5 talking points from Tottenham's 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at Wembley

Ben Pearce
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday Aug. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Tottenham began their home campaign at Wembley Stadium with defeat as they conceded a late winner against reigning champions Chelsea.

The Blues led for most of the match after Marcos Alonso’s first-half free kick and, although Spurs levelled in the final 10 minutes thanks to a Michy Batshuayi own goal, Alonso struck again two minutes from time.

Here are our five talking points.

READ MORE: Marcos Alonso at the double to down Tottenham at the death

  1. Keep the flags, lose the drum

This was Tottenham’s first Premier League match at Wembley, which will host all of their games in every competition this season – and the club are clearly keen to make the national stadium feel like home.

Spurs banners flanked Wembley Way and the fans were given flags to wave before kick-off.

It was quite a sight as 4pm approached – a sea of white under the arch, while the familiar build-up soundtrack from White Hart Lane rang around the arena.

In one respect, however, it felt the club had gone a little too far in their bid to cultivate an atmosphere – a drummer was given a microphone and his beats were broadcast around the stadium, encouraging the fans to chant “Tottenham!” at the end.

It felt contrived and unnecessary, given the number of people in the place (73,587). And, although the home supporters initially played their part, the novelty soon wore off.

The message was apparently received loud and clear – the drumming disappeared after half time. Spurs’ fans seemed perfectly happy to create their own rhythm by clapping or banging their seats, as they have merrily done many time before.

READ MORE: AS IT HAPPENED – Tottenham v Chelsea

  1. Mauricio Pochettino opts to play with three central midfielders

Spurs generally played with either a 4-2-3-1 system or a 3-4-2-1 system last season, and their manager chose the former set-up at Newcastle last weekend.

The suspicion was that he would change tack for this match, and when the line-up was announced it appeared that Pochettino had indeed switched to 3-4-2-1, as he did for the last two meetings with Chelsea last term.

However, he instead decided to play with three central midfielders. Rather than joining Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in a back three, Eric Dier lined up alongside Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele across the middle of the pitch.

It left Spurs playing in a 4-3-3 system without the ball, but in possession they were essentially playing in a 2-5-3 formation, with the full-backs pushed on.

It may have been a late decision to counter Chelsea’s 5-3-1-1 system – the Blues also had three men in the middle, helping them to get across the pitch and deny Spurs’ wing-backs space.

Pochettino’s set-up ensured Spurs were not outnumbered in central areas, but the tactic took Dembele away from the middle of the pitch and Tottenham took a while to get into their usual rhythm.

They lacked their usual fluidity, although that was partly because of the nature of the stop-start first half, which featured a number of infringements. Indeed, set pieces proved to be important during the match.


3. Free kicks are exchanged before Marcos Alonso punishes Wanyama’s carelessness

When these London rivals last met at Wembley in April’s FA Cup semi-final, Conte’s Blues took the lead through Willian’s first-half free kick.

History repeated itself today, with Alonso beating Hugo Lloris and finding the top right corner in the 24th minute after Dele Alli tripped David Luiz.

It appeared for a long time that that was going to be the winning strike – but Spurs levelled with a free kick of their own eight minutes from time.

As Christian Eriksen’s inswinging devliery curled towards Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea substitute Michy Batshuayi – who had only been on the field for three minutes – intervened and headed the ball past his own goalkeeper.

Unfortunately for Spurs, however, there was to be a late twist as they shot themselves in the foot in the 88th minute.

When Lloris threw the ball out to a tiring Wanyama, the Kenyan gave it away – not for the first time in this match – and he was punished, with Pedro freeing Alonso, who scored his second goal of the afternoon and grabbed all three points for the visitors.

4. Harry Kane is getting his bad luck out of the way early on

Spurs’ talismanic striker went close on a few occasions in the opening fixture at Newcastle, being denied at close range, hitting the post and having a goal disallowed for offside.

He looked sharp again against Chelsea but, again, was unable to get his name on the scoresheet, being particularly unlucky when he struck the upright for the second match in succession during the first half.

Strangely, the 24-year-old has still not scored a Premier League goal for Tottenham in the month of August.

He will have another chance to do so when Spurs host Burnley next weekend, but otherwise that little oddity will continue.

It is of course only a matter of time before the goals start flying in, and Kane will already feel he is due some fortune.

5. Chelsea extend their winning record against Tottenham at Wembley

In an ideal world, Spurs would probably have got a few league games under their belt at their new home before facing the reigning champions.

Yet, before kick-off, this looked like a decent time to face the Blues, who were missing key players due to injury and suspension.

The Lilywhites went on to dominate in most areas. They had 68 per cent of the possession and 14 corners compared to three. Six of Spurs’ 18 efforts were on target, while Chelsea only managed two – both of which went in. This defeat will therefore be hard to take.

Pochettino is keen to get away from the idea that Tottenham have some kind of problem or even a curse at Wembley – “please, stop”, he said when the subject was raised on Friday, pointing to Spurs’ 2-0 victory over Juventus a fortnight ago.

READ MORE: Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend

That performance against the Champions League finalists was indeed encouraging and impressive, but it came in a pre-season friendly and the fact remains the Lilywhites have a poor record in competitive contests at Wembley.

They have now won just one of their last 10 matches under the arch, losing eight times – and four of those defeats have come against Chelsea.

Next Sunday’s home match against Burnley has only increased in importance. Spurs must show that today’s loss was purely due to the quality of their opponents and their own mistakes; not because of any hoodoo in Brent. Such ideas can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs and visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BenPearceSpurs/

 

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