Last night’s match between Tottenham and Chelsea had no shortage of drama, from red cards to disallowed goals to VAR interventions. The match was termed by some fans as a showcase of what a derby match should be like. In the end, Chelsea triumphed over Tottenham beating them on a 4-1 scoreline, with striker Nicolas Jackson scoring a hat-trick.
The trajectory of the match completely changed when Cristian Romero fouled Enzo Fernandez to receive a straight red and Chelsea scored from a penalty from that challenge. More bad news came Tottenham’s way when Micky van de Ven and James Maddison were substituted after injuries. Soon Destiny Udogie also received a red card and Spurs were down to 9 players on the field.
High backline strategy has been used by several teams over the years. It is a very risky system that exposes a team’s defense by trapping strikers in the offside trap. But unless their team has great defenders, this system is very difficult maintain.
Fans have taken to X, that Spurs’ high backline defense brought back memories of an old match from 1980 between Manchester United and Liverpool, where Liverpool’s defender, Alan Hansen broke through the Manchester United’s high backline by chipping it over the high backline and then pace through their defense to almost score a goal. Hansen found a way to easily break that defense unlike Chelsea who only figured it out only in the last ten minutes.
More recently, at the Quatar World Cup 2022, Argentina was shockingly defeated by Saudi Arabia in the group stage by employing the same tactic of high backline, getting Messi and fellow Argentinian players to fall into the offside trap.
Tottenham’s coach Ange Postecoglou brought with him, the high backline system to Tottenham and have successfully maintained it whole season. But once Tottenham lost Romero and Micky van de Ven, this high backline became hard to maintain.
In many ways, Chelsea reminded fans of the Alan Hansen offside escape, as Liverpool also couldn’t convert that excellent Hansen brilliance into a goal. Chelsea despite their win had countless chances to convert easy goals but Tottenham’s goalkeeper, Guglielmo Vicario stood in the way creating some amazing saves.
In the post-match interview, Tottenham coach, Postecoglou was asked why Spurs didn’t change tactics despite being down to nine men. He responded by saying “It’s just who we are mate, it is who we are and who we will be for as long as I am here… If we go down to five men mate, we will have a crack.”
Fans responded by praising Postecoglou and Tottenham’s courage to play the same way without changing tactics, while others criticized him for not reacting and for not setting defense in the box.