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Back Chelsea to win to nil against Tottenham. The Blues have an excellent defensive record under Tuchel and Spurs’ attack has yet to get going in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea are one of four Premier League teams with 10 points to their name after four rounds of fixtures. A draw with Liverpool is the only blot on their copybook so far, and that is an extremely harsh description of a spirited performance at Anfield in which the Blues played half of the game with 10 men.
Thomas Tuchel’s side returned to winning ways last weekend, although the 3-0 scoreline did not tell the full story of their meeting with Aston Villa. The visitors to Stamford Bridge were arguably the better team on the day, but their profligate finishing compared unfavorably to Chelsea’s ruthless streak in and around the penalty area. That clinical edge was best exemplified by Romelu Lukaku, who took two shots and scored two goals. Had he been playing for Villa instead of Chelsea, the match might have ended 0-3.
Tuchel will certainly not want a repeat of the Villa performance on Sunday, even though winning without playing particularly well is often held up as a mark of champions. He will, though, be delighted with the general direction of travel. Tuchel transformed Chelsea after taking charge in January, culminating in their Champions League triumph four months later. The team he has now is stronger than the one he had last term, with Lukaku and Saul Niguez brought in during the summer window.
Chelsea have a tremendous balance to their side right now. Tuchel might prefer more depth in midfield and defense, but the starting XI is one of the strongest in the Premier League. The Blues have a prolific goalscorer up front; creativity in behind; a mix of dynamism, energy and technical quality in midfield; attack-minded wing-backs; and some excellent center-halves. With Edouard Mendy a clear upgrade on Kepa Arrizabalaga between the sticks, Chelsea do not have any notable weaknesses.
Tottenham are just one point behind Chelsea at present, but the mood around the club is somewhat gloomier. Spurs were fortunate to be sitting on nine points after three matches, having beaten each of Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford by a goal to nil. They were then dismantled by Crystal Palace last weekend, succumbing to a 3-0 defeat at Selhurst Park and delivering a display that was just as bad as anything Tottenham produced under Jose Mourinho last term.
Everyone is entitled to an off-day, of course, and Nuno Espirito Santo might justifiably point out that this was Tottenham’s first loss of the campaign and that all three Palace goals came after Japhet Tanganga was sent off. Still, there were no positives to take from such a wretched showing: the defense was shaky, the midfield was devoid of guile and invention, and the attack was ineffectual. Harry Kane, the Premier League’s top scorer last season, did not have a single shot or a touch inside the Palace penalty area.
Nuno deserves time to get his ideas across, but the style of play up to now does not suggest Spurs are about to recapture their reputation for attacking verve. Perhaps they will be more of a threat in the final third as the season goes on, and getting Kane back up to full speed will no doubt help in that regard. For now, though, plenty of question marks remain when it comes to Nuno’s Tottenham.
The more difference between pre-Tuchel Chelsea and post-Tuchel Chelsea centers on the defense. The Blues had only the 11th best defensive record in the Premier League before his appointment midway through the last term and averaged 1.2 goals against per game. After Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at the helm, the Blues averaged 0.68 goals against per game – by far the best record in the division in that time.
It is not that Tuchel made Chelsea a more defensive team; he simply made them better at defending. The Blues continued to play on the front foot and take the game to the opposition, but they were now much more difficult to play through in transition, and much more adept at dealing with set-pieces. Chelsea has continued in the same vein this term, with their backline having been breached just once in 360 minutes of action – and that goal was from the penalty spot.
Spurs, meanwhile, have scored only three times so far, a tally bettered by 13 Premier League sides. The absence of Son Heung-min will be particularly painful on Sunday given his importance to Tottenham’s counter-attacking game. It will allow Chelsea to squeeze up the pitch and keep Kane out of the penalty area as much as possible. And it could be the key factor that helps the Blues keep a clean sheet in an away win at the home of their London rivals.
|Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea Information|
|Teams||Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea|
|Location||Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Sunday, 19 September 2021, 11.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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