Tottenham vs. Chelsea: How the Tactical Battle Will Unfold

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 17, 2012

WIGAN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17:  Chelsea Manager Andre Villas Boas and Assistant Roberto Di Matteo (L) look on during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Chelsea at the DW Stadium on December 17, 2011 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Another London derby, another game just waiting to explode on our screens.

As if the relative strength of both sides wasn't enough to get excited about, Andre Villas-Boas will face his old side for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped by Roman Abramovich.

As Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea renew their rivalry in the English Premier League, Bleacher Report takes a look at how the tactical duel will pan out between AVB and his former assistant Roberto Di Matteo.



Both managers operate with solid 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation, employing two holding midfielders to steady the ship and maintain possession.

Spurs: 28. Kyle Walker, 13. William Gallas, 33. Steven Caulker, 5. Jan Vertonghen; 19. Mousa Dembele, 30. Sandro, 11. Gareth Bale, 2. Clint Dempsey, 7. Aaron Lennon; 18. Jermain Defoe

Chelsea: 2. Branislav Ivanovic, 4. David Luiz, 26. John Terry, 3. Ashley Cole, 12. John Obi Mikel, 7. Ramires, 10. Juan Manuel Mata, 17. Eden Hazard, 11. Oscar; 9. Fernando Torres


Contrasting styles

Although both managers use a similar base formation on paper, things could not be more different.

Chelsea are incredibly rigid across the back six, while the front four swap positions for fun. This is confusing for defences and tough to cope with, but it also creates a certifiable back six and front four.

If there's a battle for possession, the Blues tend to lose due to this "gap." Both teams will try to control the match, but I anticipate Spurs edging it over 90 minutes in that respect.

Andre Villas-Boas' free-flowing 4-3-3 template has been modified slightly to suit Spurs, and the Portuguese tactician is clearly learning from his mistakes at Stamford Bridge.

With the pace in the side, you'd be mad not to use it, and AVB switches between possession football through Dembele to quick, incisive attacks through Vertonghen, Bale and Defoe.

The Belgian centre-back, playing at left-back, grabbed his first English Premier League goal against Manchester United with a marauding run, and he can be seen here against Aston Villa doing the same thing.

Spurs pick their moments carefully and shoot forward at incredible pace, creating overloads down either of the flanks. When Bale/Lennon and Defoe run at defences, they tend to scatter. Paul Lambert's line is in shambles here, and it's down to the chaotic movement of the opposition.


Where they'll clash

Sandro and Dembele have been perfecting the holding midfield pivot recently, but they won't enjoy the kind of freedom they've come to expect against a lethal trio in Oscar, Hazard and Mata.

This game will be won or lost in two areas.

The first is the area just in front of Spurs' penalty area. Caulker's inexperience could lead to him being drawn out and thus creating a gap for Torres, while it will also represent the first stern test of Dembele's discipline in the centre of midfield.

The second is on the Spurs counterattack. David Luiz is well capable of doing something erratic in the face of a lightning-quick break, meaning any of the marauding Spurs players will be capable of finding space for a shot.

Both goalkeepers are in for a busy day. Spurs should create the most clear-cut chances, but if Chelsea win the battle on the edge of the opposing penalty area, they're quids in for a few goals.