The Rebound Special: nine-man Tottenham got battered, so why will Chelsea feel so glum?
A look back on all of the carnage from Monday evening’s extraordinary London derby...
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Trying to analyse Tottenham’s 4-1 defeat to Chelsea on Monday evening is a little like attempting to transport a reservoir of liquid mercury with nothing more than a butterfly net; it’s going to take a while, and eventually over-exposure to the problem will send you mad with erethism before you ever get anywhere close to completing the task.
It all started so well for Ange Postecoglou too. Within six minutes Dejan Kulusevski had put the home side ahead and Mauricio Pochettino, returning to north London with his new beau, must have felt like a jilted lover sobbing into a bucket of Haagen-Dazs as they scroll through an album of their ex’s honeymoon photos on Facebook. But then the wheels came off. Or, to put it more accurately, the wheels came off and then the entire vehicle crashed through a sinkhole in the tarmac and ended up rooftop down in the overspill parking of Hades.
Anybody tuning into the bedlam at the half hour mark, as your humble scribe did, must have felt like Donald Glover in that episode of Community in which he goes to answer the door to a pizza delivery man and returns to find that his entire flat has combusted into a raging inferno. For the first five minutes of my watching experience last night, I sat, slightly vacant and jaw agape, like a chimp trying to absorb the finer details of the Bayeux Tapestry.
First, Tottenham lost Cristian Romero - although the word ‘lost’ is something of a misnomer insofar that it implies an accidental quality. The Argentine’s decision to plant a sextet of studs partway up Enzo Fernandez’s shin inside his own penalty area appeared, to the baffled naked eye at least, wholly deliberate. Cole Palmer just about scored the resulting spot kick, and Chelsea were level - a minor blessing to those of us who didn’t want to spend today’s column debating whether or not Moises Caicedo’s disallowed pearler from moments prior should have been permitted to stand or not.
Then things got worse again; Micky van de Ven’s hamstring pinged like an elastic band around a prized watermelon, while James Maddison’s ankle gave out with the tragicomic flourish of a Shakespearean plot device. Both were withdrawn, and suddenly Spurs resembled something of a toothless grin, rotted out by misfortune and adversity. By the time Destiny Udogie received a second yellow card shortly after the interval, Postecoglou must have been wondering whether his new side hustle in bludgeoning black cats to death with shards of broken mirror beneath a lair erected entirely from scaffolding and ladders is such an astute idea after all.
This was football for the dystopian generation - attention spans addled, bloodlust piquing. And Big Ange’s response was to rip open the buttons of his shirt from chaps to nave and holler with maniacal laughter. Reduced to nine men, Tottenham lobbed the V’s at mild-mannered convention, and instead resorted to posting their defensive contingent on the halfway line, daring Chelsea to run in behind. It was like watching the Spartans at Thermopylae, provided Leonidas had been helming a rowdy stag-do on a paintball course and not the most fearless war machine in antiquity. The Australian’s justification for his unhinged tilt at an improbable heist? ‘Even if we go down to five, we’ll still have a go, mate’. Where have you been all of my life, Angelos?
Of course, at long last Spurs would crumble. Nicolas Jackson took home the match ball after a hat-trick that radiated a distinct, ‘Well done, he’s 13’ vibe, and Postecoglou’s men were consigned to a first Premier League defeat of the campaign. But the imbalanced scoreline only tells a fraction of the story. It doesn’t, for instance, disclose how, moments prior to Chelsea’s third, Tottenham came within inches of an equaliser, or how Eric Dier had a goal ruled out for a marginal - if irrefutably correct - offside call. Nor does it shed light on how utterly dulled the Blues were in attack for much of their numerical advantage. Jackson’s hatty might be the first in footballing history that somehow made the beneficiary look worse for having scored it.
Undoubtedly, it would be an overstatement to suggest that Spurs have more to crow about than their old foes in the aftermath of Monday’s horror show, but at the very least, they have plenty of reasons to be proud, and it says something that in the hours following a resounding away victory over one of their bitterest rivals, there will still be more than a few affiliated with Chelsea whose mood is tinged with just a touch of apprehensive gloom.