So we can stop with the short-lived ‘Chelsea are now broken’ narrative, right?
Instead, let’s latch right onto the ‘Tottenham cannot play at Wembley’ narrative. And while there might be a ring of truth to this onea��as evidenced by another disappointing defensive display during Saturday’s FA Cup semi-finala��Spurs are going to have to get over it. It’s that simple. Perhaps the timing, as they are currently unbeaten at White Hart Lane in its final season, couldn’t be worse.
But that’s football, isn’t it?
Tottenham Hotspur are a young team, sure. But we all know very well what they are capable of. We saw what they were made of last season, and this campaign, despite numerous injuries to key first team players, they’ve been even better.
But not at Wembley. Not at the stadium they are likely to call home next season while their new one is being built. They’ve lost six of their last 10 matches at this stadium. They crashed out of the Champions League in this stadium. And, they seem to shoot themselves in the foot more than anything… in this stadium.
For starters, Son Heung-min is not a left wing back. But on Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino called upon him to be just that. Was it out of necessity? Danny Rose is still out and his backup, Ben Davies, didn’t even get off the bench to warm up. The result? A silly, reckless challenge from Son on the edge of halftime that resulted in a penalty to the Blues.
Yes, Victor Moses made a meal of it. Yes, Victor Moses appeared to dive. I’m still fairly certain there was no contact and that the decision was harsh. But if you’re Son, you cannot under any circumstances make that challenge. You cannot put the official (or the linesman, in this case) in that position. And also, Tottenham have gotten their fair share of penalty luck this campaign.
Maybe Spurs were the more deserving side on Saturdaya��whatever that means. (Why is it only this sport that seems fixated on that term, by the way?) Plus, I’m not so sure I buy it…
Antonio Conte chose to rest both Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for the majority of the match, yet Chelsea never trailed. Tottenham may have had much more of the possession Saturday, but who cares? Possession does not matter unless you turn it into something. Racking up corner kicks does not matter unless you turn them into something. (Chelsea needed just one, by the way). Creating chances is all well and good, but if you don’t convert them? Well, then they might as well mean nothing.
It’s not as though Tottenham were poor going forward, they were just far from clinical when it came to finishing. If not for Christian Eriksen picking out a pass (not once, but twice)a��okay, Harry Kane’s header on the first was pretty special tooa��they would have been in real trouble. They held the ball for plenty of the match, but failed to do a whole lot with it.
Meanwhile, Chelsea didn’t have to worry about creating much because Tottenham took it upon themselves to create everything for them. An uncharacteristically poor challenge from Toby Alderweireld in a dangerous area that set up Willian to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead. A poor challenge from Son that led to a penalty (which Willian converted). And, leaving Hazard completely unmarked on the corner that fell to him (which he promptly, unsurprisingly slotted home).
Chelsea didn’t need to be at their best. Instead, Tottenham were more than willing to do the heavy lifting for them. Chelsea just had to keep from breaking. They never trailed, and if not for a couple moments of Spurs magic, could’ve run away with this thing. Chelsea kept their composure, something Tottenham failed to do at crucial moments. And as good sides often do, the Blues took advantage.
It doesn’t matter who you believe was the better side. It doesn’t matter if you believe Tottenham deserved more from the match. Spurs were the architects of their own demise on Saturday, something that’s become all too familiar for them at Wembley.
But they’re about to call that stadium home for a while, which means they better get over it… whether they like it or not.