Today’s blog begins with a howl of rage and despair. My disgust that Tottenham Hotspur is worldwide headline news because of fan racism knows no bounds. It revolts me that this should take place and that a Spurs fan has dragged the image of all supporters into the gutter.
It is only one or two. Don’t call them idiots, call them racists. I admire Rudiger’s generosity in his tweets, where he says he doesn’t want to involve Tottenham as a club in this because it is only one or two fans. He goes on to thank Spurs fans for the many messages of support he’s received.
Racism is all around us, it never goes away. It’s just that you like to think we stand for a bit more than this. We’ve been victims of abuse, the stands have been a safe place for people from different backgrounds for a long time. Ours is the rainbow stadium, described by the co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites as a bastion of inclusion and diversity. Now we’re the team whose fans provoked calls for a public inquiry.
On social media I’ve been told, repeatedly, that we should wait and see for, I don’t know, something. People around me in the ground said, well, hang on, we don’t know what happened. Well bollox to that. No time to hang around. This all took place right in front of me. Twenty rows back, I didn’t hear anything but when Rudiger walked towards me indicating the monkey noises had been uttered, I felt physically sick. He reacted straight away, something happened. I was ranting off about something or other, I don’t know exactly what I was saying. Basically, how could this happen, here, with expletives. Me – any shots of that gesture taken from the West Stand, as shown on MOTD, I’m in there. It’s personal.
How do these people think our own black players will react? Do your absolute best while you’re watched by racists. Or our own black supporters? Spurs fans got behind Danny Rose after he talked about his experiences of racism at football. Something clicked then. One of our own, let’s sign a flag, let’s sing his name.
Time for the majority to get that message over. Find this person or people. Ban them for life and prosecute. Zero tolerance. Nobody is dragging me down.
Football reflects society. In the past few years, racists have become emboldened as politicians from all sides fail to address discrimination and in some cases actively mobilise it to sustain their support. Racist and anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise across the country. Not here. No more. Football has to take a stand.
Yesterday was one of the most disheartening, cheerless afternoons I’ve ever spent watching Spurs. I’ve not even mentioned chucking stuff at opposition players. The best stadium in Europe closed. Unlikely but the authorities are going to make an example of someone, some time.
The football. Spurs were awful. Spineless and mindless, to call them a rabble at times is an insult to rabbles. And I hear rabbles get upset at their good name being taken in vain.
More than being utterly dominant, Chelsea’s football came from another era. They were sleek and contemporary, Spurs were dinosaurs, unable to pass the ball through midfield and reduced to predictable long balls up the middle.
As if this were not bad enough, we gave away two ridiculous goals, hilarious if other teams did the same, profoundly concerning as it’s us. Switched on for the corner? As dead as the batteries in a child’s toy on Boxing Day. I’m still shaking my head at Gazzanega. How a straightforward catch became assault and battery, and how the ref gave us a foul in the first instance. It’s the sort of error that eats away at keepers, a rank misjudgement that will stay in the back of his mind for a long time and indicates a more fundamental vulnerability at this level.
Sometimes managers do things that don’t work but you can understand what they are trying to achieve. AVB for example, cautious, possession football to stay tight at the back, keep the ball and wait for an opening. Didn’t work because we couldn’t score any goals, an admittedly basic flaw that escaped him, but you could see what he was up to.
I don’t get Mourinho at the moment. When not under pressure, we’ve played some good stuff and banged in the goals but defensive strategy is sorely lacking. We’re incapable of closing players down when they are about to shoot. Both full-backs have been left repeatedly exposed, a problem compounded by Aurier’s dire judgement and positional acumen. In front of him, Son and Moura have been waving opponents through apparently without a care in the world. Step this way, take your time.
Against Manchester United, they shifted Rashford wide left and won the game. Wolves galloped down the right and were stopped only by Spurs players taking it turns to foul him. Chelsea did the same, doubling up and nothing stopped them.
Mourinho was praised for winning ugly against Wolves. Cue Jose the winner cliches. To me, we got away with one, set up poorly so that our back four were constantly exposed. Winning ugly means digging in, doing what’s necessary and forsaking creativity for redoubtable defence. That’s not what happened at Wolves. The manager’s lack of response to an obvious defensive flaw is bewildering.
In context, he’s inherited an unbalanced squad. Central midfield remains a problem. Dier is being played back into form. So far, he looks fitter but a yard off the pace when it comes to timing. Sissoko gives his best but he’s not the creative player that we’re crying out for. The full-back problem remains.
Whatever the question, N’dombele has to be the answer. He must play against Brighton, despite continuing fitness doubts. It’s wrong to read too much into the Bayern defeat, but Lo Celso did not make much of an effort to take the opportunity presented to him. Mourinho is not sure about him.
VAR, Son’s dismissal and Rudiger’s reaction, I’ve have enough so let’s just say it all contributed to the malaise of the most unpleasant afternoon. Looking forward, Mourinho was comprehensively out-thought by a manager in his first year in the Premier League. He had no effective response to Chelsea’s tactics. Plus, his famed ability to motivate and inspire was entirely absent.
That doesn’t leave us with much. No doubt this will galvanise him into action for Boxing Day and after. The suspicion lingers that Mourinho’s tactics and approach are behind the times. He says he’s had time to think during his break from the game, and note that he’s taken on two youngish coaches, presumably with fresh ideas. This game has shown him the nature and extent of the task ahead.