In a one-sided evening of football, Chelsea beat Spurs 0-2 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Blues were dominant from start to finish but the evening was unfortunately dominated by reports of racial abuse directed at Antonio Rudiger. What did we learn?
1. Willian Hazard
For the last few seasons one of the most defining traits of Chelsea was for Eden Hazard to turn up in big games and simply take over. The Belgian was never the most consistent player but when the big stage was calling he was more than ready to tread the boards. That’s been an x-factor that Chelsea have missed this season, but today they got a glimpse of it back.
Willian arrived in north London looking desperate to make an impression. The Brazilian produced the only moment of quality in the first-half, cutting in from a short corner and curling a beautiful effort into the back of the net. He looked impressive whenever he had the ball, carrying it past Spurs defenders with an Hazard-esque drive and playing some outrageous passes that even the Belgian would envy. Then he took his Hazard impression to its logical end when he sealed Chelsea’s victory with a cool, calm penalty (that he himself had created with a lovely pass that forced Paulo Gazzaniga into an overreaction).
Willian's game by numbers vs. Tottenham:
90% pass accuracy rate
5 Chances created
2 Shots on target
1 Foul won
A match-winning performance. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/dZ2lxarlIg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 22, 2019
UK rapper Stormzy was recently asked if Britain was still racist. His response was “definitely, 100%,” before addressing how many in the country like to pretend it doesn’t exist. “It’s like: ‘Oh no, we’re not racist’. But there’s a lot of racism in the country.” Hordes of people came out on social media to complain about Stormzy’s comments and insist that Britain isn’t racist. Accusations of media outlets misrepresenting his comments may have skewed the counter-reaction, but the section of people leaping to the defence of Britain’s reputation instead of acknowledging racism is upsetting.
And so of course, two days later, in the highest-profile Premier League game of the weekend, what did we get? Racial abuse reportedly directed towards Chelsea’s German defender Rudiger from the crowd. A shameful incident that led to Spurs announcing that racism was interrupting the game over the tannoy on three occasions, but such things are not enough. No doubt Spurs will issue a statement and ban the offending fan for life, but such things are not enough. These are the countermeasures that have been in place forever and they are not enough.
Racism is sadly still very much alive in Britain and in British football – just look at all the high-profile incidents of racism (like Haringey and Yeovil’s FA Cup game being called off, allegations of racial abuse during the Manchester Derby, plus numerous counts of abuse directed at players on social media).
Tottenham stadium announcer: "Racist behaviour from spectators is interfering with the game"
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) December 22, 2019
Frank Lampard says Toni Rudiger has said there were racist chants aimed at him during the game. He will support the player and as he does not know anymore at this stage, will wait for the process to take place.#TOTCHE
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 22, 2019
The only way to combat incidents like today’s and truly protect players like Rudiger is to start issuing points deductions and stadium bans for offending clubs. It will be very harsh at first, but racists will soon realise that not only is their bigotry not wanted but it is actively harming their club’s performance on the field. And then you will see things start to change.
3. Apprentice beats Master, again
This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, not yet anyway. Frank Lampard has already beaten José Mourinho, doing so last season in the Carabao Cup when he was at Derby and Mourinho was at Manchester United. This time they met in the Premier League, but the result was the same as Chelsea out-thought their hosts and walked away with an impressive and comfortable win.
José Mourinho has lost a home game against a former club in any competition for the first time as a manager.
And it's a former player that masterminded the win. pic.twitter.com/1616oRR4nj
— Coral (@Coral) December 22, 2019
Chelsea came into this game having lost four of their last seven games. Their form was horrible, and so Lampard adjusted his side to help them get their consistency back. He sent his side out in a back three, meaning that it was nearly impossible to catch them out defensively especially with the relentless N’Golo Kanté patrolling midfield ahead of them. The back three also unleashed Marcos Alonso to channel 2016/17 again and meant that when Chelsea did swarm forward on the break they did so in a way that Spurs were unable to cope with.
It was a sensational bit of game management from Lampard. He correctly figured out how to stifle and stop Spurs‘ free-scoring attack and the Blues just doused them with an absurd degree of comfort. Yes, he needed VAR’s help for the secondgoal and Son Heung-min’s red card, but Lampard’s tactical and strategic gameplan more than earned this win.
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4. Violent Son
Son got sent off for kicking out at Rudiger in the second-half. The referee initially didn’t give it, but VAR stepped in to make sure Anthony Taylor made the correct decision. It was a shocking moment of violence for Son, but was a fitting end to a year where he has now been sent off for violent conduct three times, more than any other player in the Premier League for a long, long while.
Son is obviously an attacking genius, and you would never want to take his emotional intensity away from him but the South Korean must learn to control his aggressive and violent tendencies because he is starting to get called out for it and the only people who are suffering are Spurs themselves.
5. Mourinho’s Herculean Task
Spurs are a bad team. They have very good players, but as a team they are tired and need a drastic shake-up. The return of Tanguy Ndombele will help Mourinho get things back on track but the Portuguese coach is going to have so much to do during the second half of the season.
Even with the French midfielder, Mourinho still needs to organise his defence to be able to cope with opposing transitions (Chelsea cut them open too easily today) and moreover they are desperate to find some consistent creativity and chance-creation beyond giving the ball to their star men and praying. It seems like an impossible job without investing quite considerably in January, and even if they do that, returning Spurs to their former glory is an absolutely Herculean task.
From José Mourinho's mad dogs at FC Porto, to Death by Transition at Real Madrid…
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 20, 2019