It still hurts, our wounds are gaping open, they sting like hell. But it’s time to draw a line in the sand and draw upon the positives, of which in truth there were many.
The pundits and journalists will lazily judge a game by the score line, as if actually watching the game and analysing performance is a pointless exercise. For all the praise that they’ve heaped upon us in recent weeks, they were waiting for this. Waiting for the opportunity to tell everyone that we’re still the same perennial bottlers. That we don’t perform when it matters. That we’re still a long way off.
I refuse to believe it. I saw the evidence on Saturday, just as I’ve seen it all season. For the first 75 minutes on Saturday we dominated Chelsea. They were pinned back in their half for much of the second half and they just couldn’t get out. We bossed it but we just couldn’t find a way to get our noses in front. We got stung by some clinical finishing – they soaked up our pressure and hit us with the sucker punch on their rare forays forward. It was classic Italian “catenaccio”. Credit to Conte for that – he knew his team couldn’t match us for possession so set his team up to counter punch, just as he did with Italy against Spain last summer. It’s hard to take in a game of such importance but we must not read too much into it. Let’s not overplay it. No one was saying that Spain were a long way off Italy after their defeat at the Euros. Condemnation is unhelpful and I refuse to be mired in the negativity I saw from some Spurs fans on Wembley Way after the game. I can understand it but I saw more than a 4-2 defeat on Saturday.
This was not like the other semi final defeats. I saw our team show why we’re in the title race, why we’ve won our last 7 games in the league, why we’re a match for any team in the country. We showed that we are BETTER than Chelsea. Just as Barcelona and Bayern Munich were better than them in 2012. The thing about football is that the better team doesn’t always win. That unpredictability is why we love it so much.
It just seems that the footballing gods are sympathetic to Chelsea. They reward them for their antisemitic chants, they reward them for pushing black men off trains in Paris, they reward them for the racism of their captain. Chelsea are a vile club, from top to bottom, but we should not tie ourselves in knots hating on their good fortune.
If we continue to perform at the level we showed on Saturday, there will be brighter days ahead. Possession might not be everything but if we played that game 10 times to the level we reached, I believe we’d win it at least 8 out of 10. Saturday was a freak. Three goals scored from outside the area – all well taken but that is highly unusual. And it’s not like they peppered our goal with shots. 5 on target, 4 goals.
I would still like to understand why Son Heung-Min was asked to play left wing back for the first time in his Spurs career in such an important game, and why Davies remained on our bench. The penalty never happens with Rose or Davies playing there and that is undoubtedly a key moment in the game. Whether Davies was carrying a knock or Pochettino made a costly mistake is a conversation for another day. Now is not the time for recriminations or to dwell.
For now, Selhurst Park becomes our cup final. Saturday did not end our season but if we don’t react well tomorrow, then it will be over.
We showed on Saturday why we’ve picked up more points than any other team since the turn of the year and why we ARE the best team in the country. Pochettino and his charges now have to show it again and prove the doubters wrong over the last 6 games of the season. We cannot control what Chelsea do and this fortuitous victory will no doubt give them a shot in the arm at a crucial point in the season. But we MUST do our job, starting tomorrow.
We go again! COYS!!!