Chelsea put in an impressive performance to see off a depleted Tottenham Hotspur side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blues won the Premier League clash 2-1, thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso, while Erik Lamela forced a late own-goal from Antonio Rudiger.
Frank Lampard's side looked in control for most of the game while Spurs struggled to create anything in attack without Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. Chelsea were quick and incisive, and Lampard switched his tactical set-up to a 3-4-3 formation in order to shake up a side low on confidence and it worked.
Here are three tactical observations from the game.
#1 3-4-3 is the way forward for Chelsea
The 3-4-3 formation worked brilliantly for Chelsea and was reminiscent of the days under Antonio Conte. Alonso and Reece James enjoyed the extra freedom that the formation gave them which enabled the Spaniard, known for his attacking exploits, to score the second goal. More importantly, the three centre-backs brought a good degree of stability to the defence. When playing with just two centre-backs, Chelsea have struggled to find the appropriate combination and have looked nervous. The three defenders enabled more room for error and also allowed the likes of Rudiger to properly harness their ball-playing skills.
In the attack, Lampard picked the perfect combination of Giroud, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount. Both Barkley and Mount were impressive and the formation brought the best out of their stamina and link-up play rather than expose their technical weaknesses. The same can be said of Giroud, who thrives only when he has runners behind him. Overall, this formation seems to be Chelsea's best option at the moment, at least until they can recruit better players in the summer.
#2 Mateo Kovacic is integral to Chelsea's midfield
Mateo Kovacic had an excellent game in the centre of the pitch. The Croatian played with Jorginho and had additional defensive duties, owing to N'Golo Kante's injury. Kovacic has been a standout player for Chelsea this season. His dribbling, energy and technical abilities are important for transitions from defence to attack. He links Jorginho's passing skills with the players in the final-third.
In the game against Spurs, Kovacic made 77 passes, the highest in his side. The Croatian also completed five dribbles, attempted three tackles, made two interceptions and had 90 touches of the ball. Kante was not missed at all considering how well Kovacic took up his defensive duties. Once Ruben Loftus-Cheek is back from injury, him and Kovacic will form a formidable partnership, and the former Real Madrid man is one of the first names on the team-sheet at the moment.
#3 Tottenham lack an outlet and a plan
One can understand Jose Mourinho's plight, having lost both Kane and Son - Tottenham's best attackers. However, his tactical set-up did no favours to Tottenham's goalscoring woes. Playing a 5-3-2/5-4-1 formation, Tottenham struggled to move the ball forward and were pinned back by Chelsea's intensity. The biggest issue was that Spurs did not have a focal point on which to focus their counter-attacks. Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn ought to have played in the channels, as Chelsea looked vulnerable on the counter. Instead, they stayed in a central role, effectively keeping them from having an influence on the game.
If Mourinho came looking for a draw, the set-up made sense but Tottenham are in need of better defenders as well. Jan Vertonghen looks like he needs a break and Davinson Sanchez remains extremely error-prone. Spurs actually had more possession in the game but most of it was restricted to passing between the defenders. Mourinho needs to come up with a solution to Tottenham's lack of goals as soon as possible if they are to keep their season alive.