Tottenham Hotspur have won seven of their eight games in all competitions this season, a quite impressive start for a side that signed seven first team players in the off season. The midfield and attack bear little resemblance to the ones that featured last term but they’ve still managed to edge out victories when needed as the new recruits settled in. However, now that their summer signings have had a chance to get acquainted with the rest of the squad, Chelsea’s visit to White Hart Lane presents a stern test for the team and more importantly, one they can be judged on.
Spurs may be level on points with Arsenal at the top of the Premier League but none of their wins were very convincing as they’ve only scored 5 goals in as many outings while they were beaten by their north London rivals in their only ‘big’ game so far. However, they’ve also only conceded one goal in 8 games this season, keeping 7 clean sheets so that kind of stability at the back is certainly a cause for optimism.
As for their efforts at the other end of the pitch, they’ve lacked a bit of cohesion in the final third which invariably makes that final ball difficult to find but that seems to be getting better with time. In fact, they’ve racked up 12 goals in just 3 games away from the league. Their 8-0 drubbing of Dinamo Tbilisi over two legs last month could have been put down to the inferiority of the opposition but their 0-4 Capital One Cup beating of Aston Villa in midweek suggests that they’re finding their feet in attack.
This fixture also witnesses the first encounter between Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas since their mentor-pupil relationship came to an end. Much has been said in the last couple of days about their falling out, particularly by the Tottenham manager, which adds spice to what’s already a London derby and another meeting between Villas-Boas and the club that sacked him so unceremoniously.
"I dont discuss because I'm not a kid. I don't care what he says. I'm not interested" – Jose Mourinho
“I don’t think we need explanations on personal relationships and friendship. But our relationship broke down. We were at a Premier League managers meeting in August, but we have not spoken, no.” – Andre Villas-Boas
It will be interesting to see how the two tacticians fare given their contrasting managerial styles and tactics. Mourinho keeps his side compact at the back and quick on the counter while Villas-Boas employs a high-line in defense and encourages his players to play out from the back.
The former Chelsea manager suffered a 2-4 defeat in this fixture last season but will be rather more confident this time around as he’s had time to settle in and the resources to revamp the first team, building it in his own image. It’s fair to say that the two sides are quite evenly matched on paper at the moment.
Chelsea may still retain better personnel in defense but Spurs have the advantage in central midfield. The Blues perhaps edge it in the area behind the striker with their high-profile permutations of an attacking trio but the form of Tottenham’s strikers give them the upper hand up front.
For once, Tottenham won’t be going into this fixture with an inferiority complex, at least they shouldn’t. As a matter of fact, when you factor their form and morale into the equation, they may even be going in as slight favourites.
Since the Arsenal game, most of the new recruits have been bedded into the first team and Villas-Boas’ style of play, which he tried to implement at Chelsea is finally coming to life. The team looks settled and the Portuguese has a clear idea of what he’s trying to achieve. Meanwhile, Mourinho is clearly still trying to find his best eleven at Chelsea with few players making the grade on a regular basis. Furthermore, his handling of Juan Mata and David Luiz hasn’t helped the mood in what has been a disrupted dressing room in recent seasons.
What really stands out as a clear indication that Tottenham are no longer the underdogs but instead worthy opponents is their bench strength. Chelsea have always had a lot of quality to call upon during games but Spurs struggled to induce an impact through one of their substitutes. Now they have the likes of Jermaine Defoe, Erik Lamela, Sandro, Etienne Capoue and Lewis Holtby waiting in the wings.
Tottenham have been raved about at the start of this season but if they are to establish themselves among the elite of England’s top flight, a win over Chelsea will go a long way towards accomplishing that. With the way the two sides set-up and the fractured relationship between the two managers providing an intriguing backdrop, this may be their most closely contested meeting yet.
|Who will win this particular derby? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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