out the midfield (or at least get better players in there) I think there’s a chance that Spurs could be actually fun to watch. Maybe not a really good team, but fun. I’d take fun.
- I was so happy for Stevie. What Jose Mourinho did to him last season — forcing him into that defensive winger role — was horrible. Steve’s been good in the preseason but still looked like he had the “yips” in front of goal, like his confidence was shot. That goal will hopefully do him a world of good.
- Harry Kane was completely absent today. It’s like he wasn’t even there.