Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: Drogba changes game, then misses crucial penalty

December 12, 2010

The starting line-ups

Roman Pavlyuchenko’s opener was cancelled out by Didier Drogba’s powerful drive, before a frenetic finish.

Harry Redknapp chose Roman Pavlyuchenko over Peter Crouch, and was without William Gallas, so Michael Dawson returned.

Carlo Ancelotti left out Didier Drogba but maintained the 4-3-3 shape. Paulo Ferreira started at right-back with Branislav Ivanovic playing in the centre. Frank Lampard was on the bench.

The first half was excellent. Relatively open without being frantic and scrappy, both sides passed the ball well in midfield.

Wide threat

The obvious danger when playing Tottenham is the threat of their wide players. Gareth Bale is a huge threat on the left, whilst Aaron Lennon does a reasonably similar job on the right. The standard tactic for dealing with a tricky winger is to double up against them, but Chelsea’s shape doesn’t lend itself to this – for sides that defend with two banks of four it is relatively easy, but when you defend with a four and then a three (or a four and a five) the winger is generally too high up the pitch to help out. This was a problem for Chelsea, as both Bale and Lennon looked threatening (without delivering particularly good balls into the box).

There was a knock-on issue, though, as the Chelsea full-backs stuck extremely tight to the Spurs wingers, particularly Ferreira up against Bale. This meant that Bale moved into deeper and wider positions to draw Ferreira out of position, and Defoe then took advantage of the space created to nip into wide areas and use his pace to reach the ball first. It was Defoe in this position who provided an excellent ball to Pavlyuchenko for the opener, though Chelsea were well-stocked in the centre and probably should have dealt with the Russian better.


As in this fixture last season, Pavlyuchenko and Defoe took it in turns to drop into midfield and get goalside of Jon Obi Mikel, so Spurs weren’t outnumbered in that zone. This worked reasonably well – Chelsea rarely played successfully through the centre of the pitch and the Mikel-Ramires-Essien trio still lacks genuine creativity, although Essien sprayed a couple of excellent balls out to the left flank early on.

Anelka had a poor first half – his movement in the penalty box was poor, and frankly quite lazy. Not only did he amble into the box when Chelsea got the ball wide (John Terry’s storms forward provided more of a physical threat) he also failed to get out quick enough and was flagged offside on one occasion, when being sharper would have resulted in the equaliser.

That said, Malouda should have played Anelka in early on with a simple ball over the top, where his pace would surely have seen him through on goal – but after Spurs went ahead they played slightly deeper and there was less of a chance to attack through this route. It required more of a target man…

Second half

It was no surprise that Ancelotti turned to Drogba for the second period. Mikel made way, meaning Chelsea went to a 4-4-2 / 4-2-4 system.

This changed the tactical outlook of the game in various ways. The most basic alteration was that Chelsea were attacking with one extra player, Spurs were now without a spare man at the back, and the partnership of Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong was given much more of a test.

It also meant that the defensive role of Spurs’ strikers was changed. In dropping onto Mikel when they were out of possession, they had a fairly easy job. But when they were asked to retreat much deeper to pick up either Ramires or Essien, the striking partnership broke down completely, especially considering that Chelsea dominated possession in the second half, so Spurs were almost permanently playing a striker in the centre of midfield.

It was therefore a confusing that Harry Redkapp replaced Defoe with Peter Crouch. Defoe is still recovering from injury and possibly couldn’t last much longer, but it’s difficult to see what Crouch provides that Pavlyuchenko does not. A wiser move would have been to introduce another proper midfielder, such as Sandro, to give Spurs an extra man in midfield at 1-0 up.

The Brazilian is new to the Premier League and doesn’t appear to have gained the trust of Redknapp yet, but it would have been interesting to see if he would have turned to Jermaine Jenas rather than Crouch, had Jenas been available. Crouch played poorly when he came on, constantly giving the ball away, as the chalkboard shows.

by Guardian Chalkboards


Still, the goal came from a simple long ball that Drogba beat Dawson to, before latching onto the second ball and thumping a drive past Heurelho Gomes, who should have kept it out. It was not a pretty goal, but using Drogba’s power was the right option. Chelsea were lacking creativity in midfield (Lampard hasn’t yet come on) and also lacked natural width, because their wingers were playing narrow and their full-backs were slightly afraid to venture forward because of the threat of Lennon and Bale. It wasn’t a goal Chelsea would have scored in the first half with Anelka up top.

Drogba would have been the hero had he not missed the penalty, since it was he who won the aerial ball inside the area that resulted in Gomes bringing down Ramires. It was a poor penalty, and almost the final action of the game.


We’ve established that Redknapp has been successful at making decisive attacking substitutions so far this season – here he needed a more negative change to solidify the Spurs defence. He has been so used to going behind this season and fighting his way back into the game, that maybe he simply wasn’t used to the role reversal.

It was a surprise that Ancelotti left Drogba out, but it’s worth remembering that in last season’s title decider at Old Trafford he did the same – Anelka linked the play well in the first half, Drogba came on fired up and smashed in the crucial second. In a sense it worked quite well – Chelsea were dreadful in the first half and clearly missed the Ivorian, but he came on clearly fired up and was then more of an influence on the game than he had been for weeks.

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