Stamford Bridge hosts the first ‘Big Six’ clash of the 2022/23 Premier League season this weekend with Chelsea taking on Tottenham Hotspur.
These two sides finished third and fourth respectively last season and will be aiming for a much more comfortable top-four finish this time around while also entertaining hopes of a title challenge.
Embarking on their first full season under Antonio Conte’s tutelage, Tottenham got off to a brilliant start, beating Southampton 4-1 to sit top of the embryonic Premier League table. Chelsea, meanwhile, took on another of their former managers, beating Frank Lampard’s Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park.
But the first real test of these two sides’ credentials will be this weekend, and Chelsea have reason to be confident.
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In the 1990s and early 2000s, Chelsea dominated this fixture, going unbeaten in 32 league matches between February 1990 and November 2006 and losing just once in the League Cup during that period. Then, Tottenham started to frustrate Chelsea more, including in the 2008 League Cup final, and between 2018 and 2019 they actually won three games in a row against the Blues. One of those wins ended Tottenham’s 28-year wait for a win at Stamford Bridge, with Conte in charge of Chelsea at that time.
However, Chelsea have retaken control. Since losing 1-0 in the first leg of their 2019 EFL Cup semi-final, Chelsea have won nine of their 11 matches against Tottenham including the second leg. There has been one draw and one defeat, though that came via penalty shootout in the 2020/21 EFL Cup.
The past six matches have seen another level of dominance, too. Starting with a goalless draw in the league at Stamford Bridge in November 2020, Chelsea have gone six games without conceding a single goal against Tottenham, winning five and scoring nine themselves. That is upwards of 540 minutes. Last season alone, Chelsea beat Tottenham four times across all competitions, scoring eight and keeping four clean sheets, with three victories falling inside 19 days back in January.
That hat-trick of Chelsea wins triggered the first rocky period of Conte’s time in charge of Tottenham but they came through it and have taken their team to another level. One of reasons for that is, of course, Conte’s management but the evolution of their front three through the transfer market has also been key.
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On the final day of the January transfer window, Tottenham signed Dejan Kulusevski on an 18-month loan from Juventus and, after making his Premier League debut from the bench, quickly jumped ahead of Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn to be the third man in Conte’s attacking trident alongside Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.
Since his debut, Kulusevski has been directly involved in 15 goals in the Premier League, scoring six goals and providing nine assists. Across Europe’s top five leagues in 2022, only two players have recorded more assists than Kulusevski, Ousmane Dembele (11) and Lionel Messi (10), so the Swede is in excellent company.
During that time, Kulusevski has also averaged 1.87 chances created per 90 minutes, 1.73 take-ons completed and scored his six goals from an xG of 3.73.
But as mentioned, Kulusevski is not shining alone. Conte has both Kane and Son firing on all cylinders, too, the latter especially so after a slow start to the 2021/22 campaign following his failed move to Manchester City.
Again focussing on 2022 alone, Kane, Son and Kulusevski have combined to score 34 goals in the Premier League to contribute to Tottenham’s overall tally of 51. While Tottenham are top of the 2022 scoring charts, one clear of Manchester City, they have played the most games of any Premier League club at 22 – three more than Pep Guardiola’s side.
Remarkably though, the trio of Kane, Son and Kulusevski’s 34 is good enough to finish fourth on their own — or third if you subtract their goals from Tottenham’s total tally. Beyond City, Liverpool are the only other team to have outscored the trio with 46, while Sunday’s opponents Chelsea have also scored 34.
Of course, Son’s 15 goals in 2022 played a big part in the South Korean winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot for 2021/22, jointly holding the award alongside Mohamed Salah.
Tottenham’s attack now extends beyond Kane-Son-Kulusevski, too, with the club also adding Richarlison to their roster, though the Brazilian was unavailable for the game against Southampton due to an FA ban.
And the north London club’s transfer market movement in recent months has Arsenal legend Ian Wright scared.
“There is an assured silence from Spurs, at the moment, which is quite frightening,” Wright said on his Wrighty’s House podcast.
“Simply because they don’t normally work like this. Conte is in charge. You can see that. Daniel Levy has given him, what, £150 million?
“He’s said ‘okay, just go and do your stuff’. The signings. Richarlison, he could play instead of Harry Kane and Son. Or with them both. Great signing.
“Then Kulusevski is playing well. Every time he gets the ball, he does something assertive and it’s quality. Everything that he does, he is looking to hurt the team.”
However Conte decides to line his side up at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Tottenham fans must fancy their chances of ending the six-game goal drought.