Opinion: My thoughts on the Battle of the Bridge Part II and Conte’s red card

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

All things considered, I’m not sure there is a Tottenham fan out there who wouldn’t take a 2-2 draw from the game today. I’d say they would bite your hand off for it, but make sure you look Tuchel in the eye as you do it.

Last season, Tottenham lost at home to Southampton and lost away to Chelsea, so on paper, they have already picked up four points they were unable to achieve last time out. However, everything great about Spurs’ display in the 4-1 win was missing today against the Blues.

Tuchel openly admitted he was playing with a back three and Ruben Loftus-Cheek at RWB in his pre-match interview, which always seems a little suspicious. That turned out to be the case, as RLC played a hybrid role that completely confused Spurs.

In defence, Chelsea played as a back five, with two wing-backs, but when they had the ball in midfield, Loftus-Cheek often tucked in to add another body. Chelsea transitioned between this so well that Spurs were seemingly a man down in attack and midfield.

You have to give credit where it’s due, Chelsea came with an incredible game plan and then executed it to perfection in the first half. Spurs were lucky to go into the break just one goal down and on another day, the game could have been over by then.

Not only was Chelsea’s build-up play incredible, but they pressed in a way that gave Spurs no chance to transition themselves. And even when Tottenham did have a little bit of time and space on the ball, they lacked any quality today.

The Blues were first to every loose ball, pressed faster, and fought harder than their Lilywhite counterparts for probably 70 out of the 90 minutes. That is something Conte is going to need to address ASAP if Spurs want to mount any kind of charge this season.

It’s very hot at the moment, and teams are only going to get fitter as the season goes on and the weather cools, so if you can’t deal with an opposition press you are going to struggle in the Premier League.

I think what really beat Spurs from minute one was the formation match-up. Tuchel played it expertly. What Spurs need to get better at is switching things up in-game rather than banging their head against a brick wall hoping for different results.

When Conte eventually switched to a front two and added extra manpower into the engine room, Spurs actually competed for around 20 minutes and equalised through Hojbjerg. It took Tottenham a while to give Chelsea something different to think about, but it worked.

The issue was switching to a back four, which I’m not sure was the right play. These defenders always struggled in a flat four, and that was the case again today. Before Conte could put Bissouma and Perisic on, Davies was outnumbered at the back post and Chelsea retook the lead.

It was as if Romero, Dier, and Davies all forgot they were playing in a four for a split second, expecting there to be a wing-back on the far left to cover James… but there wasn’t and it was 2-1 to Chelsea before Conte could even swap back to a back three.

Perhaps being able to switch between the normal 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 and a 3-5-2 would be a more sustainable way of switching up attacking patterns while also remaining solid in defence, but I’m sure Conte will work out the best course of action over the coming weeks.

In my opinion, with Chelsea crowding the midfield as they were and suffocating Kane, Spurs needed to push the wing-backs as high as possible in attack and get Son on the shoulder. But it was hard to build any kind of momentum with the way Chelsea were pressing.

Hopefully, it was simply one of those days where a lack of quality on the ball cost us, when normally we would have been able to soak up pressure and hit the opposition in the transition more. But either way, a lot of work needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As for the game itself. What a beauty! It really was Battle of the Bridge Part II! I’m loving refs letting half-fouls go this season for the sake of a feisty and non-stop feel to the game. It is making for less diving, fewer stop-start games, and much better football matches.

And who doesn’t love seeing the passion of a manager scrap. For me, a red card for both is more than fair. Conte seemed to celebrate in Tuchel’s face for the first one and Tuchel grabbed Conte’s hand for the second. Equal punishment and entertainment for all of us! Love it.

If I was a Chelsea fan, I would feel hard done by today. They played us off the pitch and deserved to win by a mile. Cristian Romero also deserved to see red for that braindead hair-pull on Cucurella.

But as a Spurs fans, seeing as play really bad and still get a point away to Chelsea feels very much like a ‘we would have lost that a couple of years ago’ occasion. In short, Tottenham need to get A LOT better in future big games this season, but what an enjoyable game!

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