Hello Europa: Spurs Put Paid To Chelsea's Top Four Hopes
It had to end sometime. A hoodoo lasting 28 years came to an end as Spurs ran out 3-1 winners over a Europa League bound Chelsea. It was no more than the visitors deserved and it was a stark reminder of everything that has gone wrong this season for the Blues.
Let’s have a look at some of the talking points from yet another derby defeat.
Thibaut Courtois couldn’t get himself fit for the game, so it was the old, reliable and eccentric Willy Caballero who started in goal. Andreas Christensen recovered from the fatigue that caused his national team to send him back, manning the defence with Rudiger and Azpilicueta. Alvaro Morata started up front, hoping to get back on the scoresheet in the Premier League was well. It was a lineup that should have been strong enough to keep the Harry Kane-less Spurs at bay while being potent enough to cause damage at the other end. But we are Chelsea. Things rarely go according to plan here. After taking the lead from a Morata header, Chelsea surrendered it right before half-time. A game in which Chelsea had been the better side in the first half suddenly changed in the second period.
#2 Rudiger’s Routine
David Luiz used to play the long diagonal pass from deep towards the wingbacks a lot back when he was still useful. Lately it’s Antonio Rudiger who has taken on this role. Against Spurs, Rudiger tried the long diagonal pass more than a few times. The move for the opening goal started from Rudiger’s diagonal which was picked up by Moses, who crossed it towards Morata’s noggin. It’s a beautifully simple piece of play but when used judiciously, can be a great option for utilising the natural width in the Chelsea formation.
#3 Morata’s Mixed Fortunes
He’s back! After enduring a truly dispiriting run of form, Alvaro Morata found the net against Leicester in the FA Cup and he scored another against Spurs. It was yet another header, guided into the net. But apart from that, the Spaniard had a quiet game. There were no histrionics or unwarranted aggression from Morata, which meant he finished the game without getting into the referee’s book for the first time in ages. He still needs to do a lot more to be considered a reliable spearhead in Chelsea’s attack, but at least he is back amongst the goals.
#4 And We All Fall Down
Spurs’ equaliser was a bolt from the blue. The dip in that shot from Eriksen was exquisite and there wasn’t a lot Caballero could have done to keep it out. But the other two goals we conceded were simply embarrassing. Dele Alli has been in rotten goalscoring form of late, but against the obliging Chelsea defence he filled his boots and went home having scored a brace. Christensen was caught ball-watching as Alli sped past him, latched on to a long ball from Dier and finished the move for Spurs’ second goal. The third one was the result of a collective collapse in defence. There were at least three chances for the Chelsea defenders to clear the ball in front of the goal, but each time they just could not get rid of it. Watching them falling over each other and tacking their own teammates made it look like a five year old kid was mashing all the buttons on his PlayStation controller in panic. What is a manager supposed to do when his players cannot perform basic tasks expected of professional footballers? 3-1 down, there seemed to be no one willing to show leadership and take the fight to the opposition. There was no aggression, no guile and no points at the end of the game.
#5 Thursday Nights
Antonio Conte will, most likely, not be in the hot-seat when Chelsea begin their Europa League campaign next season. Champions League qualification is looking almost impossible after this result which leaves Chelsea eight points adrift of fourth place. Whoever comes in to replace Conte might find himself in a much tougher situation than the one which has seemingly broken the Italian.
Up next, it’s another London derby. This time it’s West Ham who visit Stamford Bridge, hoping to take advantage of Chelsea’s very obvious weaknesses and put some distance between them and the drop zone.