Sunday’s early kick-off failed to live up to its expectations as Tottenham and Chelsea played a goalless draw at White Hart Lane, but despite the lack of action, there were a number of points of intrigue during the London derby. Let’s take a look at four of them.
Mourinho doesn’t forgive easily
After Jose Mourinho and Diego Costa’s well publicised spat midweek, the manager was quick to indicate that all was well between the two of them, hinting that they had left their differences behind them. Cue him leaving his star striker out. Note to Costa – Mourinho is the boss.
When it comes to ‘player power’, there aren’t many more adept at dealing with it than Mourinho, and his decision to leave Costa out of the starting line up was a definite warning to the Spanish Brazilian that his behaviour during the week was out of line.
The trouble is, it doesn’t look like the rift has healed, with Costa not joining in with the rest of the team in the pre-match warm-up, and shown throwing his training bib away in frustration after Mourinho declined to bring him on as a substitute.
Of course, Mourinho knows what he is doing, but given his paucity of other options up top, this will definitely be a relationship that he must put effort into repairing. Whilst Costa has not been at his best this season, the fact of the matter is that when he’s good, he’s really good and an asset to any side.
Hazardous False Nines
With Costa consigned to the bench, it fell to Eden Hazard to occupy the ‘lone striker’ role, with the Belgian deployed in a ‘false nine’ position; a somewhat unusual move by Mourinho.
Hazard worked hard, but wasn’t able to have too much influence on the game. By fielding him in that role, it seemed that Mourinho was making it clear that he wasn’t particularly interested in winning the game; and indeed, Chelsea’s performance rather indicated that a point from their travels was a result they were happy with.
From Spurs’ point of view, Pochettino’s men will be disappointed not to have got all three points, but with 11 men behind the ball, it was always unlikely that Tottenham would break the Chelsea defence down.
Harry up and give me some backup
Welcome to the worst pun in the world. Harry Kane was the man leading the line for Tottenham, and despite his usual industrious performance, like Hazard, he was unable to have much influence on proceedings.
Kane has proved beyond any doubt that he is not a ‘one-season wonder’, but even so, it is vital that Pochettino purchases a second striker in January to ease the pressure on his young English star.
For a start, a second striker will mean Kane having to play less minutes, but if the Argentine is able to acquire the right player, he will have an alternative to come on and play a different style when coming up against defences as stubborn as Chelsea’s.
Prior to Sunday’s fixture, Mauricio Pochettino was unusually outspoken about the schedule that saw his side travel to Azerbaijan to play on Thursday night, return home on Friday and play Chelsea on Sunday lunchtime, and the reality is that he has a point.
There is a very clear correlation between the Europa League fixtures and a muted Premier League performance in the following game, and in my view it’s high time that it is dealt with.
At present, Europa League qualification is more punishment than honour, with the dramatic effect it has on clubs’ ability to compete in their domestic leagues. A Monday night game would have worked much better, giving three clear days of rest for Spurs players exhausted, not just from the game, but the extremely lengthy journey. Time to sort it out Premier League.