Chelsea spread their legs and cough as Dr. Tottenham prescribes yet more pain for Potter

Matthew Stead

Tottenham fans expected to cure Chelsea of their problems – at least for 90 minutes. But Graham Potter continues to test the patience of Todd Boehly.


With two wins in 15 games, not a single victory over a current top-half team this season, one goal in 476 minutes and as many points separating them from the top four as the bottom three, Chelsea and Graham Potter must have been grateful that the gods booked them an appointment with the esteemed Dr. Tottenham on Sunday afternoon.

Spurs had not scored a Premier League goal against the Blues since moving into their new stadium in 2019. Antonio Conte was not prowling the touchline against his former club. Their knack for providing remedial relief to struggling clubs, either brief or long-term, is fabled. It was a game supporters would have dreaded if they hadn’t seen this build-up to the predictable punchline before; instead, Tottenham fans seemed to accept what was about to unfold.

Yet the hosts checked Chelsea over and asked them to spread their legs and cough, before sending them packing with an eye-watering bill and no hint of a cure as to their myriad problems.

The Blues hoped to be the ideal patients but it is the patience of Todd Boehly which continues to be tested. The nerve, tolerance and conviction of the Chelsea owner cannot endure many more such performances.

As admirable as his stance has been with regards to resisting his predecessor’s predilection for P45s, Boehly cannot ignore the raging dumpster fire over which he presides. A refreshing take on owner-to-manager relationships looks more foolish, naive and damaging with each game.

Potter will not walk. Not willingly from comfortably the most prominent position of a brilliant coaching career. He has worked too hard to relinquish this opportunity and will have enough belief in his approach and principles to think this can be salvaged. And perhaps he is right. Maybe a proper pre-season fixes these inherited problems. A manager should never really be judged until he has spent his first £1billion, as they say.

But Boehly will soon come to a crossroads at which he must decide whether or not to go back on his word and end Potter’s misery for him. As on this evidence the manager, for whatever reason, cannot turn this around.

Those elements of uncontrollable back luck remain, with Thiago Silva substituted midway through the first half with yet another injury. And Stuart Attwell tried his utmost to throw himself on the latest grenade of criticism with some peculiar refereeing shortly before half-time, when Hakim Ziyech was shown a red card before the official went over to the monitor to check a situation which unfolded literally directly in front of him, only for Attwell to downgrade his decision to a yellow. But not even a budget version of the Battle of the Bridge could detract or distract from an insipid Chelsea defeat.

Tottenham did not even have to play that well. They strolled to victory, opening the scoring within seconds of the restart through Oliver Skipp’s delightful strike. Some panicked Chelsea defending culminated in a rushed Enzo Fernandez clearance, a lazy Joao Felix challenge and a forlorn Kepa dive.

Shortly after, Kalidou Koulibaly tried and summarily failed to take a quick attacking throw-in, his delivery not even managing to enter the field of play, because subtext is for cowards and everything Chelsea try to execute currently is painfully imperfect.

They knitted some positive moves together but a soft Raheem Sterling header, Kai Havertz almost beating Fraser Forster to the ball in the penalty area and Mykhaylo Mudryk firing unthreateningly wide will make for a morale-crushing highlight reel. The Blues have scored from one of their last 83 shots and somehow the introduction of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 83rd minute did nothing to change that.

Harry Kane, Tottenham, February 2023

Throwing the previously ostracised striker on in the immediate aftermath of the most preventable of goals – Harry Kane sneaking in at the back post to sweep a corner into the net – was a desperate roll of the dice from Potter, who frankly and understandably carries the aura of a manager being consumed by the job.

It boggles the mind to think that this was the reverse of the Conte and Thomas Tuchel handshake game from earlier this season. Six months on, that remains Chelsea’s best performance of the campaign; it feels unlikely that there will be much more competition for that tag before May, and perfectly feasible that another new manager could be in the dugout by then.