Thursday 22 August 2019

Chelsea hope to end poor Premier League form on return to Tottenham - where it all started to go wrong

Jose Mourinho and his side go back to White Hart Lane this weekend - the ground at which their year began to fall to pieces

Under pressure Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
Under pressure Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho

Alistair Tweedale

Chelsea this weekend return to the setting of one their most chastening defeats under Jose Mourinho and one that had threatened to – and to some extent did – derail their year.

A New Year’s Day 5-3 loss at White Hart Lane did not in actual fact start a run that cost them the title but there is an argument to be made that they have not quite been the same since.

As they travel across London to face a Tottenham side flying high in fifth, four points off top spot and unbeaten in 12 games, Chelsea may be fearful of history repeating itself.

The defeat at the start of the year put an end to a run of one defeat in their last 30 competitive games. Chelsea may have held on to win the Premier League, but they did so as a shadow of their former selves. This year, they have lost 12 out of 47 games so far.

 Perhaps the run-around they were given at Tottenham did irreparable damage? Tottenham achieved that unprecedented result by way of harrying their opponents at every opportunity. They maintained an intensity that typifies their team and Chelsea could not cope.

The fact that neither team had a passing success rate above 77 per cent (compared to seasonal averages of 83.2 and 81.2 per cent) shows that both sides’ play was severely disrupted. While that is part and parcel of the Pochettino way, Chelsea were unable to settle with Spurs making 30 tackles and 26 interceptions.

Given Chelsea’s frailty this season – in which they have already lost seven league games – Spurs will surely sense a golden opportunity.

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A Premier League table for the calendar year reveals the extent of the decline shown by Jose Mourinho’s men, even throughout the second half of last season.

Chelsea rank sixth with only 16 wins from 32 matches, having scored one goal more than a Manchester United team much maligned for their attacking ineptitude and with a defensive record worse than 10 of the 17 teams who have spent the whole year in the top flight.

 They have mustered 321 shots – a meagre average of 10 per game – and have scored with around 15 per cent of their attempts. Both figures rank them no higher than sixth of all Premier League teams, while indiscipline has permeated their play; their five red and 59 yellow cards are amongst the most in the league. Their form this year has certainly not reflected their champion status.

Mourinho will need no telling that his team haven’t been up to scratch this season, nor will he need reminding of the threat that Tottenham will pose on Sunday.

He will be hopeful, though, that his last two trips to White Hart Lane will definitely bookend a period in which Chelsea have been thoroughly underwhelming, rather than another defeat knocking them yet further off their stride.

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