Still not there
I will do my best to keep this blog short. Short by my standards. It would be sadistic of me not to. Excuse any grammatical errors and typos. This is a single draft, raw with no editorial. Thanks to my brother, @Thelonious and @alexfrombristol for their poignant post-match insight, grounding me to the positives that have no right to exist in the demoralising aftermath. Their wise words echoing my own.
I'm hurting. I can't think deeply about astute analysis or carpet bombing blame. Reflecting would mean having to watch the game again. That ain't happening. The experience was mentally exhausting so apologies if I miss anything of relative importance (feel free to discuss in the comments). Years of dejection in these 'almost there' positions we find ourselves in and the one time we are primed to break the mould, we still manage to fall short. I need the next game to roll in asap to be honest. I need the distraction. Not that Palace away will be easy. It already has that underwhelming stench of a draw. Kick us when we're down why don't you.
This 4-2 was the most ridiculous of defeats. A ding dong derby that neutrals would have lapped up. After-all, this was the best two teams in the land, both having tasted defeat by the other already this season. Yet the narrative was not conventional at kick-off thanks to Conte dropping Costa and Hazard and Poch starting Trippier over Walker and Son at LBW. Everyone left puzzled at the changes to personnel and formation.
All the pre-match hype and transparent mind games disintegrated within a handful of minutes. For all the positive punditry we've had blessed on us in the build up, Wembley has once more broken our hearts. We can't catch a break here. To be fair, we couldn't catch a break in the other semi-finals back in the day when they got played at club grounds. I don't want to contemplate how next season will pan out having to host all our home matches at the national stadium. This hoodoo is plaguing us.
They had four chances of note. Four goals. Practically gift wrapped if you want to hate on the day some more. Free kick. Penalty. Corner. Bullet. All coming after ominous tell tale signs. Supreme slaps in the face. Conte relying on a little luck with the first two. The rest of the damage was thanks to finely tuned quality. It's actually quite surreal. We conceded FOUR goals. I'm going to need days to digest this fact. It makes my head spin.
Their free kick, no debate about the placement. Scratch of the chin on Hugo's movement. Cheap foul to give away in the first place. The penalty, a dive but when you tackle like that nobody can moan about the decision being given. It's typical of this fixture. We're always on the wrong end of it. Woe is me. You're practically gift wrapping them an almost certain goal.
Hazard coming off the bench was just...ah can't even fathom the words. Did that goal also arrive after their first corner? It felt like it. Great finish. The fourth was a result of us pushing forward (I think, I'm not going to look to confirm) but we already appeared defeated. The fourth was a worldy. The filth scoring filth. Our fate compounded. How many times can we come back? How many times can we pull them back? At 3-2 there was a chance. At 4-2, an impossibility.
In amongst it all we got treated to two absolute gems we did celebrate. A brilliant header from Kane. Fantastic subtle touch to guide the ball home. He really is something special. Then for 2-2, an incredible pass and finish by Dele from Eriksen. A masterpiece of swift play. Shame it will all be forgotten about. Score a goal like that to take the lead and then we might have seen what we all wanted, what some of us expected. We never had the opportunity and it felt like that particular zest to our game was out of our reach throughout.
Mousa battled and bruised for the ball. No idea how Alonso survived so many yellow cards before he actually got one. If only Dier got his header on target. Christian's corners, oh my, someone needs to run at him with a bat when he next attempts to take one.
I guess we had some luck with Hugo hand-balling outside the area and no whistle being blown and Mousa also fouling inside the box (another incident that remains cloudy in my drunken state). It doesn't quite make up for ghost goals.
Son at LWB remains baffling. Was Davies injured? He was on the bench. We paid for it with that aforementioned tackle and penalty. Just before half-time. I could feel it coming too. The way the game was shaping at 1-1, it was all us. So naturally the first attack of intent by them would result in something. And it did. Honestly, at times it feels like I'm just reading the same regurgitated script.
It was a brave (daft) decision to play him (Son) there but the experiment failed. He looked positionally confused. Which to be fair isn't a criticism of the player. Was this occasion the right time to risk this much of a change to our backline? A backline that has been imperious recently. Did it impact us detrimentally across the ninety? Not sure it did, in terms of the balance of play. However when Walker came on and Trip swapped flanks...this wasn't fluid Spurs. If anything, Chelsea showcased how to do imperious best. In short decisive bursts.
We are still on that learning curve, the result proves this. Poch will no doubt take responsibility. The Son inclusion will feel a lot worse because of the result, because of the manner of our defeat. There was a plan in there but that first early goal created a tempo that we never really got a hold of. We were on top but passively. All of the ball but never in the ascendancy. We bossed possession. Their third goal killed it. Their substitutions a different league in influence compared to our own. It's actually one of those butterfly type of effects. If there is no Willian freekick, who knows how the game develops. You can't fault our spirit for the most part. Our determination was grand. We just didn't have enough of that little bit of extra magic or whatever you wish to call it.
Chelsea's individualism was brutal, cut throat. No need to own the ball, patient play, counter and score. Punish mistakes. Clinical. They know what they are capable of. There is a gulf in class in the very big moments, this being a classic example. They don't need to play exceptionally well to win. We do. They've been there before, we haven't. It's uncomfortable to admit this. I'm essentially saying they are better than us. It's not surprising when comparing squad and money. It doesn't quite sync because pound for pound, across a league campaign...there is little between the two teams. Apart from 'they've been there before'. The little detail that crushes.
I'm not going to be too hard on my team. I don't assign finality to every disappointment. I can't dismiss the tangible progression we've made from last season into this one. Shame on you if you're going to give up. Although I don't blame anyone that feels that way. This hurts man, Christ it hurts so bad. We're trying to change a habit of a life-time here. Decades of it in relative terms. Y U HATE US DESTINY?
It all remains a sharp, cruel reminder of the levels we need to reach to make a truly defining difference and beat the very top sides when it matters the most. We are close but we have lost this game of inches. I sadly, tragically, cant take anything away from them. They are utter bastards and their peak experience gives them a winning mentality that produces the end product we crave. They have a target on their back. It's good to focus on an enemy. Need to keep on practising our aim.
Will this impact our remaining league games?
We still have another test we need to prove ourselves in. Not to lose our heads, not to drop them and timidly see out the rest of the campaign. Chelsea will win the league by probably winning all their games. Rub salt into the wounds. There was big talk about this semi-final shaping up how the Prem will finish. The winner in the cup swaggers on whilst the loser collapses into a slump.
How do we react? We can't afford not to.
The imperfections have left us despondent. Seven successive FA Cup semi-final defeats have left us bewildered. Damn. Football hates us, it doesn't want us to have nice things. Cursed. Some of those defeats, in past semis, they were calamitous. Others brain numbing. This one was a cluster of calculated anomalies (bite me for the contradiction) that drained us of hope placing us firmly back into our box.
We need to quickly bounceback. We need to pick ourselves up. No time to write sonnets. We need to be angry. Hungry. We need to take it out on the teams we face in the coming weeks. Prove how tough we are mentally. Once more pushing towards this perpetual redemption that we never manage to attain. We are over achieving, majestically, wonderfully well. At the core, it means little right now. Especially after this game. We want to win silverware for the glory it bestows on us - the supporters - and the connection it will bind with the players forever. The romanticising ain't helping, is it? The flaws have us floored once more. This young team maturating is one harsh growing pain that stabs my already bleeding heart.
It's the most emotional, gut wrenching of journeys, being a Spurs fan. Still, this was only a game. An important one but not the one we thought we deserved. Not the one that will set us on a new path. We'll move on like we always do because that's in essence what it means to support. One game follows another, follows another. Importance shifts with each passing week onto a new objective. The next win will change everything again. Rinse and repeat. This defeat won't hurt as much in a few days. It will still hurt, but it will slowly dull. We're built for this, thankfully fuelled by alcohol and other substances. Football is high and lows and light and darkness. All of it, all of this...it's placed into perspective when you think of Ugo and the real loss his family have to contend with.
Onwards. We still belong. This is still the same group of players and our ambitions still retain the same high expectations. Parade delayed.
I'm done for now.