Tottenham Hotspur

Chelsea teach Tottenham a footballing lesson - again

By Sean Walsh
Antonio Conte has plenty of work to do
Antonio Conte has plenty of work to do / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - Few sides have caused Spurs as much misery (ever) as Chelsea have.

Off-field discrepancies and controversies have always divided the two sides, but the Blues have emphatically stolen a footballing march on their neighbours from N17 in the Roman Abramovich era.

Since Daniel Levy stumbled his way into a Champions League final thanks to the miracle-working of Mauricio Pochettino, he's made a number of decisions trying to fast-track his club back to the top table.

The hiring and inevitable firing of Jose Mourinho set Spurs back a couple of years, but that was enough to put any other suitor off from wanting his job. While Antonio Conte is now finally in the hot-seat, he's learning that this is no super-club that he's used to managing.

Nevertheless, there are few coaches who are better at punching upwards than Conte, and his £26m split from Chelsea back in 2018 had the footballing world believing that Tottenham's two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final with the Blues was ripe for some punchy narratives.

Those storylines were quickly thrown out the window.

After a dismal 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge in which Spurs got nowhere near the European champions once they raced into an early lead, they fell to a 1-0 defeat back in north London, again rarely laying a glove on Thomas Tuchel's men.

It's easy to point at the excuses that are quite valid and available to Conte - Chelsea's team cost a fair bit more than his own, he's only three months into the job, star man Son Heung-min didn't even complete 90 minutes across the 180 of the tie. Sure, that's understandable, but Tottenham's inability to simply compete at any level with their west London rivals made for grim viewing.

Conte has been asked plenty about transfers and whether the January window will bring about much-needed changes to the squad, but there's a sense that player turnover won't completely solve this problem even if Levy silences his doubters this month to put his money where his mouth is.

The good news is this problem doesn't need fixing immediately - it's notoriously difficult to get business done mid-season anyway. All Spurs have to do is keep their league momentum going enough to be within a shot of the top four come May, which isn't an unreasonable ask by any means. They're (just about) still in the FA Cup too.

But Conte hasn't faced a challenge like this in over a decade, and on Wednesday Spurs were taught a lesson by the club who simply don't engage in these battles because they do not have to. There are rarely consolations in such heavy and lifeless defeats.

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