The subsequent losses of both Gareth Bale and Mousa Dembele left Andre Villas-Boas’ side looking somewhat anemic on paper, and so it proved in practice, too, as the Lilywhites came unstuck at the hands of Roberto Di Matteo’s classy Blues side.
But although there was a rightful sense of overwhelming of disappointment come the final whistle, there shouldn’t be any need for overwhelmingly drastic post mortems. Spurs suffered a tough day under even tougher circumstances but fans shouldn’t start basing a catalogue of gloomy seasonal predictions off the back of the Chelsea result. It’s time to harness a little perspective at White Hart Lane.
So often it feels that those who frequent White Hart Lane, inhibit an almost perpetual inability to do things by halves. When a defeat occurs, it has to be deconstructed, picked apart and used to forecast a whole series of potential long-term issues ahead. A league loss to the outstanding team of the Premier League so far has produced some pretty startling forecasts from a small section of supporters. Take your pick from AVB’s inability to set a team up to a perceived need to invest £50million in players come January.
The truth is that, of course, both the team and the manager made mistakes during the weekend. Spurs again appeared to sit back after taking the initiative; despite his limitations against the Chelsea midfield, taking off Tom Huddlestone for Jake Livermore proved to be a poor substitution and none of the Tottenham back four came out the game with much to shout about. Especially not William Gallas, with the Frenchman suffering his second roasting against his former employers of the calendar year and perhaps his most chastising in recent times.
Yet, you don’t even need to prefer your glasses half full, to gauge a sense of perspective about Saturday’s events. Spurs’ loss of Gareth Bale would be somewhat akin to Chelsea losing their most potent attacking outlet and had Juan Mata not been playing, you can play devil’s advocate as to how well they would have done. Throw in the very glue that bonds Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 together in Moussa Dembele, and you’re already facing something of an uphill battle.
But while the aforementioned pair rightly have taken prominence in Spurs’ list of absentees, let’s not forget the others that have been missing in action. Throw in Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul and forgotten man Scott Parker, and you can forgive Villas-Boas for being a little proud with how his team coped on the weekend. That’s your first choice left winger, central midfielder, left back, centre half and current club player of the year, all out on the sidelines.
And still, Spurs can count themselves more than a smidgen unlucky to come away from the game without taking anything. The Lilywhite’s amassed 23 shots against Chelsea, even with the loss of their two creative lynchpins in Bale and Dembele and although you can attribute every goal conceded to a mistake somewhere along the line, both Gallas and Kyle Walker picked an unfortunate day to produce a couple of real howlers at the back.
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While there has been a degree of reactive disdain towards the Frenchman, despite performing nowhere near as bad as what some have discredited him with in recent weeks, you couldn’t escape the feeling that his performance against the Blues was a watershed one for all the wrong reasons.
For Kyle Walker, his goal-producing cock-up in injury time had been coming for a number of weeks now and this time, he didn’t get away with it. The stick he’s received from some has gone well over the line but there’s no getting away from the fact he needs to raise his game considerably in the coming weeks. Hopefully with help from both fans and management, we’ll slowly see him coaxed back into form.
And although impatience may be growing in some quarters, the truth is that this team are still finding it’s feet under a new system, especially at home. Spurs have steadily grown in confidence, but they remain a cautious prospect when playing at White Hart Lane and after another improvement in their last home tie against Aston Villa, a visit from the league leaders was never going to represent a tie to incrementally improve their performance. Villas-Boas is getting there, but there’s no magic wand to get their home form going. It takes time.
Furthermore, the context of the loss certainly does nothing to keep expectations well within balance, either. The home support were loathsome to endure chants of ‘Champions of Europe, we know what we are,’ but the fact remains that their London rivals are a better side, however much that may hurt fans to utter. The next time Tottenham come up against an attacking unit as talented, mobile and devastating as Chelsea’s, might not be till they go to Stamford Bridge in the April of next year.
If losing to a team that could well end up Premier League champions- while their own starting XI were depleted by injury- constitutes a terminal issue for Spurs’ season, then there isn’t much hope for the rest of the league, is there? Let’s not forget, on the same day Spurs were sunk by Mata’s magic, there was another team in North London that put in an abject performance in a 1-0 defeat away to Norwich City.
The nature of the defeat on Saturday and the opponents who inflicted it upon Tottenham, have made the wounds of the weekend’s proceedings a little bit sorer than usual. But fans can’t let the pain of a one-off game catalyze an outrageously gloomy forecast. A win against Southampton on Sunday can see Villas-Boas’ side hop into fourth and regain momentum in the push for Champions League football. For a side that is very much one still in transition, that’s not too bad at all.
Are you reading much into Spurs’ defeat at the hands of Chelsea during the weekend? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views on all things Tottenham.