16 Conclusions on Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham: Harrowingly bad from Spurs, good enough from Chelsea

Dave Tickner
James Maddison reacts to Chelsea's second

We honestly think Spurs played better against Chelsea that time when they had nine players and none of them were playing in defence. Spurs were so spectacularly rotten from front to back in this 2-0 defeat that it’s almost impossible to draw any conclusion at all about Chelsea, who were as good as they needed to be. Which was not really very good at all.


1) What a deeply curious game of football. One never quite knows what to expect when these two meet, but it’s generally entertaining in one way or another. This was after all – and this still blows our minds a little bit – the first Stamford Bridge meeting between these two sets of irredeemable dafties since the whole Thomas Tuchel-Antonio Conte handshakegate affair. That really does all seem a very, very long time ago now in the history of these two clubs.

And in the case of Conte, we must now concede that he may well have been right about Spurs. It may well be that Spurs simply cannot be anything other than Spurs and that is quite simply that. This was Spurs. For the second time this season, a 90-minute exercise in Chelsea struggling to quite believe their own luck at the sheer self-destructive shambles of a show Spurs put on.

By the end of this abject non-performance it was entirely possible to find yourself idly wondering whether Spurs had played better against Chelsea when they only had nine players and no defenders and concluding that yes, yes they had.


2) Say what you want about playing 0-7-1 for 40 minutes, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

It was very stupid, sure, but there was a certain rakish devil-may-care bravery to the wholehearted enthusiasm with which Spurs so thoroughly embraced an objectively ludicrous concept for such an extended period of time. At least Spurs did something that night; here they just did nothing. Over and over again: nothing. In all areas of the pitch. Just nothing. At all. For 90 painful minutes.

‘Stop passing it f***ing backwards’ was Ange Postecoglou’s memorable despairing howl to everyone and no-one during the first half. This, really, was the key difference for him between this limp and soporific low-energy defeat and the one earlier in the season. That 4-1 defeat was ludicrous, but it was a defeat played out on his own terms. Spurs died that night but on their feet, playing their football, their way.

They’ve almost completely lost that sense of self now. It surely won’t be salvaged this season, but a busy and important summer once again awaits a club that is both perennially in a state of enormous flux but also always exactly the same.

And this season’s pain is almost certainly not yet over with. They will very likely, one must assume, lose at Anfield, and while banter dictates Spurs will beat Manchester City there is only so much that even a force as potent as banter can do to so thoroughly disturb all logic and reason. What we will say is that there is only one team on earth capable of beating Manchester City in between defeats to Burnley and Sheffield United, and you’re looking at them.


3) So much did Spurs enjoy the very silly memories of their last encounter with Chelsea hat they had to give themselves a very specific reminder of it here by once again allowing Nicolas Jackson the freedom of the penalty area to score a goal while coming under absolutely no challenge whatsoever.

Jackson has now scored four goals against Spurs this season without a single defender making a single attempt to prevent him doing so on any occasion. We don’t know where the boffins hide that kind of stat, but it must surely be some kind of a record?



4) As early as the first five minutes, the blueprint for the evening was complete as Chelsea butchered a clear chance while Spurs relied almost entirely on Micky van de Ven’s recovery pace to get them out of dodge again and again.

Chelsea famously took a really quite absurd amount of time to force the floodgates open against Spurs’ nine men back in November, and once again here made things far harder for themselves than was necessary through profligacy and indecisiveness in the final third.

As absurd as it sounds, Chelsea have now beaten Spurs 4-1 and 2-0 this season and what you really find yourself wondering is just what the scores might have been if Chelsea had actually played well in those games.


5) It’s becoming a very, very, very regular topic after big Spurs games now. Was this the worst Spurs performance of the Ange Postecoglou era?

We would argue that this is a clear leader and a significant new low. Which is saying something, because there have been an awful lot of awful performances in recent weeks.

What, for us, makes this so very bad compared to broadly similar recent defeats at Fulham and Newcastle is that in those games Fulham and Newcastle played incredibly well.

Chelsea ultimately cruised to victory here with a makeshift defence, a bench almost entirely devoid of Premier League experience, countless players missing, several of the players they did have not playing particularly well and also Mykhaylo Mudryk at his most determinedly mercurial. Chelsea really didn’t play that well at all here and never really looked like doing anything other than win comfortably. It’s a damning indictment of a Spurs team who appear to have downed tools.

Chelsea vs Tottenham
Chelsea players celebrate against Tottenham


6) It would be a stretch to say Chelsea were there for the taking, but they had a defence that had disaster written all over it, Cole Palmer having a rare off night, Noni Madueke eschewing all end product and Mykhaylo Mudryk being Mykhaylo Mudryk to the very fullest degree.

By no sensible metric could Chelsea be said to have played particularly well in the context of what is at least in theory a game between two of the Premier League’s biggest teams. Chelsea have toyed with Spurs home and away now this season and really haven’t had to be very good at all to do so.


7) It makes drawing any conclusion about them at all almost impossibly difficult. They’ve very deservedly won a big London derby against a key rival, but how much can you read into it? Almost nothing, really. Chelsea were competent enough for long enough, and that really was all that was required. You can’t shake the idea that a proper team playing properly would have more thoroughly embarrassed Spurs tonight. Chelsea wouldn’t have beaten any of the top four playing like this, and probably not Man United or Newcastle either.

Mauricio Pochettino will rightfully enjoy another victory against his old side but he will know as well as anyone that this was not a game that proved Chelsea are back. They were comfortably the better side, but when the opposition play like that it really does sound like damning with faint praise.


8) What Chelsea did do well was work a brilliant free-kick midway through the first half. Conor Gallagher’s delivery was devilish and perfectly placed, Trevoh Chalobah’s looping header was even better. It looked like something from a training ground drill. Beautifully worked, lads; now let’s try it with a defence involved.

It said an awful lot that so entirely absent was Spurs’ defence from the entire equation that VAR spent a good three or four minutes looking at the goal in an apparent effort at trying simply to understand it. There must be an offence in here somewhere, surely? There can’t be any way this free-kick whipped in like that from a long way back has just resulted in a free header without something being amiss, surely? Offside was checked and checked again despite it being very clearly onside. Then a second check for a possible foul by Marc Cucurella on Brennan Johnson because they were standing quite close to each other on the same football pitch.

Lads, let us save you some timemoving forward. We all want VAR speeding up. For future reference: That’s just how Spurs defend – or more accurately don’t defend – set-pieces.


9) The second goal was, somehow, even more ridiculous. One could, if one were inclined to generosity, say it came after a good spell for Spurs. The first 20-odd minutes of the second half had indeed been mildly less harrowingly bad, it’s true, but it’s still akin to saying the bread is a really good bit of a sh*t sandwich.

Cole Palmer’s free-kick was the second and last moment of real quality in a match sorely lacking them. It cannoned off the crossbar and fell to Jackson, who made an awkward header look easier than it was. But it does help when the opposition are all stood watching it unfold from 15 yards away, apparently trying to work out what that loud noise was.


10) So that’s two more goals conceded from set-pieces to add to Spurs’ ever-growing collection, but the defending wasn’t even the truly worrying part of this. Spurs aren’t very good at defending and haven’t been really all season. Madueke in particular had all manner of fun running at and through and around a dizzy and confused Emerson Royal, pressed into service at left-back by the absence of both Destiny Udogie and Ben Davies. The sheer level of morbid curiosity we currently feel about what, precisely, Mo Salah might do to him on Sunday is almost certainly unhealthy.

But you expect Spurs to defend set-pieces like they’ve only just had the concept of a corner or free-kick explained to them. You expect Emerson Royal to look a bit crap at left-back.

What was so deeply worrying here was how utterly bereft Spurs looked going forward. There was no imagination, no energy, no coherence, no spark of anything from any of them. And Ange Postecoglou had shuffled what’s left of his pack. James Maddison dropped to the bench. Richarlison started after his chaotically on-brand cameo in the North London Derby.

But it did no good. Son Heung-min – about whom we really are now very worried indeed – was dreadful. Richarlison irrelevant. Dejan Kulusevski tried to do… something in the No. 10 role but seemed to spend most of the evening giving away daft free-kicks. Which is doubly daft if you’re a Spurs player as we know.


11) Here, Chelsea do deserve some credit. For a youngster like Alfie Gilchrist to mark his second Premier League start by so thoroughly pocketing a player of Son’s standing and reputation is a huge tick.

Sure, this current iteration of Son looks broken beyond repair, but it was impressive nonetheless. Cucurella on the other side did fine work of his own in subduing Brennan Johnson, and being a constant busy nuisance in both penalty areas.

In the middle, Benoit Badiashile and Chalobah did all that was asked of them with quiet assurance but surely couldn’t believe just how little that was from a team whose Plan A has now been totally worked out and who lack the will, wit, energy or some combination of all three to come up with a viable Plan B.


12) If you still need convincing about the sheer scale of the paucity of Spurs’ attacking performance, then consider this. No Spurs player tonight created more chances than Giovani Lo Celso. And he came on in the 86th minute.


13) It really is starting to look like an absolutely terrible end to the season for Spurs. They’ve collapsed entirely in recent weeks, and it’s going wrong all over the pitch. Having gone 39 games without failing to score in a Premier League game, they have now been effortlessly shut out in three of their last four away games by Fulham, Newcastle and Chelsea. These are not teams with conspicuously good defences. All have shipped 50-something goals this season. All have, somehow, conceded more goals than Spurs.

And yet all have been able to shut Spurs down with indecent ease in quick succession. It’s now just a single goal and a single point on the road for Postecoglou’s side in four game since so spectacularly dismantling Aston Villa in March.


14) Back then, it really did look like advantage Spurs in the race for fourth. The Sky commentators were even tonight still pretending that Spurs had Champions League ambitions and would need a win to boost said ambitions here. Adorable, really. No Spurs fan is still looking up at Villa after their recent efforts; they are all looking down at Newcastle, Manchester United and now also Chelsea with a rising and familiar feeling of nausea.

None of the three teams below them should be giving it up just yet, not on this and other recent evidence.


15) Spurs have now been bad – or at the very least mediocre – for far longer than they were good this season. Their first defeat against Chelsea came after 10 games in which Spurs had picked up 2.60 points per game. Their second defeat against Chelsea makes it 24 games across which that PPG has slumped below 1.5. It still, for now, just about adds up to a decent season overall, but they’ve been a mid-table team for far longer than they were a title-challenging one, no matter where they manage to drag themselves to in the final reckoning.


16) If you wanted an example of Spurs’ current confusion and uncertainty, you didn’t have to look far. They could be seen all over the pitch, from the ramshackle attempts at defending set-pieces to the desperate lack of imagination in the final third against Chelsea’s own rejigged and makeshift defence.

But the clearest one of all was the sight of a team that has worn white shorts all season deciding to chuck on some blue ones to play against a team in blue. Such a profoundly nonserious football club that even wearing their traditional colours becomes an act of unfathomable idiocy.