Underdogs Chelsea Earn a Point at White Hart Lane
There was a time when the best way to send Spurs gyrating off their axis and into a nervous, incomprehensible mess was to tell them they were favourites for a game against one of the League’s traditional elite.
One example that leaps to mind is Arsenal’s sound 5-2 whalloping of Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham, way back in early-2012. In the midst of a white-hot run of form, this was forecast as a straightforward away win for Spurs and, when they raced into an early 2-0 lead, it looked as if the plotlines had been set.
This wasn’t the case.
This weekend, the omens appeared favourable again for Tottenham, to cast more woes on another supposedly fading giant. It was to be a ceremony of two clubs crossing paths; an upwardly mobile Spurs and Chelsea, despite traces of a mini-revival in the previous week, plummeting fast into obscurity. We’d wave at them as they passed us by. Cooee!
The narrative followed that this young, hard-working edition of Tottenham would meticulously bring the hurt to Mourinho’s knackered brigade of overrated misfits, just as they had done at the year’s start. If we could beat them 5-3 then, imagine what we could now, was the thinking.
Rarely do things go as smoothly for Spurs. Regardless of form and apparent trajectory of the two clubs, every good Tottenham fan knows to expect the worst and never pay too much heed to the threads of reason.
You could see the headlines now: Mourinho Shows That Class is Permanent. Old Master Schools New Kid on the Block. José: Still a Genius/Legend.
Thankfully the game itself was rather less sensational. In fact, for anyone other than José Mourinho, for whom painstaking attrition is the new Sexy Football, the encounter was steeped in a lifeless funk.
By the time our eyes had adjusted to the day’s early light and chuckled at a few misdirected passes by Cesc Fàbregas, one of which was thumped directly into Willian’s face while he sat incredulously on the floor, the tie was over and the unbeaten run rolled into December.
Most of the drama appeared to be localized to the Chelsea dugout, where professional ruffian, Diego Costa, was doing his best to get himself shipped out of town at the earliest opportunity.
Luckily for him, Mourinho’s not one for grudges, so you’d imagine the whole bib-flinging incident will be quickly forgotten. Just ask Iker Casillas, Rafa Benitez, Arsène Wenger, Samuel Eto’o, Juan Mata, Raúl, Sergio Ramos, Claudio Ranieri…
For Spurs it smacked of a performance dulled by the labours of a 6,000 mile round flight to another continent. Which, incidentally, is precisely the circumstances in which they entered the fixture.
It was mentioned in the game’s debriefing that Pochettino’s men had run significantly fewer kilometres than their previous brush with West Ham- and the effect was clear.
When the game-plan is so heavily reliant on the distances each individual covers, a significant drop-off in numbers can’t fail to have an impact on the overall performance.
That said, as Danny Murphy was quick to remark on MotD2, Spurs still remained solid, organized and well-drilled throughout; just perhaps without some of their usual zip. On the whole we wore the favourites tag quite well.