Focus: Why Spurs' Dembele could make the difference against Chelsea
Having recorded back-to-back victories for only the second time this season, Chelsea would have hoped for an easy game to help rebuild their fragile confidence. Instead, they visit White Hart Lane –arguably the toughest place to play in the Premier League right now. Tottenham’s high-energy football and robust tactical system have seen them avoid defeat for 12 consecutive league matches, and against their local rivals Mauricio Pochettino will expect this record to be extended.
Tottenham’s high energy football and robust tactical system have seen them avoid defeat for 12 consecutive league matches
In a congested and gritty game of football, Mousa Dembele could be the difference. The Belgium international has been moved into an advanced midfield role in recent weeks, using his muscular presence to control midfield. Dembele completed five dribbles, four key passes, and had a remarkable 83 touches of the ball in Tottenham’s last match against West Ham.
Although Jose Mourinho is unlikely to play Cesc Fabregas in central midfield against such a difficult opponent, his replacement – Ramires – has not always performed with consistency in 2015/16 (2.3 tackles, 1.6 interceptions per match). Chelsea have conceded more goals from outside the box (four) than any team bar Newcastle, and a further six from just inside the box; an inability to track back effectively could allow the powerful Dembele to ruffle this fragile Chelsea side.
Chelsea’s best chance of success is on their left flank (40% of their attacks go down this wing, the second-most behind Manchester United), where Spurs' Kyle Walker is occasionally vulnerable to a mistake. Walker has been in greatly improved form this campaign, but three of Spurs’ last six goals conceded can be traced to his individual errors.
As West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini turned him inside and out before scoring a consolation goal in the dying minutes last weekend, Walker threw himself to the ground in disgust. Despite leading 4-0 at the time, he knows how important a clean sheet would have been for a team that have kept just one in 11 matches. Pedro or Eden Hazard (either could be picked to play on the left) will fancy their chances of creating a goal from this side.