Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Bonus Points: Hugo Lloris (£5.5m) x3, Ben Chilwell (£6.1m) x2, Reece James (£5.1m) x1
If Premier League title crusades are built on the foundations of a rock-solid defence, then the dark horses of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur underscored their credentials in a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Owners of the attacking assets on show were forced to swallow rare blanks as the two backlines came out on top in a match that had little goalmouth action but plenty to dissect.
Frank Lampard summarised the game and the tentative approaches of the two managers perfectly:
It’s difficult to play against Tottenham when they defend in a low, central block. You have to try and go round them, and it’s not easy whilst making sure you don’t allow counter-attacking transition.
SITTING ON DEFENCE
Of the eight Gameweek 10 fixtures to be contested so far, this one had the fewest number of efforts on target (four) and the lowest expected goals (xG) total.
Edouard Mendy (£5.1m) was only extended once by a Serge Aurier (£5.2m) shot, while Hugo Lloris (£5.6m) collected maximum bonus points with the minimum of fuss, with just one of his three saves, from a long-distance Mason Mount (£6.8m) effort, causing him much concern.
Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Son Heung-min (£9.5m) failed to register a shot in the box between them, while Timo Werner‘s (£9.5m) only chance of note was flagged for offside.
But rather than bemoan the blanks of the attackers, let’s celebrate the achievements of the respective backlines.
They are, quite simply, the two best defences in the Premier League on current form: Chelsea with the most clean sheets (five), Spurs with the fewest goals conceded (nine).
The improvements on last season, when both defences were ropey to say the least, is marked.
For Chelsea, it’s been about savvy investment in defence, the acquisition of a competent goalkeeper and, latterly, the deployment of a system that gets the best out of N’Golo Kante (£4.9m).
As for Spurs, they too have benefitted from summer transfer activity in the form of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£4.9m) and Sergio Reguilon (£5.6m).
But 80% of their five-strong backline (including Lloris) in the win over Manchester City last weekend were here in 2019/20 and it’s perhaps more that we’re starting to see the fruits of Mourinho’s labour after 12 months in charge, with the ‘Special One’ renowned for his second-season achievements.
While the two clubs’ upcoming schedules are far from straightforward, who’d back against another three to four clean sheets apiece in December?
RODON HIS LUCK
The one change to Spurs’ starting XI this week saw Joe Rodon (£5.0m) come in for the injured Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) at centre-half.
A competent debut was almost marred by mistakes in either half and, as harsh as it sounds, there was little to suggest that the Belgian won’t make an immediate return alongside Eric Dier (£4.9m) when fit.
Mourinho said of Rodon’s full Premier League debut:
I’m very happy with Joe, very happy with the profile, and to be with my amazing coaching staff – Joao [Sacramento], Ledley [King], all these guys – coaching and teaching these guys, and working with Joe has been a pleasure.
I just feel sorry he can’t play in the Europa League because it would be a great level of experience for him, and I believe the biggest game he played before this one was Championship play-offs and a Wales national team match, so I’m very pleased that he could come here and for 90 minutes he made one mistake.
Dier made more mistakes than him, especially in ball possession, so I’m very happy with my team, very happy with my guys, very happy with this mentality – that we come to Stamford Bridge, we get a point, we are top of the league, and we are not happy.
Ben Chilwell’s (£6.1m) superb run of FPL form continued, with the left-back picking up two bonus points to maintain his average of 8.0 points per match in a Chelsea shirt.
Reece James (£5.1m) also collected a bonus point, the fifth occasion that has happened in eight league starts for the young right-back.
No Fantasy defender has more bonus points than James (nine) this season.
Given the nature of the fixtures of the last two Gameweeks, it’s perhaps no surprise that Spurs haven’t been the free-flowing attacking unit that we saw in September and October.
Kane and Son haven’t had a single shot in the box between them since before the November international break and the former was noticeably deep again at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The England striker’s underlying numbers had been dwindling slightly anyway (six shots in the six-yard box from Gameweeks 1-5, two thereafter), with perhaps the capitulation against West Ham marking a slight shift towards the conservative in Mourinho’s approach.
We weren’t expecting goal-fests from clashes with Manchester City and Chelsea and the acid test for the likes of Kane and Son will instead be in the next two Gameweeks, with Spurs up against two shot-shy sides that will no doubt prompt a different, front-foot approach from Mourinho and allow for a touch more expansive play.
Chelsea, similarly, will expect a far more open game against Leeds United next weekend, which should allow room for Werner and Hakim Ziyech (£8.3m), both of whom were stifled against Spurs.
Christian Pulisic (£8.2m) may be edging closer to a start in that match, having marked his return from injury with a 20-minute run-out against the Lilywhites on Sunday.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kovavic, Kante, Mount; Ziyech (Havertz 83), Abraham (Giroud 79), Werner (Pulisic 74).
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Rodon, Dier, Reguilon; Sissoko, Hojbjerg; Son Heung-min (Moura 90), Ndombele (Lo Celso 65), Bergwijn (Davies 89); Kane;
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 10
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Newcastle United
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 Liverpool
- Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
- Everton 0-1 Leeds United
- West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Sheffield United
- Southampton 2-3 Manchester United
- Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal 1-2 Wolves
- Leicester City 1-2 Fulham
- West Ham United 2-1 Aston Villa
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