It was a day, and a game, that threatened to be all about him. It certainly was in the build-up, for many. But after the 90 minutes (well, something closer to 110 minutes after all the stoppages), Chelsea’s 4-1 win against previously unbeaten Premier League-leaders Tottenham Hotspur was all about the players. All about the Boys in Blue.
All about the boys who did not lose their heads, who managed to overcome a terrible start, who managed to disrupt the high-flying, highly confident, highly energized home side and their “febrile” fans (as Jon Champion on the NBC commentary put it). It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t nice. It was a full-bloodied derby of epic Battle of Stamford Bridge proportions, complete with questionable refereeing, overflowing emotion, and Spurs coming up short.
It was symbolic victory for us, for this team, for Pochettino himself.
“I feel much better now. [...] Yes, very emotional. [It] was very passionate game, very competitive game. I think being honest, winning the three points really important for us. I think was an amazing, amazing day for us.”
It didn’t look good early on, but while it’s easy to lose a game in the first 15 minutes, it’s not as easy to win it. Spurs certainly proved that old adage right, taking a quick lead but then shooting themselves in the foot with massive mental errors that you might expect from a fledgling team like Chelsea, not the confident league-leaders who had yet to taste defeat all season.
Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie easily could’ve been sent off twice over and it was only Chelsea’s customary profligacy in front of goal that prevented the scoreline from getting out of hand until the closing seconds of the game. That of course kept Spurs in it until those very seconds as well, but that’s partly why we’re still mired in midtable at the moment.
Plenty to learn from this game, that’s for sure, but not just in a negative sense.
“I think we deserved to win. We forced them to make too many mistakes. I think Tottenham was better in the first 15 minutes and then I think we matched the game [and] started to force to make a mistake. [...] Overall, I think the the performance was good [because] for us it was in a situation to arrive here and to play against the the leader. [To] win the game against a team I think that was playing really well [...] can be important three points for us to build our confidence and start to push up the table.
“[We] are still far away from what we want, we are building something there, but we need time and to come to the leader against a team that was full of confidence and after to concede because we really, we started the game really bad, very sloppy and we cannot connect, we were very nervous and then how reacts the team. They deserve all of the credit the players, of course, and the team and I think we were calm after because we start to create chances and force them to make the mistake and then we get the goal and I think after the control was there.
“It’s true that we concede some chances that we cannot concede that. Maybe we can assess the performance and to see the (ruled out) goal of Dier or this type of situation or Son, that we lose the ball and we allow them to run, of course, we need to control better.
“But that is about, you know, the situation. It’s about that we are building our confidence and when you need to be more relaxed in the way that we play and you need to have more the capacity. It’s not about the quality it’s more about the emotional moment and when you see that you can win the game, sometimes you take wrong decision, but that is about with the time we are going to improve, we have the capacity and we have the quality.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London
Having knocked off the league-leaders, next up are the new league-leaders, as Manchester City come to town on Sunday. That’s going to be a much tougher assignment, to be sure, but even if we end up losing, we should be able to take tonight’s victory to the confidence bank and cash in big.
Weeks, months, years from now we might look back on this game as the turning point — or at least the start of one. Not necessarily because we played well, but because we persevered. Because we restored some semblance of the “normal” order. No need to look for moral victories!
We’re not done in this process, this project ... far from it. But, you know, we might just get there eventually!