The Chelsea game was the final big test in an extremely satisfying festive period. Fraser Bernstein wonders how far we can go with a full-strength team.
Before the Chelsea match last night, I was… apprehensive. Spurs had come off the back of four straight wins, but the team from West London – as every man and their dog knows – had won a quite frankly ridiculous 13 (thirteen) on the bounce. We’d lost 2-1 at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season and I felt we were still suffering from a hangover in the fixture after the “Battle of the Bridge” last year.
The signs weren’t great.
However, at approximately 9:50pm on Wednesday evening, that ominous cloud which had rained down on our title chances in 2016 finally lifted. This was the Spurs that stood up to be counted, amongst the naysayers and those who doubted our ability to beat the best.
Before the Chelsea match last night, I was… apprehensive
In all honesty, beating the best hasn’t been the problem for the last couple of seasons – Pochettino has turned us into a formidable outfit against the top teams in the league. What has let us down this season has been an inability to turn draws into wins – a problem which became most apparent when we had both Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld out of action in October and November.
A full-strength Tottenham is a completely different proposition, as Chelsea found out under the floodlights at the Lane. We had resilience at the back, with Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dier all holding the fort superbly (although I must admit was nervous about Dier at centre-back again).
Wanyama and Dembele were phenomenal at shielding the back three, with the former in particular being almost everywhere across the entire 90 minutes. Rose and Walker were slightly more reserved but at the same almost completely nullified the threat of Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, something which we failed to do at Stamford Bridge.
Finally, our front three were excellent. Kane did have a quiet game in terms of shots on goal, yes, but his link-up play was on the whole very good. Speaking of link-up, how can I not mention Dele and Eriksen – almost identical goals, stuffed to the brim with quality.
What’s important to takeaway from this is that with a full-strength team we are an incredibly well-oiled football team. Everyone knows their job, and we’ve proven we can adapt from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1 when necessary.
With a full-strength team we are an incredibly well-oiled football team
The one problem which we simply must solve is suitable cover at centre-back and up front. I want to give Vincent Janssen as much time as possible, but I really do think another solid striker, perhaps someone with pace to come off the bench, is needed. At centre-back, if Alderweireld gets injured again, I definitely do not trust Dier to be as solid. I would love Virgil van Dijk from Southampton to come in, but that is unlikely. But someone in that mould would be ideal.
Overall, an extremely satisfying win against one of our biggest city and title-rivals. Let’s strengthen in the transfer market and make a real challenge for the title.