Spurs 0 Chelsea 0
Jose Mourinho, the master of sucking the life out of football. I can hardly blame him. If his team weren’t so deliberately fearful we’d have sliced them open, even if we did look leggy in the latter stages (in the end, neither side did enough to make a telling breakthrough). Pre-match, I had this game down as a test of character. Chelsea with more than enough about them to sting us on the counter or via a set-piece, regardless of recent form. They didn’t have to turn up and attempt to out play us. All they had to do is contain. If we happened to score first then the game would open up and suit our style. None of that played out. They sat deep, congested the midfield and a sense of fluid rhythm resembled the robot rather than peak ballroom.
The game wasn’t pretty to watch and ultimately a little untidy (especially with the amount of yellow cards we picked up). We had the best of all the stats (completed passes, shots on target, possession etc) which is consequential to home advantage and the opposing teams tactics. They did force Hugo Lloris into a wonder-save from Eden Hazard, which was the only thing he had to do, but did it miraculously. We tested their keeper a few times. There's not much more to digest to be fair. It was just one of those lacklustre occasions where the game lost any hope of entertainment somewhere in amongst the midfield battles.
You can’t be that surprised considering this was a Mourinho side and for all his pre-match patronising about how there’s no pressure on Maurico Pochettino or Spurs, it was nice that Poch could fire a shot back in the post-match interviews suggesting Chelsea had a small club mentality in how they set up shop. Such is their fragility and lack of trust (in players from coaching staff) that they dared not risk a more proactive approach.
We were solid. Mousa Demeble again influential, although having to slot back into a deeper position after Ryan Mason went off injured. The system worked as per usual however the energy levels were in no way comparable to say the West Ham game (where we apparently ran 6km further than we did on Sunday). We tried to carve out opportunities, but that final touch wasn’t evident enough. Meanwhile the visitors excelled in rolling around and making constant eye contact with the referee.
I guess I could sit here and generate hot air aplenty about our Thursday night success in Azerbaijan for the sake of reactionary rhetoric, screaming murder that we failed to beat Chelsea because we didn’t rest enough players on Thursday. That this is somehow a worthy criticism of the coach (for prioritising the wrong opponent) and also the chairman for not bolstering the squad to allow us for that extra depth of quality to combat the Thursday to Sunday schedule. I could. But then I’m not out of touch with reality.
The noon kickoff was ridiculous. Makes not logistical sense, not just for club (and the fixture list) but also if you’re going to the game, it hardly allows time for a drink. We had to get the job done in the Europa. Not doing so would have threatened qualification. Regardless of the fact this competition remains a chore and one that is quite obviously not as important as the league games (in terms of application the players exert) it would be madness to throw away all the effort right at the end. Winning means we don’t need to worry about the Monaco fixture. Winning means we head towards the business end which might see us perk up for a worthy cup run.
Three points at home would have been fantastic - if anything just to make a mockery of what was meant to be a back breaking November. It would also have been fantastic to beat those slags because we hate them. They’re not in form and don’t have that much confidence. They turned up to survive on Sunday and lay hope on the potential to mug us of all points. Beating them would not have made that much of a statement, it would have simply cemented our momentum further and compounded their misery. Gutted, truly gutted we couldn’t poke a chance home. But in no way was this season defining or worthy of criticism aimed at our preparation. Fact remains - we have to balance the games out. The squad is light and equally so it appears so our the heads of some of our supporters. It's just an opinion and not always popular because people like to either be really positive or just focus on all the negatives. Someseek to bring balance to the facere like a Jedi with a pen whilst the rest argue like Jar Jar Binks has spilt Darth Vaders pint.
Three games in, Poch and some of the players were maligned whilst opposing teams were lauded. 14 games later and the same people are now unnecessarily unhappy about what exactly? That we didn’t win a game that on form we should have won? That’s a little bit better than capitulating, something we were masterful at not too long ago. I’m not being apologetic here. If we want to improve we have to be ruthless and hate losing. I think we already have that mentality in the squad. Spurs took 14 games to get where we are. Maybe the ones that always want to focus on negatives that don’t warrant the exposure, should consider that it might take another 14 games (and some smart transfer business) to consolidate our position. You can't go skipping a learning curve.
Seems that every single 90 minutes is quantified as the be all and end all of coaching and tactical assessments. Wanting and demanding that we do even better than we’re doing is fine as long as it’s not delivered in a petulant manner. Did you give up on Harry Kane when he wasn’t scoring? Do you feel isolated and alone if you don’t have something to scapegoat? Ah, **** it. I’m ranting. We all process things differently. But you're still doing it wrong ;)
Talking of Kane, the lad looks shattered. Never stops. Needs a rest. I’m super happy with the work Poch has done so far this season. Might take another window or two to get where we need to be, especially with the bench. Having a hissy fit that these dropped points will cost us reminds me of people that didn’t expect anything to start with and now expect the world and use that has a benchmark to suggest failure where it shouldn’t exist within context of our immediate progress. Let it grow organically. Chill out. There’s a difference between progression and over-achievement. There’s a thin line between a learning curve and contending. Perception will distort if your sense of entitlement allows it.
Don’t mess with it. Enjoy it.