Premier League: 5 big talking points from Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea
A double from Marcos Alonso gave Chelsea victory in Tottenham's first Premier League match at Wembley - FFT's Chris Flanagan was there to assess the action
1. Spurs’ Wembley woes continue
Tottenham didn’t lose a single league match at White Hart Lane last season – in their first Premier League fixture at Wembley, they succumbed to defeat.
In reality, they didn’t deserve to lose – they had 18 shots and 68 per cent possession. But Spurs have now won just one and lost seven of their last 10 competitive matches at Wembley, not an encouraging statistic when they’ll be playing their entire season at the stadium.
There was always a sense that this was a critical match in their season, more critical than just a battle for three points with their neighbours and potential rivals in the upper reaches of the table. Beat Chelsea, and their problems at Wembley would be forgotten, allowing them to approach the rest of the campaign with confidence.
Defeat puts only further doubts into the players’ minds, even if Mauricio Pochettino insisted afterwards that Wembley was not the reason for the result - just as he'd insisted after Champions League defeats to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen last season.
"It's unfair to blame Wembley," he said. Asked if the greater pitch dimensions had been a factor, he said: "Please, we need to stop. If you watched the game, you will see that Wembley wasn't the problem. We created chances, but Chelsea were clinical."
2. Who needs Alex Sandro?
Chelsea have been chasing Juventus left wing back Alex Sandro in recent weeks, so Marcos Alonso sent a rather timely message by netting both of the Blues’ goals at Wembley.
Alonso was probably not expected to be a regular in the Chelsea side when he was signed last summer, but he was one of their most impressive players in 2016/17, after benefiting from their switch to three at the back.
With Juventus reportedly putting a £73m price tag on Alex Sandro, has it really been necessary for Chelsea to consider paying so much for another left wing back? Undoubtedly they need another option, should Alonso get injured - but should they be considering relegating the Spaniard to second choice if he’s in goalscoring form like this?
3. Wembley can’t be like White Hart Lane
“I don’t care that we’re only renting it,” a Spurs fan said as he left Wembley Park tube station and looked down Wembley Way towards his club’s temporary home. “What a place to rent.”
Tottenham had faced Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup semi final only four months previously but, at least before kick-off, this felt different. In the first game of Spurs’ year-long stay at the home of English football, the club had clearly made an effort to make Wembley feel like their own.
Huge Spurs banners lined Wembley Way, alongside advertising hoardings bearing the images of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and co. Inside the stadium, a giant cockerel banner hung from the roof. A sea of Spurs flags waved before kick-off, handed out to fans in an attempt to make the occasion special.
The atmosphere for Tottenham’s first Premier League match at Wembley certainly wasn’t bad – after all, they were roared on by twice as many fans as could fit into White Hart Lane, with 73,587 present. That was still 16,500 short of capacity – a few seats in the top tier remained empty, while others were cordoned off as part of an agreement with the local council, who requested reduced attendances for ‘high risk’ fixtures, including the North London derby with Arsenal in February.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was impressed with the Wembley experience - even though only 3,000 tickets were given to visiting fans, the minimum under Premier League regulations. Therein lies the problem though - the away team relished the experience, as every away team will this season. "To see this atmosphere was great," he said. "It’s amazing also for the opponent."
It was never going to be exactly like White Hart Lane, with fans not as close to the pitch and the atmosphere lacking the same intimidation factor. There were also noticeable first-half lulls, greeted by the sound of a drum in a bid to pep things up, leading only to ironic cheers from Chelsea fans.
There are far worse places that Spurs could have moved to, but there’s only one way that Wembley will really begin to feel like home for Spurs: and that’s with results.
4. Christensen ready for Premier League
Antonio Conte handed a Premier League full debut to Danish defender Andreas Christensen. The 21-year-old has been highly rated for some time but spent the last two years on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach. Summoned off the bench 18 minutes into last week’s opening match against Burnley after Gary Cahill’s red card, things didn’t go ideally for Christensen: Chelsea conceded three times before half time.
This time it went rather better. Christensen’s display was encouraging – operating in the centre of the Blues’ three-man backline, he was largely commanding in the air, and made the role his own. On this evidence, he could be ready for regular football with Chelsea this season.
5. Bakayoko will improve with fitness
Tiemoue Bakayoko was making his Chelsea debut, although it wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar experience for him: he lined up for Monaco in an away game against Spurs at Wembley last season, in the Champions League. He won 2-1 on that occasion too.
Bakayoko missed the opening game of the season because of injury and is still building up match fitness, so perhaps understandably made a slow start to this game.
Antonio Conte’s decision to effectively play three defensive midfielders – moving David Luiz into midfield in between Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante in a 3-5-1-1 formation – meant that the new boy was playing a little wider and further forward than he would do normally, and he possibly didn’t add enough in an attacking sense. Again, though, that was understandable – the role was not ideally suited to him.
Bakayoko gradually grew into the game, though, and completed the 90 minutes. His workrate was certainly noticeable. While it wasn't the perfect debut, there were enough signs that he will flourish when he gets up to full fitness and Luiz moves back to central defence, as seems likely.
"It was the first game for Baka, but sometimes the motivation helps you if you're not in the top physical condition," Conte said afterwards. "It brought him to an amazing performance, but for sure he can improve. He needs to adapt more to our style of football."
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Chris joined FourFourTwo in 2015 and has reported from 20 countries, in places as varied as Jerusalem and the Arctic Circle. He's interviewed Pele, Zlatan and Santa Claus (it's a long story), as well as covering Euro 2020 and the Clasico. He previously spent 10 years as a newspaper journalist, and completed the 92 in 2017.
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