Chelsea down Tottenham
Chelsea came out on top of a semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge against local rivals Tottenham at a raucous Stamford Bridge.
The damage was done in a whirlwind first half, where Antonio Conte’s Tottenham looked unable to string more than two passes together, and fell behind in the opening minutes thanks to a goal from Chelsea forward Kai Havertz.
Spurs never really recovered, and a calamitous second meant that it was always likely to be an uphill struggle in front of a noisy Chelsea crowd.
🗣 “Farcical goal from a Tottenham point of view…”
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) January 5, 2022
And, while the visitors improved in the second half, they rarely tested Chelsea shot-stopper Kepa.
Here are 3 things that 101 picked out from the clash.
Both sides abandon their traditional ways
Perhaps more out of necessity rather than choice, Thomas Tuchel abandoned his favoured 3-4-3 formation that he has used for the majority of his Chelsea reign, in favour of a flat back four and three in midfield.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 5, 2022
Saul Niguez, who had been mooted as a potential right wing-back for Tuchel in the absence of Reece James, instead played in his more familiar central midfield role.
And the system tweak was enough to force Tottenham boss Antonio Conte into changing his side, initially deployed in a 3-4-1-2, at the half time break, after a 45 minutes which had seen Chelsea dominate and take a 2-0 lead.
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) January 5, 2022
To see both of the most stringent advocates for a back three depart from it in the same evening, especially given Conte’s success with the system in the Premier League with Chelsea, was a sight to behold, and offers more tactical intrigue for the second leg, due to take place next week.
Romelu Lukaku- not the comeback he hoped for
It has been a rollercoaster of a week for Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku.
After stating in an unauthorised interview with Sky Italy that he was not happy at the club, just three months after joining the Blues for a record 97 million pounds, the Belgian forward was dropped from the squad for his side’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
Romelu Lukaku to @SkySport: “Physically I am fine. But I’m NOT happy with the situation at Chelsea. Tuchel has chosen to play with another system – I won’t give up, I’ll be professional. I am not happy with the situation but I am professional – and I can’t give up now”. 🔵 #CFC pic.twitter.com/KGNoJ10cwp
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 30, 2021
An apology video since followed, and Lukaku was handed a chance at winning the fans back over, and a starting berth, against Tottenham.
However, he failed to impress.
Lukaku is one of the most clunky players I’ve ever seen.
— t (@Lcfc_T2000) January 5, 2022
The Chelsea no.9 had a quiet night in front of goal, failing to provide a goal or assist for his side, despite managing to stay on the pitch for the entire 90 minutes. It is safe to say that, after recent antics, he will have plenty more to do to make amends to the Chelsea faithful.
Tottenham left with a mountain to climb
The result has left Tottenham with a mountain to climb when they host Thomas Tuchel’s side next Wednesday evening at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
Generally better at home than they are away, Spurs will nonetheless have to be significantly better than they were this evening, against a Chelsea side that will only get stronger, in order to stand any chance of making it to Wembley for a second consecutive year.
And while they remain 8 games unbeaten in the Premier League under Antonio Conte, they could find themselves out of both the Carabao Cup and the Europa Conference League under the tutelage of the Italian.
Can they turn it around next week?