The narrative seemed to call for a decisive intervention from Harry Kane or Romelu Lukaku on the day English football lost the great Jimmy Greaves. Instead, it was about the intelligence of Thomas Tuchel, who showed his tactical flair as he took that game away at Tottenham at half-time, with N’Golo Kanté’s introduction for Mason Mount pushing Chelsea to another dominant victory.
Sloppy and vulnerable in a grueling first half, Chelsea were unstoppable once Kanté entered the fray. Tottenham, their early adrenaline rush, had no response. Chelsea created open-ended chances during the second half and although Lukaku failed to join in the fun, goals from Thiago Silva, Kanté and Antonio Rüdiger were enough to overtake them from Manchester United and to join Liverpool at the top of the standings.
Once again, Tuchel had taken control, outsmarting Nuno Espírito Santo with his adjustments during the break. Spurs had played well so far, threatening to end Chelsea’s unbeaten streak, but they were eventually outscored. Refused to move to Manchester City, Kane simply looked sad and irrelevant as he waited in vain for the chance to come close to Greaves’ scoring record for the North Londoners.
Nuno’s side, seventh after two straight 3-0 defeats, found solace only in recalls from the glory days. At least they outdid themselves with poignant tributes for Greaves, who represented both teams with such distinction, scoring 132 goals for Chelsea and 266 for Spurs. Nostalgia filled the air as Tottenham heroes such as Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman and Ledley King stood by the pitch for a minute of applause before kick-off and for a brief moment. , fans of both clubs were united, brought together by the purest finisher English football has ever produced.
Greaves would have loved playing this game. He would likely have completed some of the openings created by both sides during a frantic opening period. The atmosphere was electric and there was no sign of Spurs holding back, pressing high and repeatedly testing Chelsea’s stingy defense.
Tuchel was soon fuming on the sideline. Sitting too deep, Chelsea made distribution errors in the early stages. Kepa Arrizabalaga, replacing the injured Edouard Mendy in goal, looked sensitive with the ball at his feet and home fans screamed when Rüdiger was rushed into an early error, poorly controlling a deep pass into Chelsea territory.
Spurs, boosted by the return of Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso from their quarantine periods, had a fluid attack system. Son Heung-min rushed to the middle, Kane confused his markers by shooting to the left, Lo Celso plotted and Chelsea looked confused at first, giving more chances than usual.
Chelsea were under pressure, with Andreas Christensen clearing Kane into the penalty area. Sergio Reguilón rushed forward from left-back, only to explode his cross. It was promising for Spurs and they should have led when Lo Celso starred in Son, whose heavy touch allowed Arrizabalaga to choke.
Still, Chelsea are good at hanging on and they’ve had some menacing moments on the other end as well. Kai Havertz carries the ball onto the pitch so gracefully and Spurs were relieved when he fended off two inviting opportunities, scratching the first before producing an overhead shot with the second.
Chelsea had to be more careful in the final third. At one point, Mount, lethargic in the last few games, jumped down the middle after Eric Dier left fellow center-back Romero exposed with a reckless lunge. Chelsea live for those moments – the moments when they leap after drawing an opponent – but Mount couldn’t capitalize, infuriating Tuchel with a poor pass to Lukaku.
It was no surprise to see Mount eliminated at half-time. After seeing Spurs win too many loose balls, Tuchel reached Plan B: Kanté. Few teams can boast of such immense strength in depth; few managers, however, know how to use it so effectively. With Kanté on their heels, Spurs no longer looked comfortable in defense. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic began to dictate the flow and the Spurs escaped when Marcos Alonso, sprinting behind Emerson Royal on the left, shot a hard stop from Hugo Lloris with a spectacular volley.
The Spurs were on the retreat and the breakthrough came in the 49th minute, Silva charged into Alonso’s corner and overtook Lloris. The bland Dele Alli didn’t live up to Silva, who had a soothing influence at the back, and the Spurs duly collapsed, conceding again.
This time Lo Celso was at fault, casually wasting possession. Kovacic found Kanté, who had space to shoot 25 yards away. A huge deviation from Dier left Lloris stranded and the main question for the rest of the game was whether Chelsea substitute Timo Werner was going to be able to grab one of the many chances.
Based on this evidence, Werner could have contented himself with watching a few old Greaves clips. Despite all his hiccups, the striker still found an assist for Rüdiger to finish calmly in added time. Chelsea was completely endemic.