It’s pretty much as you were then with five games remaining, although both teams will leave with regrets. Chelsea for failing to take home advantage and the chance to put themselves within touching distance of the Champions League, and Spurs, whose profligacy in front of goal has cost them in another big match this season, were left to sweat on their place in the top four.
It was no surprise to see Spurs try to match up Chelsea’s formation by adding Sandro to the centre of the pitch, after their disastrous experiment of playing two up front away at Arsenal; and they would have felt much more comfortable once Adebayor was passed fit to play and lead the line on his own.
Chelsea, who appear much more settled as a squad with Roberto Di Matteo in charge, went for big match experience, with Essien, Lampard, Drogba and Terry all returning. Unfortunately for Chelsea, by choosing to go with the big names, they have to trade in some of their pace, which has left them slightly one dimensional in attack all season. It was no surprise then to see the match play out more as a game of chess than the end-to-end goal-feasts we’ve witnessed amongst the top clubs so far this season.
So where does that leave us in the race for the final champions league spot this season (assuming that Arsenal have hit peak form at just the right time)?
You didn’t see Fergie shed a tear when he moved on Brian Robson, Roy Keane or Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Starting with Chelsea, we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know. Once they dropped the suicidal high line before Christmas, which had left John Terry and David Luiz flailing around like the Chuckle Brothers, desperately running back towards their own goal, not sure if they were coming or going, they’ve looked much more solid.
It’s at the other end of the pitch where they look disjointed; still unsure of the perfect combination and still playing like a bunch of individuals. Sturridge is too selfish to play wide on the right, and with Drogba continuing to insist on playing the central role alone, it doesn’t leave any room for Torres to strike up a partnership, and puts a huge weight on the shoulders of Juan Mata who continues to shine coming in from the left-hand side.
With a tricky set of fixtures coming up, particularly away from Stamford Bridge, at Arsenal, Fulham and Liverpool, they’re going to have to dig in and find some cohesion quickly. There is also the chance of Champions League qualification by winning the competition this season, but that is surely an impossible task when faced with a potential semi-final against Barcelona, followed by a possible Real Madrid final.
For Spurs, they’ll take great heart from the performance, the return to fitness of Emmanuel Adebayor and the news that Aaron Lennon should be ready for a first team return next weekend. They’ll also look at their remaining fixtures and surely see an opportunity to pick up points, with potentially their hardest trip being to the Stadium of Light on Easter Saturday. This really looks like it still could go down to the last day of the season though.
So Spurs find themselves as 1/7 favourites to take that last champions League place and Chelsea start to contemplate the possibility of the Europa League next year. Could this be the perfect outcome for both clubs in the long-term though? Seriously Chelsea fans, hear me out for a second here!
Once they dropped the suicidal high line before Christmas, which had left John Terry and David Luiz flailing around like the Chuckle Brothers, desperately running back towards their own goal, not sure if they were coming or going, they’ve looked much more solid.
Chelsea need to alter the philosophy of the club and become self-sufficient sooner rather than later with Financial Fair Play coming in to effect, and the absence of the glamour of the top competition to play for could further speed up the re-building process and force them to blood some of the really promising youngsters they’ve got in reserve. As the transfer window just gone proved, the days of the big transfer and even bigger wages are on the wane, so Chelsea may see this as the perfect time to off-load the out-of-contract Drogba, Kalou and Bosingwa and potentially try to move on Lampard and Essien, however good they’ve been as servants to the club in the past.
Chelsea actually have one of the best youth teams in the country, (not that you’d know it to watch the first team), and they stand on the verge of a second successive youth cup victory. Courtois, Bertrand, Romeu, De Bruyne, McEachran and Lukaku could be the future of Chelsea, but they need to be given a chance now. 20 years of Manchester United dominance has been built upon a strong youth policy and consistent evolution of the team. You didn’t see Fergie shed a tear when he moved on Brian Robson, Roy Keane or Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Chelsea have tough decisions to make, but by being ruthless now it could reinvigorate them for next season.
For Spurs, the consequences of not making the Champions League now, after appearing in such a dominant position for so long, are surely not worth thinking about. They would probably find themselves starting the new season without a manager, and struggling to hold on to their best players for the second year in a row. It would also slow down the financing efforts on their new stadium, which would set the club back further behind their rivals than ever. Qualify for the Champions League and they could finally push on. Fail again and it could see Spurs slip back into Premierleague mediocrity.
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