As Marcos Alonso trundled over to take Chelsea’s second corner of the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, there would have been an element of confusion among the Spurs’ players. This, quite simply, wasn’t meant to happen.
Neither was what followed. Not from a Tottenham perspective at least. Alonso swung his delivery into the penalty area and Thiago Silva arrived, timed his jump to perfection, and guided his header beyond a helpless Hugo Lloris.
The celebrations in front of the Chelsea supporters were wild. Players and fans alike knew how important a moment it was, that Silva’s goal was the turning point in what had been a difficult encounter. So it proved across the remainder of the second period.
Thomas Tuchel’s side would go on to record a 3-0 victory on Tottenham’s patch. N’Golo Kante added to Silva’s opener and several chances were spurned before Antonio Rudiger guided a shot home in stoppage time. It was a hugely impressive turnaround.
The substitution of Kante for Mason Mount at the interval played its part. Yet Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo felt it was Alonso’s corner that was the match game-altering moment.
“I think the change of the game was a set-piece after that it became really hard for us to get back into the game,” he said. “After the goal we conceded, we started chasing a result. With the quality of players that Chelsea have they create problems, straight balls, running in behind and that is the main reason.
“We are going to analyse, there are lots of things we have to look at, but the first impression is the way we conceded really punished us after all the energy we put into the first half.”
Let’s reflect on that corner and discuss why it was so different from anything Chelsea had concocted prior to their trip to north London.
In their opening four Premier League matches this term and in last week’s Champions League victory over Zenit, the Blues had won 20 corner kicks. And these have been taken by an array of stars: Mount, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, and, of course, Alonso.
Yet intriguingly, according to FBRef, not a single one of those corners was an out-swinger. They were either delivered straight, played short, or were in-swinging crosses.
And this is not a new phenomenon either. There were no out-swinging deliveries in the final three games of last season – the 2-0 victory over Leicester City, the 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa, the Champions League final victory over Manchester City – despite Chelsea being awarded 16 corners in those matches.
It’s clear this hasn’t happened by accident. It is by design, be it at the behest of Tuchel or one of the members of his coaching staff. Yet against Spurs, there was a change to this process, albeit likely one forced upon the Blues by circumstance.
The substitution of Mount at half time meant the right-footed players left on the pitch were Cesar Azpilicueta, Silva, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. None of whom, for various reasons, are going to take a corner.
So after Alonso forced Emerson Royal to turn the ball behind, he was the only genuine candidate on the pitch to deliver from the right-hand side. And if that meant his cross was an out-swinger, so be it.
Were Tottenham caught out? Perhaps. Did Silva adjust his run accordingly? Maybe. The Brazilian left it very late to break into the penalty area and attack the ball, potentially because he knew he’d have a split second longer to do so with the ball arching into his general direction.
Whatever the thought process was, it worked. And during the remainder of the game, there were a couple more out-swinging deliveries from Alonso, one of which led to Rudiger’s goal, although plenty happened after the Spaniard slung the ball into the penalty area.
It will be intriguing to note in the games ahead of the in-swinging-only policy returns or if there will be more variation to Chelsea’s corners. As yesterday proved, the Blues’ defenders can pose just as big a threat no matter how the ball is crossed.
Source by Football London