Chelsea’s win over Spurs at Wembley will be seen as the moment they ended all doubts of a double. That is if they go on to win it, of course. The Blues stopped a minor rot in form with a victory over the bitterest of London rivals, which simultaneously gave a brutal rib punch to Mauricio Pochettino’s side after a stunning run of form.
With Diego Costa and Eden Hazard named on the bench, Chelsea were meant to need their best performance of the season to overcome Pochettino’s intense Lilywhites. Instead, a measure of Hazard’s brilliance from the bench supplemented a rearguard action from Chelsea that was not without fault.
A great afternoon for Nathan Ake and David Luiz will give Antonio Conte hope going into the closing matches of the season, but Chelsea’s team display was not exactly emphatic. The defence – which has leaked goals in 2017 – was not solid, Spurs created chances throughout and Nemanja Matic was once again dominated by Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele.
Chelsea did not get torn open frequently – like they did against Manchester United the previous weekend – but they suffered against the fluidity of movement between Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane. Kane’s pressing was relentless and his ability to retain the ball continues to astonish, which wreaked havoc for Chelsea.
Although it was two delightful pieces of skill that eventually found their way past Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea relied on a fraction of luck to find the net themselves. A misjudged step from Hugo Lloris allowed Willian’s free-kick to find the corner, before a reckless piece of tackling from an out-of-position Heung Min-Son allowed the Brazilian to notch his second. Hazard was the difference once he came on, though even his sharp finish into the bottom corner came about from defensive instability from Spurs. The goal that sealed the game will be played for years to come, but Matic’s strike was a hit and hope rather than a clear cut chance created by the Blues.
Spurs’ inadequacies benefited Chelsea greatly. The opposition’s failings will often help a side win a football match, but the way that Chelsea won goes to show that this is not necessarily a return to the apparent natural order of 2016/17. The Chelsea defence was – again – not secure.
With a couple of tricky fixtures remaining this season, the title race is far from over despite a supposed shift in momentum between the capital rivals. Chelsea might have won another Wembley match, but they are far from the formidable outfit they were in the latter weeks of 2016.
The flaws are there for all to see and Spurs – if they are going to consolidate themselves as one of Europe’s top sides – must prove it by bouncing back dramatically to keep the pressure on Conte’s men.