Games against Chelsea and Arsenal are not enjoyable to watch for Spurs fans unless and until the final whistle has gone and they haven’t lost. Today the relief was spoiled by the knowledge that there were sufficient chances in the first half to put the game to bed and another opportunity went begging when Chelsea had to play the last 15 minutes with ten men after Torres’s red card.
But there was another reason not to be cheerful. Between the dominant first half and the closing minutes there was a long period where Chelsea looked the more likely to prevail.
While the team went off at half time having played well to a man, the second half saw some alarming dips. Naughton, playing out of position again at left back, started to look very ragged and Eriksen, outstanding in the first half, faded badly. Most worryingly, Soldado had a shocker. He’s the kind of forward who doesn’t get very involved in the play but he’d been forgiven for that previously because he has the look of the ruthless finisher about him (even if he hasn’t managed a premier league strike in open play). Now, suddenly, he was getting involved - but to no good effect. Every touch, trick, flick and pass went astray and, given Defoe’s scintillating cup form, it was surprising he didn’t replace the Spaniard until the 77th minute. We’ll now learn about Soldado’s confidence, because if it’s at all fragile this display could prompt a wobble and Defoe will devour any resulting opportunity like a six yard tap in.
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Another who might feel uneasy following this game is Eric Lamela. When you’ve been bought for a club record 30 million quid you might be surprised to find yourself as a regular on the bench. When three attacking substitutes are sprung from that bench and you are not among them, you could be forgiven for getting the raging hump. We’ll see.
But these individual problems are symptomatic of the more general concern. This was a sobering experience for those Spurs fans who had started to get intoxicated by the recent run of form. The team has looked very good against ordinary opposition but the two games against ‘big’ teams - Arsenal and Chelsea - have yielded just one point. There’s still a bit of work to do before Tottenham start running away with the title.
Next week, thankfully, West Ham come to visit.