Dele Alli ex­poses Chelsea’s reliance on Jorginho

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer -

The man-mark­ing of the Spurs mid­fielder sti­fled the life from the Ital­ian’s pass­ing game

It was left to Spurs’ Dele Alli to lay bare a tac­ti­cal ap­proach which has punc­tured the op­ti­mism around Mau­r­izio Sarri’s pre­vi­ously un­beaten start at Chelsea. The Eng­land mid­fielder had just sti­fled the life from Jorginho’s game, his en­ergy ren­der­ing a player whose calm distri­bu­tion is so key to his team’s ap­proach flus­tered and, even­tu­ally, rather for­lorn.

By the end of Sat­ur­day’s con­test the Italy in­ter­na­tional ac­tu­ally felt more of a hin­drance to a team who have re­volved around his metro­nomic pass­ing in con­tests where they have hogged the ball.

“They’ve had a new man­ager come in, they’ve been per­form­ing very well, and he’s a big part of them play­ing out from the back and dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion,” said Alli of his op­po­nent. “He’s ob­vi­ously a very good player, and likes get­ting on the ball, and we knew that. We thought we could stop that. We wanted to win the ball high up the pitch, so I was as close to him as pos­si­ble to make sure we won the ball up high, broke early and cre­ated the chances we did. On an­other day we could have scored a lot more.”

The tac­tic is hardly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Ever­ton had asked Richarli­son, their lone for­ward, to snap into Jorginho at Stam­ford Bridge in Chelsea’s pre­vi­ous match. The mid­fielder had duly been rat­tled, booked for a nasty chal­lenge, nul­li­fied for a lit­tle over an hour and then re­placed.

Stale­mate

Alli sug­gested Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino had not showed them that goal­less stale­mate as prepa­ra­tion for their own derby, but his in­struc­tions were still clear. There were times when Alli vir­tu­ally man-marked Jorginho, the pair al­most com­ing to blows be­fore half-time. The Chelsea player fin­ished the match, but com­pleted only 43 of his 52 passes, his fewest in a Premier League game to date. All of which left Sarri con­fronted with a prob­lem.

If he can­not find a way of coun­ter­ing the smoth­er­ing of his linch­pin, then does the club’s £57m sum­mer sign­ing truly jus­tify his se­lec­tion? It did not feel so much of an is­sue while Chelsea were stretch­ing their un­beaten league start to 12 matches, but it now feels per­ti­nent to ask.

Jorginho’s in­clu­sion, after all, has al­ready forced N’Golo Kanté into a new role where, in all hon­esty, he still ap­pears un­com­fort­able against the bet­ter teams, his new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties de­tract­ing from the busiest and most ef­fec­tive de­fen­sive mid­fielder in the di­vi­sion.

Pos­ses­sion

Tot­ten­ham were more than happy to per­mit Kanté his pos­ses­sion in ad­vanced ar­eas, con­fi­dent his fi­nal pass or shot would not wound them. Eden Haz­ard, upon whom Chelsea lean so much as an at­tack­ing force, was forced ever deeper in search of the ball. He limped away, though his “ça va” through grit­ted teeth sug­gested his bruised right an­kle would sur­vive an­other week.

More teams will pre­sum­ably fol­low suit now in at­tempt­ing to sti­fle Jorginho at source – it re­mains to be seen whether Ful­ham have the per­son­nel to do so next Sun­day – and a player who demon­strated pedi­gree in Italy will have to show an abil­ity to re­spond.

Con­front

He will not con­front teams as well equipped as Spurs ev­ery week. Ev­ery­thing about their ap­proach, through mid­field and up front, was ro­bust and ag­gres­sive, with Alli’s dis­play so in­te­gral. It has not been the eas­i­est start to the cam­paign for the 22-year-old. There have been nig­gling in­juries to dis­rupt form, ef­fec­tively cost­ing him a place in Eng­land’s first-choice se­lec­tion, and un­wanted at­ten­tion off the pitch, but class tends to shine through in the end.

His opener on Sat­ur­day was a sixth in as many games against Chelsea. Elite teams seem to coax the best from him.

“He was at his best and very con­sis­tent,” said Po­chet­tino, who rather en­joys Alli’s spikier side.

“He made a mas­sive im­pact when he joined us but it is never easy for a young guy to be con­sis­tent when so many things hap­pen – and many things have hap­pened be­cause he is so young. Some­times he has done badly for him­self.

Char­ac­ter

“He’s still so young, but some­times you need to con­trol the char­ac­ter. He makes a lot of mis­takes still, but we are here help­ing by be­ing nice but strong too. We want to give him a re­ally strong base and foun­da­tion to go on even higher.”

Maybe the slight tweak­ing of his own po­si­tion has af­fected Alli’s form. “Ob­vi­ously I feel like it’s been a bit of a slow sea­son for me so far,” he ad­mit­ted. “I’ve been play­ing well when I’ve played. I picked up some in­juries, but I’ve been work­ing hard on the train­ing field and in the gym. I think my role has changed a lit­tle bit. I’m play­ing a lit­tle bit deeper, I’m not al­ways think­ing about scor­ing goals or as­sist­ing.”

But he will carry form into mouth-wa­ter­ing con­tests ahead, against In­ter­nazionale on Wed­nes­day night and then at Arse­nal on Sun­day. Spurs, third and up­wardly mo­bile, are a threat.

– Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ANDY RAIN/EPA

Harry Kane cel­e­brates with team­mates Serge Aurier and Dele Alli at Wem­b­ley yes­ter­day.

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