Chelsea became the first team to win a Premier League game at Wembley Stadium yesterday as they were 2-1 winners in Tottenham Hotspur’s first home game of the 2017-18 season.
I had the privilege of being a part of the historic event in London’s capital with a great view in the heavens witness the tactics used by both managers.
Statistically, Spurs had 68% of the possession and Chelsea only had two shots on target, but the visitors won.
Antonio Conte’s side headed into the match with the media claiming a ‘crisis’ was going on at Stamford Bridge with the Diego Costa off-the-field saga and a 2-3 opening day defeat at home to Burnley. Most of the media seem to forget the Blues finished the game with nine men which included Gary Cahill being sent off after 14 minutes.
Heading to Wembley Chelsea were considered the underdogs with Eden Hazard (injured), Gary Cahill (suspended), Cesc Fàbregas (suspended) and Diego Costa (holiday). That’s last season’s Premier League Player of the Year, the club captain, one of the leading playmakers in Premier League history and last season’s top scorer, all absent.
On top of this, Álvaro Morata, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Andreas Christensen were all making their first Premier League starts for the Blues.
Tottenham were 2-0 winners at Newcastle in their opening game, though both goals did only come after the hosts were reduced to 10 men. They were anything but convincing when the numbers were even.
With a number of absentees, Conte changed from his usual 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2. César Azpilicueta was the only one of the Italian’s back three to hold his place, with Andreas Christensen starting in the middle and Antonio Rüdiger on the left.
David Luiz was pushed up to one of the three central midfielders and I think he did an excellent job there, both closing down the opposition and marking Christian Eriksen out of the game. Alongside him, N’Golo Kanté and Tiémoué Bakayoko did similar, excellent jobs. Often Chelsea had two players on the ball in possession when Tottenham were in the final third.
Spurs’ tactics also played into the hands of the visitors. They were very narrow with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembélé. Ben Davies offered width early on down the left but ultimately it never left to much.
Heung-min Son came on late on but didn’t even offer a great deal a width.
Marcos Alonso struck a peach of a free kick to give Chelsea the lead midway through the first half. This allowed them to sit back on their lead – something they did very well aside from five minutes before half-time when Spurs looked threatening and Harry Kane hit the post.
Tottenham had some luck with their equaliser in that Eriksen’s free kick was deflected off the head of Michy Batshuayi to beat Thibaut Courtois. Chelsea had their own fortune with the winner as Hugo Lloris should have done much better with Alonso’s strike that went under him.
Perhaps all the media that had written Chelsea off after one game will be singing the praises of Conte once more…