Football Features

Marc Cucurella shines as Chelsea continue Stamford Bridge rebuild with big win over Tottenham

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:43, 2 May 2024

Marc Cucurella was the unsung hero as Chelsea continued their rebuild of Fortress Stamford Bridge with a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.

There was a time when Chelsea were unbeatable at Stamford Bridge, going 86 games in the Premier League without defeat. It was a run that spanned four years and four managers, with Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari all chipping in.

Mourinho, of course, managed the majority of the wins while Scolari was in charge when Liverpool ended it in October 2008.

Although losses were coming over the years, Chelsea still had an air of invincibility about them when playing at home. However, in recent years that hasn’t been the case at all.

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Last season, Chelsea won just six of their 19 home league games, drawing seven and losing six. Across the two campaigns, Chelsea went on a run of eight games without victory at home in the Premier League — only ending that with a 3-0 win over Luton in August.

At the time, that proved to be a false dawn, though with Chelsea then going winless in five, losing three and drawing two. To add to the strangeness, Chelsea were beaten by Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Brentford without scoring, but drew with Arsenal and Manchester City.

However, since the start of December, things have been going well. The Blues have now won eight of their past 10 home league games, drawing one and only losing to Wolves.

The eighth win came against one of their favourite teams to play at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have lost just one of their past 34 home league games against Tottenham, with the only defeat coming when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge of the north London side in April 2018.

But since that defeat, Chelsea have won four and drawn two of their home league games against Tottenham. The victory on Thursday night made Pochettino the first manager to complete a Premier League double over Tottenham having previously managed them in the competition.

And his use of Cucurella very much played its part.

Starting at left-back, Cucurella actually spent a lot of the first half playing more as a central midfielder, mimicking what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing at Man City and Arsenal.

From this position, he both protected the Chelsea defence and was and additional man to flood the box when the Blues pressed. There were a few moments in the first half where he was the man making the run from deep into the box, almost Frank Lampard-esque.

Tottenham improved in the second half, and perhaps that was because Cucurella had been pushed back to his defensive position. But the Spaniard’s level didn’t drop, he was still there dealing with everything Tottenham threw at him.

Cucurella had more touches than any other Chelsea player with 72, 10 more than Moises Caicedo who was next up. He also won all nine of his duels, the best 100% record for both teams on the the night, winning possession five times.

Defensively, only Caicedo made more tackles than Cucurella’s four for Chelsea, but no one bettered the Spaniard’s interceptions. He also won four fouls and didn’t concede a single one himself. In fact, it was Cucurella who won the foul off Dejan Kulusevski for the free-kick that resulted in Chelsea’s second goal.

In terms of the goals, the damage was done with two set pieces. The first saw Trevoh Chalobah head home from Conor Gallagher’s free-kick, a wonderful effort across goal. Then, in the second half when Tottenham were threatening, Cole Palmer rattled the bar with a free-kick but Nicolas Jackson reacted quickest to head in the rebound.

It was a big win for an injury-hit Chelsea, who named a starting XI with an average age of 23 years and 91 days. That’s their second youngest of the season, after beating Crystal Palace 2-1 in December with an average age of 23 years and 21 days in their starting XI — the youngest among all sides in the Premier League this season.