My 3 Thoughts on Chelsea-Spurs
Kane heads home last-minute goal against the run of play for 2-2 tie; Conte and Tuchel scrap and both get red cards after final whistle
In a frenetic, wildly entertaining showdown that included multiple dust-ups between coaches Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte (and post-whistle red cards for both), Harry Kane’s last-minute header notched Tottenham’s second disputed goal of the game and salvaged a point in a 2-2 tie at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• All this (waves hands wildly) is why we watch the Premier League. It was the marquee game of the weekend. Both coaches showed over-the-top levels of petty, squared up twice and got deserved red cards. Chelsea scored two good goals (by Kalidou Koulibaly and Reece James) and took the lead twice. Spurs got two disputed equalizers after referee Anthony Taylor and the VAR somehow didn’t call fouls on Rodrigo Bentancur (for taking down Kai Havertz), Richarlison (for being offside) and Cristián Romero (for pulling the hair of Marc Cucurella) on the scoring plays or the ones that led to them. And Spurs ends up being the happier of the two teams after getting an away point against a bitter rival on guile and grit, with a whiff of menace. Honestly, Chelsea was the better team on Sunday, with advantages in expected goals (1.53 to 1.06) and possession (64 to 36 percent). The Blues also controlled the midfield, with Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté being absolutely terrific until Jorginho was subbed in the 73rd minute and Kanté had to leave the game with an injury in the 85th minute (which could be a real problem for Chelsea if he’s out for a while). But Tottenham has taken on Conte’s streetfighter persona, and this game was a clear example. Spurs got a point when they had no business doing so.
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• One of these teams has a nine, and the other doesn’t. Kane did not have one of his better games and missed a golden opportunity in the second half by shooting wide on the break. But his decisive header off a last-second corner kick is the kind of goal that great number nines can score even when they’re having an off day. Meanwhile, Havertz showed again that he’s not a center-forward. Chelsea has plenty of wingers, but you can see why Todd Boehly is in the market to land a nine, with current reports suggesting it could be Barcelona’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That wouldn’t be a bad call. Auba has played for Tuchel in the past at Borussia Dortmund and understands how Tuchel’s system works. (Not every good nine does, as Romelu Lukaku learned last year the hard way.) A great striker can save you on days when you’re outplayed, and Spurs has a great striker.
• Can Tottenham crack the Manchester City/Liverpool stranglehold on the top two? I’ll say it now: I don’t think Chelsea will be quite good enough overall to do it. However, ahead of the season, I thought it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Conte’s Spurs could find a way to break up the City-Liverpool duopoly this year, especially if Liverpool dropped points in unexpected situations (as it did at Fulham last week). But I have to admit that Tottenham’s performance on Sunday gave me reason for some pause. Yes, it’s a huge shot in the arm that they got a point at Chelsea on a day when they didn’t play very well. Yes, it’s clear that Conte is in Tuchel’s head a bit. (And honestly, Tuchel doesn’t want that smoke.) If you’re going to break up the City/Liverpool hegemony over 38 games, you’re going to have some games like Sunday’s, but Spurs will also need to play better than this overall. Are they capable of that? I think so. But we have an awfully small sample size so far this season to know.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
Conte’s Catenaccio kept it close and stole the point at the end, courtesy of their Number 9 (as you point out). You couldn’t have drawn it up any better! And you’ll probably see that playbook a few more times against the top sides. But you have to wonder about VAR 🥴 Tuchel is probably correct in giving his opinion and taking the card in order to get more calls going forward.
great article and insight again. I was watching at a local Tottenham bar and was so nervous for the entire game. I think they outplayed us and we were lucky at the end. I thought there wasn’t any creativity in our squad. Conte and Tuchel were more than hilarious. Thanks.