It was an issue that plagued Frank Lampard’s team for much of last season and Jose Mourinho, having been outwitted by his former player twice in the Premier League, got his tactics spot on.
Despite dominating possession, especially in the opening period, Chelsea managed three shots on target and none between the 18th and 73rd minute.
While it was easy to point a finger at Olivier Giroud for his ineffectiveness before being replaced by Tammy Abraham in the 76th minute, the France striker had just 22 touches and one of those came in the Spurs penalty area.
The simple explanation is that the service was poor and much of that issue rested with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, whose passiveness against an opponent so willing to sit back has been an issue too many times in the past 13 months.
Chelsea’s defence hogged a lot of the ball too – Kurt Zouma taking 104 touches, Cesar Azpilicueta 99, Fikayo Tomori 94, Ben Chilwell and Emerson Palmieri 99. Combined they attempted 322 passes, 67 shy of Spurs’ entire return.
It was possession for possession’s sake, too much time spent in the back-and-forth U shape that Pep Guardiola despises.
Such ball retention is fine when a game is put beyond doubt but at 1-0, with a defence that makes a habit of coughing up at least one daft mistake a game, it is asking for trouble.
There needs to be more cutting edge, more brevity on the ball and until that happens the exciting, expensive attacking recruits will not live up to their full potential.
The chances of Jorginho and Kovacic playing as a double pivot seems even more remote after last night – N’Golo Kante has to be at the base of midfield, both Havertz and Mason Mount are more effective centrally – but Lampard is still struggling to find the right balance.
It is another issue that needs a quick remedy in an inauspicious start to the season.