Battle lost but war still to be won: Three things we learned about Tottenham in Chelsea defeat
By Matt Farr
Football Insider analyses three of the main talking points from Tottenham’s 4-2 FA Cup semi final defeat to rivals Chelsea on Saturday.
Chelsea contest far from over
It was Chelsea that won the battle in Saturday’s FA Cup clash, but Tottenham can still win the war; even with the odds stacking up against them. The defeat did bring an end to Tottenham’s hopes of domestic cup title, but their hopes of usurping Chelsea in a Premier League title challenge remain a faint possibility. Tottenham can have Manchester United to thank if they do go on to win the league title, with Jose Mourinho’s side beating the league leaders 2-0 in their last encounter. Tottenham, meanwhile, cranked up the pressure with a 4-0 win over Bournemouth, moving them to within four points of Chelsea. They still have work to do if they are to draw level with Chelsea, let alone overtake them, but they can do their bit by continuing to win games.
Left-sided experiment backfired
Mauricio Pochettino elected to axe regular full-back pair Ben Davies and Kyle Walker from his starting eleven, entrusting Jan Vertonghen with a rare start as left-back, and Son Heung-Min as a deep-lying left winger. However, Pochettino’s experiment did not have the desired effect, as Chelsea frequently looked to exploit their weakness and unfamiliarity on the left-flank. Although Vertonghen is adept at playing as a left full-back, the Belgian has been ever-present as a centre-back this season, and it might have been better to persist with Davies and keep Vertonghen in his more familiar role. His task was made no easier by the defensive struggles of Son ahead of him, meanwhile. The South Korean likes to play high up the pitch, and Chelsea caught him out of position on several occasions, leaving Vertonghen exposed. The majority of Chelsea’s attacks came down Tottenham’s left, with Victor Moses proving more difficult for Son than vice versa. Unsurprisingly, Pochettino turned to Walker in place of Son mid-way through the second-half. His rival Antonio Conte, meanwhile, chose to leave out Eden Hazard and start Willian in his place, with the Brazilian scoring twice, and Hazard also finding the back of the net off the bench. One manager profited from the selection gambles, but it wasn’t Pochettino.
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Eriksen is the most prized asset
The 25-year-old has been the figure at the heart of much of Tottenham’s attacking potency this season. But while the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli have the majority of the goals to their name, Eriksen does much of his work behind the scenes. The Denmark international has contributed 11 goals and 19 assists from 42 appearances in all competitions for Tottenham this season, bagging an incredible assist for Alli’s goal. Eriksen has the vision and he has the passing range, but such pinpoint execution on a consistent basis is what makes him a special player, and that is why he is arguably Tottenham’s most prized asset.
In other Tottenham news, here is how the players rated during the defeat.