Stalemate At The Bridge – BetKing Blog

Stalemate At The Bridge: Chelsea v Tottenham Review 

The handshake. It is an age-old brief greeting or parting tradition in which two people grasp one of each other’s hands, in most cases accompanied by a simple up-and-down movement of the grasped hands. In addition to greetings & partings, a handshake is commonly done upon meeting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, as a public sign of completing a business or diplomatic agreement or, if you’re Thomas Thuchel standing next to Antonio Conte, a sign of a new rivalry.  

Sunday’s London Derby offered up everything in a classic game; great tactical battle,  beautiful goals, controversial calls, a dash of poor officiating here & there, a little bit of hair-pulling, a late goal and touchline drama.    

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel raised eyebrows with his tactical set-up on Sunday evening. Reece James was played at the Right of a Back-Three rather than his usual Right-Wing-Back position. As the game progressed, Tuchel’s reasons for this set-up became clear. Last season’s joint-top Premier League scorer Son Heung-min was seen as Spurs’ key man and Reece James was tasked with aggressively man-marking & neutralizing him. This worked to perfection with Son having one of his worst games in a long while. In his 79 mins on the pitch, he had just 1 shot on target, made just 8 accurate passes and lost possession 12 times.   

Two of Chelsea’s new signings Marc Cucurella & Kalidou Koulibaly combined for the opener in the 19th minute. The Spanish left-back’s corner sailed across a packed Spurs box and was met with a perfectly hit volley by Koulibaly. Chelsea dominated from then on as Tuchel’s 3-5-2 set-up was proving very hard to break down. However, a bold move by Conte in the 57th minute changed things for the visitors. The introduction of new signing, Richarlison (for Ryan Sessegnon) and a switch from a 3-4-3 to a 4-4-2 seemed to nullify Chelsea momentarily. Hojbjerg pulled level for Spurs in the 68th min from the edge of the box and Kai Havertz let his displeasure known after the German felt he was fouled in the build up.  Hojbjerg’s strike was the first competitive goal Spurs had scored against Chelsea since Eric Lamela did in 2020. Conte celebrated the equaliser and there might have been a chest bump with an aggrieved Tuchel which set the stage for an engrossing touchline drama. 

 Chelsea’s immediate switch to a 3-4-3 (which involved moving Reece James to his more familiar Right-Wing-Back role) brought huge success. The English international created a brilliant chance which Kai Havertz failed to convert but the next minute, he ended a brilliant Chelsea move and calmly slotted the ball past Hugo Lloris to restore Chelsea’s lead. Tuchel celebrated by running along the touchline and past Conte.   

Deep into stoppage time, Spurs were pushing for a goal and had themselves a corner. Cristian Romero found himself with a handful of Marc Cucurella’s hair and, judging by the Chelsea man’s angry reaction, Romero wasn’t asking for his advice on hair products to purchase after the game. The VAR took a look at the incident and surprisingly found nothing wrong with it, allowing Harry Kane’s equalizer for the visitors to stand. The Three Lions captain’s little flick from Ivan Perisic’s corner helped Spurs avoid what would have been their 7th consecutive loss to Chelsea.   

At full time, both managers looked set to exchange a handshake but Tuchel held on to Conte’s hand a little firmer and longer than the Italian would have liked. With the grip still tight, and both men barking at each other, it looked like clenched fists were about to be exchanged but the coaching crew, players and match officials got between them. Referee Anthony Taylor felt he had had enough and sent the two managers off, bringing an entertaining derby to a drmatic close.  In a few seconds, what should have been a traditional post-match handshake became a reason to look forward to the 23rd of February when both teams meet at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the reverse fixture.
 

Takeaways 

Spurs’ failure to win means they remain without a win in their last eight Premier League games against Chelsea. In this period, Chelsea have taken 20pts from a possible 24 (W6, D2). 
Spurs have won just one of their last 38 away matches against Chelsea in all competitions (D13, L24), a 3-1 win in April 2018.  
Chelsea have conceded more goals at home than any team in the Premier League since the start of April (14 goals in 7 matches).  
The Blues have conceded in the 90th minute in 3 of their last 6 home games in the Premier League, as many as in their previous 75 league games at Stamford Bridge combined.  

Author: Clayton Kuhn