Chelsea Beat Spurs at their Own Game
Thankfully due to work priorities today, I got to miss watching the game other than 20 minutes into the game, I did ask a work colleague how the game was progressing, and at that time to my surprise Spurs had taken a 1-0 lead with a goal from Christian Erikson.
It was not then surprising to find out later that Spurs had finally lost their first Premier League match of the season and this time not because they played poorly, but for the simple reason that the Chelsea juggernaut have out-spent and adapted to the riches of the Premier League.
While it remains to be seen what effects long-term a new stadium will bring to the Tottenham team, today's defeat simply ran to form something that has become a mundane reality for the last quarter of a century - that Chelsea simply get the better of Spurs each time they play.
Unlike Chelsea, Spurs are owned by an investment company, the ENIC Group owned by billionaire Joe Lewis and Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy. The club has been run as an investment which has led to Daniel Levy gaining a reputation as a fearsome negotiator. The question is whether this tough no holds-barred style is actually good for Tottenham's ambitions to return to the status of a big club.
Chelsea's chairman needs no introduction, Roman Abramovich has simply walked the talk of success and winning. Unlike ENIC, Roman Abramovich has a more direct ownership stake in Chelsea and has not been afraid to take losses in order to win, whereas Daniel Levy is credited for tightly managing Spurs finances. Levy does take an interest in Spurs matches, but it is Abramovich who is the significant risk taker and who has won big in his gambles. Whereas Levy has set limits and has in the past let his best players go, making Spurs a selling club, Ambramovich is the one who has actually turned Chelsea into a football powerhouse.
Today's result is a mirror of when Tottenham was the big club and Chelsea the wannabees. That however was nearly 50 years ago and next year is the 50th anniversary of Spurs 2-1 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea : That Tottenham fans have to go so far back into the soccer time tunnel in order to recall their glory days is what Spurs leadership have not overcome. Last year when the big clubs were considerably underperforming, it was Leicester City and not Spurs who finally took advantage. Already over this week, Monaco's 2-1 win in France knocked Spurs out of the Champions League, inflicting their third defeat in group competition. Unless they let CSKA Moscow win, Tottenham's fate now returns to the Europa League.
Judging by today's result, Spurs opting for the Europa League may be a better shot at winning a cup competition, which is an area where Spurs have built at least some history in terms of winners. It is their failure to do well in the league which is what the story of today's encounter with Chelsea is actually about. Winning the Europa League guarantee's Champions League football next year. Had Spurs qualified it is hard to see them do anything better than reaching the quarter-finals of the competition. In order to reach the Europa League competition, Spurs must do what they have so far failed to do, which is to win or draw at Wembley Stadium (their temporary home for European football while work continues on the new stadium).
One does not have to watch a Spurs game to know why they are losing. Today, Chelsea beat Spurs at the one major tactic that Pochettino believes in, which is the high press. What is surprising is that the Chelsea team allowed Spurs to press. That is not before Antonio Conte became as animated as ever on the Chelsea touchline and got the Chelsea team to switch tactics to the high press game Spurs use. The moment they began marauding at the Spurs defense, they began doing what Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen did in their victories. Chelsea is proving to be versatile under Conte and Conte is finding his feet and wits in the Premier League very fast.
Moreover Conte is playing the kind of football that Roman Abramovich wants - football that stirs the souls and passions of his Chelsea supporters, and in recent weeks Chelsea have begun to play scintillating football and getting victories. Today was no different and if Chelsea continue to exhibit this flexibility it is only a matter of time when Chelsea fans will be thankful that Jose Mourinho is now with Manchester United and that Chelsea players had revolted against Mourinho and stopped playing for him. They are definitely playing for Antonio Conte.
While Mauricio Pochettino continues to talk about his "project', Conte has hit the ground running and is getting the best out of what is a highly paid and talented squad to begin with. There are no guarantees that if a team spends big that players will gel, but if the entire team's leadership is focused on creating a wealth and winning culture, then Abramovich has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and unlike Levy he has delivered massive results and thus walked his talk.
Murmurs from Pochettino that he wants to top quality recruits in the January transfer window is easier said than done. There are no or at least hardly any discontented superstars that fit the bill as champions or young starlets. Spurs did spend millions in the transfer market this year but no where near the stratospheric valuations that so called "top teams" can afford. That Spurs cannot afford to compete against these "big clubs" is down to decades of settling for less, first under the relatively unsuccessful spell of Chairman Alan Sugar, and now a very slow and incremental improvement philosophy of highly cautious Chairman Daniel Levy.