In a result that sent shockwaves throughout the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur put five past Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in a thrilling New Year’s Day derby win at White Hart Lane. Never before has Mourinho conceded as many goals in a game whilst at the helm of Chelsea, and this is only the second time in his career his team has conceded five. The first was with Real Madrid against arguably the best club team this generation has seen – Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. This, however, was a whole different story. In what was Tottenham’s best performance of the season, academy graduate Harry Kane put the Chelsea defence to the sword, ably supported by the likes of Christian Eriksen and a born-again Nacer Chadli.
The past month has seen Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League table evaporate, and the Blues now find themselves level on points with Manchester City with eighteen matches left to play. Mourinho will be left wondering how his side – having recently beaten Tottenham convincingly at Stamford Bridge – capitulated in such a manner at White Hart Lane mere weeks later. With Spurs’ top-four rivals dropping points this weekend, and the title race intensifying, a lot can be gleaned by Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho as well as Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino about their respective teams from what proved to be one of the most eventful Premier League fixtures this season. In this article, the Hard Tackle takes a look at what we learned from the high-octane encounter at the Lane.
Harry Kane is the real deal
There is no other place to start when analysing Spurs’ performance than looking at that of Englishman Harry Kane. The 21 year-old has made inroads into the Tottenham first team thanks to his consistent performances in the Europa League, and has now scored sixteen goals this season – more than Diego Costa has for Chelsea. The Spurs striker grabbed two and set up two on Thursday night whilst being unplayable almost throughout the ninety minutes.
Kane has arguably been the revelation of the season, and seemingly is as well-rounded a striker as one is likely to find in the Premier League. The Englishman is strong, good in the air, good with the ball at his feet, has the strength to hold up the ball and the technique to bring his team-mates into the game, possesses a powerful shot and is a more-than-decent finisher. His goals against Chelsea showed off almost all of these attributes – his first an outstanding finish from long range after cutting in from the left having evaded tackles from Oscar and Fabregas, and his second an exquisite turn and finish from inside the box.
Tottenham have found themselves a star, and it promises to be a big 2015 for the youngster. If he continues in the same vein over the course of the season, there will be plenty clamouring for an England call-up for Kane and very few would argue the merits of that.
Matic-Fabregas pivot still vulnerable defensively
Whilst Matic and Fabregas seem like the perfect combination for games against smaller sides, teams like Tottenham can exploit their lack of pace if Chelsea press high, and crucially, do not press well enough. Matic appeared to have one of his worst games in a Chelsea shirt, and was bypassed several times throughout the game – on one occasion, leading to Tottenham’s second goal. Mourinho, it seems, under-estimated Tottenham in playing his usual 4-2-3-1 – and Spurs, to their credit, counter-attacked ruthlessly through Chadli, Kane and Eriksen and took advantage of Chelsea’s lack of pace in defence.
Ramires, who has been used by Mourinho as a third midfielder in big away games this season, only came on at half time and did appear to make a difference. As Chelsea have found out to their detriment in previous games against Swansea and Liverpool in particular, not pressing well enough against a side that is technically good, has pace and moves the ball quickly will result in Matic and Fabregas being exposed, which in turn leaves the defence exposed. The difference, of course, is Chelsea were able to salvage the aforementioned games and never trailed by more than one goal. Also, at Anfield, Matic was able to reassert himself and proceeded to dominate the midfield, particularly after Chelsea had already taken the lead and did not need to attack Liverpool any longer.
It would perhaps have served Mourinho well to have started with Ramires alongside Matic to add more defensive stability to the midfield. In fairness to the former Real Madrid manager however, Oscar, who generally contributes enough for ten players, had a very poor game and looked every bit like he was still recovering from the illness that kept him out of Chelsea’s draw at St.Mary’s.
Gary Cahill is having a season to forget
Most Chelsea fans acknowledge that Gary Cahill is a limited defender. That is not to say that he is poor, but he has certain weaknesses that are being exposed time and again this season. The Englishman is not a particularly great reader of the game, isn’t the best in one on one situations and is not as comfortable on the ball as his defensive partner John Terry is. Worryingly, to add to these concerns, this season Cahill has been suffering lapses of concentration that Chelsea have paid the ultimate price for.
Cahill had just another in a long line of poor performances for the Blues this season – conceding a penalty when Kane was taking the ball away from goal, giving the ball away in dangerous positions, and luckily escaping punishment for blatantly kicking Harry Kane whilst the Spurs’ striker lay on the ground. It was his mistake that led to Newcastle’s opener in the other game Chelsea have lost this season, and the former Bolton man was all at sea for the first twenty minutes against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge too. Whilst it is unlikely that he will be dropped for Kurt Zouma – who, for his part, has been very impressive thus far for Chelsea – it would not come as a surprise if the move was made some time this season.
The title race is far from over
The scores of pundits and fans who thought the season would be a walk in the park for Chelsea could not have been more wrong on the evidence of Thursday night. Manchester City arguably have a better squad than Chelsea, and will have the bit firmly between their teeth having finally caught up to the Blues. Incredibly, the two sides are dead level in every aspect, including goals scored and conceded, meaning Chelsea are only top because of alphabetical order. With nearly half a season of football still to play, there is plenty of time for more twists and turns in what promises to be the most exciting title race yet.