The illustrations are from The Spurs Postcard Collection, a new publication from Vision Sports and perfect for your Christmas stocking. Scroll down for more details and 25% off for Tottenham On My Mind readers.
Try as they might, the new breed at Tottenham who did so well against Everton couldn’t overcome a Chelsea side that seldom shifted out of cruise control. Instead, familiar failings returned to crush early fresh-formed hopes that emerged from our bright, bouncy start. Taking on our opponents plus the momentum of recent history is hard enough without making the sort of crass defensive errors that we have come to know and – well, just know only too well.
For the much of the match, Spurs reprised Sunday’s diligent approach. Bentaleb was excellent, especially in the second half as we pressed more men forward, often leaving him as the rearmost midfielder. They earned by far the lion’s share of possession, in contrast to the Everton game where we won with around 35% of the ball.
However, beyond the opening 20 minutes there was nothing much going up on front. A few oohs and aahs, maybes and could-have-beens as Eriksen and Lamela almost but not quite played the perfect ball. Last night almost was a long way. Chelsea dispassionately despatched their opportunities, grateful no doubt for not having to work very hard to get them, whereas we huffed and puffed without making a proper chance in the second half. Add a couple of defensive implosions and we were nowhere near competing in this one.
Spurs opened well and as so often flattered to deceive. Harry Kane continued his one-player offensive against complacency. Playing on his own up front, from the kick-off he took the game to our opponents. A different position compared to Sunday but the same result. Chelsea backed off and chances came our way. Vertonghen headed over and Kane’s header hit the bar. Lennon’s cross was slightly behind him but he did everything in his power to twist it on target. Lennon was dangerous too – a right-footed winger on the right, taking people on. Don’t how the tactical geniuses in charge of Spurs recently missed that one.
Kane then left Cahill on his backside, cut in from the left and his shot slithered across the goal and wide as three white shirts pleaded for a cut-back. For a time Spurs had control of the game, but that was pretty much that. The Blues stretched, wiped the sleep from their eyes and awoke. Lennon tracked back on Hazard but did not get goalside. Chiriches drifted forward a couple of yards to cover space at the edge of the box. Fractional errors, put them together and suddenly a one-two opened up yards of room on our right and Hazard scores. Such are the margins. Almost is a long way.
Our system depends on not conceding the ball as we build from deep. The fullbacks push up and the centre halves split. Off they dutifully toddled as Hugo had the ball at his feet. They could only watch as the Frenchman’s feeble kick was picked up 35 yards out by a Chelsea player. No surprise the pass was good and Drogba made it two. Again a fatal error from our best player, and sadly not for the first time. All his athleticism and commitment, which we saw on several occasions in the hour that followed, wasted if he can’t kick the ball away very far.
Second half, Lennon went left and the ineffective Lamela right, allowing Eriksen to be busy in central areas. For Mason this was one match too far. He was replaced by Paulinho early on. Chadli helped Kane out up front but as I’ve already said, plenty of ball without getting anywhere, and there’s no point in saying more about that.
Time dragged as the match reached its inevitable conclusion. Not expecting much but I would have appreciated getting a shot in. 2-0 would hardly have been a consolation but the third still hurt. With Spurs pushing forward, Vertonghen was left one on one with sub Remy. Twisting and turning, Verts tried the block, thought about the foul but opted for falling over. An easy finish.
Chelsea are streets ahead of the opposition this year, one of the best teams in Europe. No disgrace in losing to them, we’re not the first and won’t be the last, but it would have been nice to make them at least break sweat. They won at a canter, easily absorbing our pressure despite our best efforts.
Bentaleb was our best player, keeping things moving despite it all. Pochettino has gone from suit to blazer to tracksuit and now gilet (I shuddered at the memory). Still, it seems something is getting through at last. Develop this style and shape and good things will happen. Yesterday that was nowhere near sufficient to bridge the gulf in class between the two sides but tell me something I don’t know. Eyeballs out for Palace on Saturday, put everything into that game and come away with the points.
Those lovely people at Vision Sports are offering 25% discount for Tottenham On My Mind readers on the Spurs Postcard Collection. which retails at £12.99. Just use this code when you order: spursblogger
The collection comprises 50 postcards each with a painting of a Spurs legend and comes in a snazzy presentation box. Vision have a history of producing high quality books about Spurs, including the fabulous Biography of Spurs by Julie Welch and several classics by Adam Powley and Martin Cloake, all of which are warmly recommended as Christmas is coming, but they are just as good at Easter. They know the club and the fans so the images are well-chosen. Naturally enough there’s a preference for current or recent players, alongside not only stars across the years but also scenes such as the ’81 Cup win or Dave Mackay putting Bremner in his place.
All images copyright the Football Artist/Vision Sports