- Tottenham is still searching for the major trophies that Chelsea has been able to win, but more recent history suggests Spurs have a claim to be called the best club in London.
Tottenham’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday served up not only a massive tie in the battle for the top four, but also an intriguing insight into which is the bigger London club.
Chelsea arrived at Wembley in better form, having gone unbeaten in their league campaign up to that point, with Maurizio Sarri having breathed fresh life into the Blues.
The west London side have played with greater freedom, expression and intent since the Italian replaced Antonio Conte during the summer. Chelsea’s unbeaten run had stretched over their opening 12 Premier League games this term, reflecting Sarri’s instant impact.
Chelsea last won the Premier League title during the 2016/17 season under Conte, and after Manchester City’s dominant title triumph last term, Sarri’s revolution at Stamford Bridge seemed to pose one of the greatest threats to Pep Guardiola’s side this time out.
Tottenham, on the other hand, have gone on a run 10-year run without a trophy which dates back to their League Cup win in 2008 in which, incidentally, they beat Chelsea in the final.
Mauricio Pochettino has led something of a revolution of his own in north London since being appointed Tottenham boss in 2014. Spurs have become more competitive, showed more intent around the upper reaches of the Premier League table and improved vastly in technical playing terms under the Argentine.
However, Spurs remain without a trophy during Pochettino’s reign, whilst London rivals Chelsea have won a league title, the FA Cup and the League Cup since the Argentine’s appointment across the capital.
What has arguably changed the most for Tottenham under Pochettino, however, is the clear step up they have made in being able to compete with the best in the country.
Historically, Tottenham’s record against the Blues does not make for great reading. Out of the 161 times that the two sides have met, the north Londoners have won 53 times, while they have been beaten by Chelsea on 68 occasions.
Chelsea’s historical superiority over Spurs comes as little surprise, but recent meetings have begun to suggest that the tide may be turning.
Following Saturday night’s 3-1 win at Wembley, Tottenham have now won three of their last five meetings with Chelsea. Furthermore, the last two clashes between the London sides have resulted in Spurs victories.
Chelsea eventually took a more familiar degree of possession in the game through midfield general Jorginho, but Spurs’ high energy and relentless intensity squeezed the Blues out of the game, with Sarri’s side able to create very little with the ball.
Even as the possession statistics swung in favor of the away side, Tottenham always appeared firmly in control of proceedings through sheer application and desire.
It was not necessarily through technical superiority that Tottenham won the game so comfortably. Spurs recorded a pass accuracy of just 75.1 percent from their 370 passes in the game. Chelsea, on the other hand, completed 84.8 percent of their 552 passes.
However, once again, it was Tottenham who displayed the greater cutting edge and attacking purpose with their distribution. Pochettino’s side recorded a total of 16 key passes, compared to Chelsea’s 11.
Spurs’ greater attacking intent saw them create a superior number of clear-cut chances to those of Chelsea’s, with Tottenham finding openings on goal 5 times, compared to Chelsea’s one clear opportunity.
As much as Tottenham’s superior attacking work won them the game on Saturday, their defensive efforts were also more successful than the shaky rear-guard action of Chelsea.
Pochettino was forced to field a more makeshift back line, with Kieran Trippier unavailable and Jan Vertonghen only on the bench on Saturday, but Spurs’ defense coped far more capably than Chelsea’s more seasoned defensive unit.
Tottenham have become able to not only compete with Chelsea, but also reign supreme over them on occasions such as Saturday evening, largely through the key asset of efficiency.
It has essentially become Spurs’ greatest quality under chairman Daniel Levy and the coaching of Pochettino. The north London side typically go about their business quietly, both on and off the pitch.
Spurs failed to make a single summer signing ahead of this season, choosing instead to work with the squad already at their disposal.
Chelsea, on the other hand, splashed £57m to recruit Jorginho from Napoli in the summer, whilst Kepa Arrizabalaga arrived at Stamford Bridge for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper of £71.6m. Once more, the Blues’ spending far outweighed that of Spurs.
However, Tottenham have continued to display the kind of resourcefulness that allows them to consistently compete with Chelsea among others at the top level, though their decade-spanning run without a trophy continues to be an issue for Pochettino.
Spurs are in the midst of staging an unlikely fight for supremacy as London’s bigger club. Perhaps the only thing missing is a trophy to crown their progress.