28 min: Chelsea have done a number on Tottenham so far. Moving David Luiz into the middle and denying Tottenham space is working a treat. Tottenham don’t have brilliance in the wide areas today, so squeezing Alli and Eriksen is a clever tactic.
27 min: Davies curls the corner in from the right, but Alderweireld heads wide.
26 min: Tottenham look for an immediate response, winning a free-kick on the left. Eriksen’s inswinger’s headed over by Bakayoko again
GOAL! Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea (Alonso, 24 min)
Willian scored a free-kick against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final; Marcos Alonso scores one today. And this is a stunner. It was made for the Spaniard’s left foot. The ball was a little to the right of centre, 25 yards out. Willian stood over it, but he left it to Alonso, who bent a superb effort over the wall, sending it curling to the left of the despairing Lloris and into the top corner! Chelsea deservedly lead thanks to a moment of brilliance.
23 min: A Chelsea free-kick’s only half cleared and Dele Alli ends up conceding another on the edge of the Spurs area with a trip on David Luiz. This is a big chance for Chelsea. Willian scored a free-kick in the FA Cup semi-final here last season.
21 min: “Did Kane run seemingly slowly, but cover the ground suprisingly quickly?” says Charles Antaki. “Or (less likely) did he look like he was running fast, but was in fact just miming it while in fact moving quite slowly? “Deceptively X” is a conundrum introduced int the English language by, I think, estate agents in the 1980s, making it impossible now to decide whether a ‘deceptively large’ room is spacious or tiny.”
Kane never looks like he’s running at a particularly high speed, but he has a powerful way of striding along. He can look slow, but he often seems to be able to get away from defenders when he lollops down the left.
20 min: David Luiz shoots from 20 yards. It’s a Courtois of an effort
19 min: Dembele barrels away from David Luiz and lets fly from 25 yards. A deflection takes it just over for a corner, which leads to a whole lot of nothing.
18 min: Are Tottenham piping the sound of a drum over the loudspeaker in order to create an atmosphere?
17 min: This is very … tactical.
15 min: A horrible mistake from Christensen, who fails to deal with a long ball from Alderweireld, lets in Alli, but the Tottenham forward lets off the inexperienced Chelseadefender by wildly blazing over from a tight angle.
13 min: Lloris’s clearance is charged down by Morata. Fortunately for the Tottenham goalkeeper, the ball doesn’t spin towards his own goal and he’s able to gather the ball before Morata can pinch it off him.
12 min: Kane goes one of those deceptively quick runs down the left flank, but David Luiz does enough to pressure him and the striker’s cross is harmless.
10 min: A pattern is developing, Tottenham seeing most of the ball, Chelsea sitting back. All of a sudden, Kane turns 30 yards from goal, allowed to do so far too easily by Kante. Ever positive, the striker decides to shoot. It’s hit low and hard and Courtois makes a mess of it even though it’s straight at him, spilling the ball. Luckily for the Chelsea goalkeeper, no one’s there to capitalise for Tottenham.
9 min: Tottenham haven’t got going yet. Blame Wembley.
6 min: A free-kick to Tottenham midway through Chelsea’s half, Luiz fouling Alli. It’s played out to Dier. His whipped cross is headed over by Bakayoko, but the corner comes to nothing
5 min: Chelsea continue to press. David Luiz rolls a pass to Cesar Azpilicueta on the right. He lifts a cross into the six-yard box, where Alvaro Morata has crept in between Alderweireld and Trippier. With only Hugo Lloris to beat, somehow he steers his header a few yards wide of the left post. What a miss from the Spaniard. He can’t believe it. Nor can Antonio Conte.
4 min: Chelsea have started brightly. Kante curls a cross in from the left, but Morata can’t direct his header goalwards. Chelsea win possession back quickly, though. They’re enjoying plenty of early possession.
2 min: David Luiz is playing in midfield for Chelsea, with N’Golo Kante and Timoue Bakayoko also in there with him. They won’t be easy to break down.
And we’re off! Chelsea, all in blue, get the game underway at Wembley. They’re kicking from right to left in the first half. Tottenham are in white shirts and navy shorts. The visitors are immediately on the attack, Morata linking well with Willian, but Moses’s dangerous cross flashes across the face of goal.
The teams arrive. The first ever Premier League match at Wembley is minutes away!
The Tottenham fans are all waving flags as they wait for the teams to emerge. A sense of anticipation is building. Can Tottenham play here? 18 wins and one draw in the league at White Hart Lane last season; three defeats in five at Wembley. Can they play on this pitch? Will it suit their pressing style? What a boost it would be if they can win today. What an opportunity for Tottenham to show just how good they are. “Those tops Spurs wear during warmups are horrendous,” says JR in Illinois. “Whoever designed them needs to be sacked. And perhaps imprisoned for a short spell to consider what they have done. Okay, prison may be harsh. Just fine them and make them responsible for gathering all existing shirts and burning them.”
Antonio Conte is back in his suit today. Well, it is Wembley.
“Tough on Walker-Peters,” says Jeremy Dresner. “MOTM by some accounts against Newcastle and yet benched at big stadium. Understandable I feel after the fateful Son tackle last season that inexperienced fullbacks don’t go up against Victor Moses. The leather worn head of Cahill is not there to nod the crosses away today so I think it’s the right call as Trippier can curl them beautifully. KWP will get more chances.”
Mauricio Pochettino should have taken pity on Chelsea and put Son at wing-back again. Doesn’t he know how to play host?
Tottenham make two changes from the side that beat Newcastle last week. Kieran Trippier comes in for Kyle Walker-Peters after passing a late fitness test and Victor Wanyama is ready to replace Moussa Sissoko in midfield. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are still absent.
As for Chelsea, that’s one makeshift team. Paulo Ferriera and Michael Essien start at centre-back, Eddie Newton’s in midfield and John Spencer leads the line. Antonio Conte suggested the other day that he might put a goalkeeper in midfield. It was either that or registering himself. The suspension of Cesc Fabregas, the sale of Nemanja Matic, plus the decision to let go of Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left Conte with a selection headache. However he’s responded by pushing David Luiz forward, while Timoue Bakayoko is rushed back from a knee injury to make his debut after his move from Monaco. The focus seems to be on containment. With so many players unavailable, word is that Conte has gone for a 3-5-1-1. Andreas Christensen replaces the suspended Gary Cahill at the back, Victor Moses replaces Jeremie Boga and Alvaro Morata might be quite isolated up front on his full debut. 1-0 to Chelsea, then.
Tottenham: Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Trippier, Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Eriksen; Alli, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Walker-Peters, Wimmer, Son, Sissoko, Janssen, Winks.
Chelsea: Courtois; Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta; Moses, Bakayoko, David Luiz, Kante, Alonso; Willian; Morata. Subs: Caballero, Musonda, Batshuayi, Pedro, Kenedy, Tomori, Scott.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Judging by Antonio Conte’s demented completely genuine laughter when Diego Costa’s latest batch of complaints were put to him on Friday afternoon, it seems the Chelsea manager has decided to adopt David Brent’s approach to staying motivated at work. It doesn’t matter if a professional wind-up merchant has decided to make life miserable for you all the way from Brazil. Just laugh! It’ll reduce your stress levels! Look! Hoo hoo hoo! Feels good, doesn’t it? It’s the cure for every ailment. Take your eye off the ball and let Manchester United have Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic? Hee hee hee! Fail to persuade Juventus to sell Alex Sandro? Ho ho ho! Let a host of squad players go without properly replacing them? Ha ha ha! Let Thibaut Courtois almost knock down the Wembley arch during a shootout defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield? Tee hee hee!
You can apply it to every scenario, no matter how infuriating. Three-nil down at half-time at home to Burnley in your opening match because your centre-back has got himself sent off after 10 minutes? Laugh. Almost mount an unlikely second-half comeback, only for one of your best players to add a second yellow card to his earlier booking for dissent? Funny. Find yourself looking up what “down to the bare bones” means before your second match, which happens to be away to one of your main title rivals? LOL. Find yourself suffering from such a shortage of central midfielders that you might have to give a debut to Timoue Bakayoko even though his knee’s being held together by paper clips? ROFL. Manage at a club where you can get sacked the year after winning the double in your first season? Careful, Antonio, you’ll split your sides if you laugh any harder!
This is the point where we have to acknowledge that the season’s one week old. It’s four months since Conte’s Chelsea steamrollered to the title. Anyone who talks about crisis should be forced to give Nigel Farage acting lessons in preparation for the Brexit movie. It’s far too early for any definitive judgements, even if it is high time we had a serious chat about whether Arsene Wenger’s the right man for Arsenal. We really should know better: the narrative will change if they summon the resilience to win today. But history suggests that Conte is already under pressure. Chelsea are hardly renowned for giving managers time and patience. At the end of last season, they seemed determined not to repeat the mistakes of their previous two title defences. Lose to Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon, however, and Chelsea could be on for that “Mourinho season” that Conte is so desperate to avoid.
But while Chelsea grasp for stability, it must be remembered that these are also uncertain times for Tottenham. They did begin the season promisingly, winning 2-0 at Newcastle thanks to Agent Shelvey. But you might have heard that this match is taking place at Wembley, Tottenham’s home for the year while work on New White Hart Lane is finished. They struggled here last season, losing three out of five matches, including a 4-2 defeat to Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final, Pochettino’s exciting young side could do with beginning their tenancy on a positive note. After all, Chelsea have had a few too many laughs at their expense down the years.