It never ever, ever gets boring beating Spurs. But for me there’s an even bigger joy in beating them at White Hart Lane. Even more so than the bigger test a few weeks back at The Emirates. Maybe there’s not the rivalry between us and Arsenal like there is Spurs… after all for many years Arsenal kicked sand in both our faces fairly regularly until our own blue revolution came about. But for some inexplicable reason we have basically ruled the roost over Tottenham for what seems like decades now. Aside from the odd blip here and there, the upper hand has always been in the hands of the Blues. Last year of course we had three fixtures against Spurs, a nerve shredding 1-1 at Three Point Lane (title now re-instated), an unbelievably wrist slitting dull 0-0 at Stamford Bridge and of course a 5-1 dismantling of them at Wembley on the way to our first trophy of a spectacular season.
Thus far our season has been very good. Nineteen points from 21 with QPR being the only slight stain on what in anyone’s eyes is a very good start to the season. Of course the critics have been out saying we haven’t really played anyone of note as yet, but the convincing and deserved win against Arsenal has to some extent quelled those dissident voices. So, yesterday we were faced with another big test. Spurs, so obviously riled by their collapse last season and failure to qualify for the Champions League (not our fault, they collapsed themselves after the Harry/Fabio debacle) and now headed up by the Marmite character of Andre Villas Boas. I say Marmite because I never really hated him. I thought he was brave to try and shift the focus of the team away from the Mourinho spine and I have no axe to grind with anyone who tries his or her best but ultimately falls short. My own view seems to contrast with a sizeable section of our fans that now see him as some sort of Rafa Benitez icon of hatred.
Anyway, before I digress too much, the team announcements came with a raised eyebrow or two. Lampard only on the bench although one feels that may have been related to the injury that caused his absence from the England squad for the latest round of narcoleptic contests for the right to be humiliated in Brazil in 2014. I’m unsure why he’s even available for selection as I rate his chances of going to that competition on a par with my chances of Jennifer Aniston head hunting me for her next husband. So we lined up the lightweights of Oscar, Hazard, Mata, Ramires sitting behind Torres, Mikel tucking in behind them and a back four of Cahill, Luiz (a combination that I like very much) with Cole and Ivan in the left- and right-back positions. I believe the tactics bores would call this 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 or some other equally eye glazing load of bollocks. From the Spuds angle the lack of Dembele was good news but possibly even more so was the absence of Galen. Sorry… Bale. His partner had gone into labour for their first child and quite correctly he decided that was his priority. Quite right too. Although the ensuing conversation in the Sky studio went down the inevitable ‘wouldn’t happen in my day’ route from Hoddle and the apparently veteran of the old days Jamie Redknapp. Seriously out of step with today’s society which for Hoddle I may just about accept but for Redknapp just smacks of clichéd bollocks talk.
Oh and no mention of JT, racism, Ferdinand, Kick It Out or any other over hyped arse gravy lynch mob mentality talk on here. The subject is dead. It is an ex-subject. It has ceased to exist. It has shuffled off this mortal coil.
So, nerves set to a Spinal Tap setting of 11 and away we go…
And so to the game…
Thanks to my shiny iPad and an app called Bamboo Paper I can now write my notes as the game goes on. This is good and perhaps someone could invent an ink-based implement for writing this onto a suitable parchment. It’s the future I tell you! So, let’s start with what I will describe as a touch of CLASS from our ex-project manager, AVB. He went to our bench and shook hands, hugged and warmly greeted everyone there, including Lampard. There seemed to be genuine warmth there and I for one think this shows football in a far better light but yet receives little focus from the Fleet Street attack dogs. Nice touch, AVB. As the first half progressed it was dawning on me that we looked… well… bloody good actually. No slow lethargic start, plenty of energy, pace and ambition. Our passing looked very slick, our ball play very confident. The ball was like a close friend and we seemed to be enjoying its company. Have things changed that quickly? After 17 minutes of looking the better team came the first goal – an absolute belter from Cahill. In fact as a centre-back I’d argue he has no right to be able to finish like that, but he connected with Gallas’s clearance as cleanly as Ian Poulter connects with his drive. Did it take a slight deflection Seriously, who cares? We were a goal up and at this point looking good to extend that lead. Cahill for me is the future Chelsea captain and England captain. One can only wonder at the wisdom of Wenger baulking at the £7m bargain bucket price for Cahill.
Spurs weren’t bad though and it’s easy to see AVB plans starting to take shape. Yes, the goal knocked them from their stride a bit but they also provided a few chances notably from the impressive Sigurdsson, although Cech was also forced into a dodgy parry from a Dempsey shot. Dempsey looks a little overwhelmed in this Spurs side and I can’t help but think Adebayor might have been a bigger threat. As the half progressed there was good holding of the ball from Torres, who looks more and more of an Anelka type player who links the play beautifully with the nimble nippy threesome of Oscar, Mata and Hazard, whilst the impressive Mikel/Ramires partnership starts to bring the best from both players. Mikel in particular is shoving the critics words back down their throats. But don’t take my word for it… watch this piece of wizardry.
On 37 minutes, the mighty Mata had a great chance to put Spurs to the sword only to see Friedel make a good save and then to blast the rebound over the bar. I think that might have killed Spurs had it gone in. Spurs had another chance from Dempsey and Cech also showed some more dodgy parrying techniques but as half time approached there were no major alarms and for once we could look forward to a second half of building on the superiority of the first.
But of course that isn’t our way is it? Ninety seconds into the second half and of all people Gallas scores a very soft goal. I will now apply a staple maxim of Hansenology here. But for the first time in the game the defending from us was very poor. Cech was pretty much given no chance as all our defenders ended up marking some zones with no actual players in them. A fundamental flaw of zonal marking there perhaps. And so, cue the inevitable 10 minute spell of rattled Chelsea. Unable to pass, unable to retain the ball, unable to create any chances and generally just unable. Within seven minutes we were unable to stop Defoe from latching onto a misplaced Lennon shot and rifling the ball into our net. However much you dislike Defoe, one can only say the man knows how to score goals. No real issues or Hansenology needed here. It was a good well taken goal albeit from a slight bit of fortune from Lennon.
Now we would see what new Chelsea were made of. For another seven or eight minutes we were still sleepy, rattled and disorientated. We needed an Ali/Cooper moment where we could get our gloves changed whilst we regrouped. It took a while but we gradually came back and on 65 minutes the marvellous Mata (surely his new wrestling name?) latched onto a loose ball outside the box from a fast upfield break to slot home a very cool equalizer. Game well and truly back on. Spirits were high again and within three minutes a fantastic defence splitting pass from Hazard found Mata unmarked for an even more coolly slotted home third goal. All through the game and even in our sleepy bits the midfield looked energized and pacey. This might be lightweight physically but boy is it nimble. The remaining 25 minutes were hard fought on both sides. Spurs had the full passion of the derby atmosphere coursing through them even if their fans did retreat into an anxious semi-silence. In the dying embers of the game on came Lamps and Sturridge (a welcome return for another Marmite character). Studge has a good record at Three Point Lane and in the first minute of added time this was enhanced with a simple tap in after some inspired perseverance from Mata taking the ball from the churlish Walker
Spurs 2 – Chelsea 4. I’ll repeat that sweetest of sweet sentences. Spurs 2 – Chelsea 4. I could write a song containing just those lyrics. It’s such a joyous sound.
The good (yes it’s back by unpopular demand…)
- Young Oscar – calm, stylish, impressive.
- Hazard – ditto.
- Mata – ditto.
- Ramires – ditto.
- Mikel – ditto.
- Luiz… well you get the picture… the whole team – ditto.
- Norwich – well done.
The bad (can’t have one without the other)
- Some dodgy parrying from Cech countered by two wonder saves from Defoe and Walker. But at times he made the ball look as if it was made of Dove soap covered in WD-40.
- Citeh winning with 10 men and United clobbering Stoke.
The ugly (look it’s all three or nothing right?)
- Totally unrelated to this game but the arsehole who attacked Chris Kirkland has shown the ugly side of the game proving that physical violence is always worse than name-calling.
No player ratings because to do so would be churlish in the light of a very good and I mean a VERY good all round display which has even had the press drooling a little.
One odd thing is the difference in how Robbie seems to be doing similar things to AVB but without the chaos and disruption in form. Players like Lampard and JT get dropped with regularity and yet barely a word of dissent leaks out. Man management anyone?
So, 22 points from a possible 24. Come on be real, did anyone really think we’d get that start? Of course we have the Shakhtar test on Tuesday but bigger than that we have Manchester United next week, although thankfully spared of any JT/Rio handshakegate sideshow. Although one can’t help wondering how Ash and Rio will react. If Ash goes for the handshake and Rio rejects it then what will the media do? I will watch with interest as will no doubt a lot of people.
This Chelsea side, although still fledgling and with additions to come no doubt does look a step towards the prettier flair-based side so yearned for by Roman if the media are to be believed. I hope it continues and in doing so we can bring success to the club and at last step out of the shadow of the Mourinho era which so patently still haunts so many corners of the club. Robbie is quietly revolutionizing us with little fuss, and a huge amount of dignity. His handling of recent issues has been nothing short of superb. If he stays then I can see the story being one of success and quiet dignified glory.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
The press reports
The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “It will soon become time to ask who can stop Chelsea. If it is to be Manchester United, then next Sunday at Stamford Bridge is when Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have to prove it. The talk has been that the European champions had not met any serious opposition, yet raiding parties to north London have now returned with a full complement of points from Arsenal and Tottenham.”
The Observer, Daniel Taylor: “André Villas-Boas can testify firsthand now about the improvement in this Chelsea team since he was ushered from the club. There is a steel about Roberto Di Matteo’s side that was not always evident during his predecessor’s reign and it meant an ordeal for the well-dressed man shaking his head and rubbing his hands through his hair in the home dugout. “André, André, what’s the score?” the Chelsea fans sang, and the man in question looked at his shoes and pretended not to hear.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt: “So much talk had been of the individual in the run-up to this encounter – that individual being Tottenham’s head coach Andre Villas-Boas – that it was probably appropriate that there was another sole factor that proved decisive: individual brilliance.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues won at White Hart Lane in the league for the first time since 2005 and remained top of the Premier League pile in the process.”