Ange Postecoglou is wrong... Tottenham have huge set-piece problems and Chelsea took advantage

Ange Postecoglou cut a frustrated figure on the touchline (REUTERS)
Ange Postecoglou cut a frustrated figure on the touchline (REUTERS)

As soon as Trevoh Chalobah nodded home Conor Gallagher’s dead ball, this Premier League clash was game, set-piece and mismatch for Tottenham.

By the time Nicolas Jackson looped in a header after Cole Palmer’s free-kick struck the bar, Spurs were embroiled in one of their worst defeats of the season.

Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou has insisted at least four times now that he does not care about specialist set-piece coaching.

The relentless verbal volleys the Tottenham chief blasted at his players from the Stamford Bridge touchline in a wretched 2-0 loss said otherwise.

Chelsea’s headed finishes from Chalobah and Jackson makes 16 set-piece goals conceded in this Premier League season for Spurs – almost a third of all league efforts the north Londoners have leaked.

Tottenham fell behind to another goal from a set-piece (REUTERS)
Tottenham fell behind to another goal from a set-piece (REUTERS)

Added to the two goals Tottenham conceded from corners against Arsenal on Sunday, and there surely remains no argument on Spurs’ set-piece shortcomings.

Postecoglou quoted Billy Joel’s hit You May Be Right in defence of his laissez-faire set-piece attitude in the Stamford Bridge build-up.

The likeable Aussie was probably left referencing American hitmaker Joel’s back catalogue again after Spurs’ 10th league defeat of the campaign, in declaring Don’t Ask Me Why.

Spurs will perhaps be most furious with wasting the first of their two games in hand on Aston Villa in the race for a fourth-place Premier League finish.

On a night where Villa were locked in Europa Conference League action, Spurs still somehow conspired to improve their top-four rivals’ Premier League position.

Marc Cucurella’s block on Brennan Johnson for Chalobah’s opener was so half-hearted it was a wonder the officials bothered with a VAR check for a possible foul.

Check they did though, but all that offered was prolonged agony for a slipshod Spurs side who fell prey to their set-piece shortcomings once again. Even Johnson knew his flimsy protests to fourth official Tim Robinson were wafer thin.

Heung-min Son and Dejan Kulusevski were left almost hugging as Jackson’s header dropped into the net for Chelsea’s second goal. The senior Spurs duo could probably have done with comforting each other, after a night to forget in west London.

Tottenham’s lack of alignment was not limited to set-pieces either.

Four times in the first-half alone, Chelsea all too easily exploited the same systemic defensive issue for Spurs. All it would take was a facile reverse ball through Chelsea’s inside-left channel, and Spurs’ shape fell apart.

The spacing between Cristian Romero at right centre-back, Pedro Porro at right-back and Pape Matar Sarr at right midfield was so far out of kilter that the Blues strolled through the gaps almost at will.

Micky van de Ven had to clear off the line after the first of such raids, as Nicolas Jackson nudged the ball through Guglielmo Vicario’s legs.

Spurs did at least rally as far as creating space for Sarr to strike on goal but the Senegal star slipped and clipped well wide. Romero nodded wide with the goal at his mercy too, but Spurs could have precious few complaints in trailing 1-0 at the break.

A relative rally after the interval only briefly raised hopes of a comeback, with Spurs still far too open in defensive transition and Chelsea spurning a host of half-chances.

Jackson was left to twist the knife on Spurs again then, to add to his hat-trick in north London in November. To paraphrase Billy Joel again, given they trail Villa by seven points, for Spurs, fifth place waits for you.