MATT BARLOW: Tottenham’s defeat at Chelsea lays flaws bare and shows that Antonio Conte MUST turn to the transfer market for reinforcements… even if Harry Kane’s goal should have stood
- Tottenham lost 2-0 to Chelsea with goals from Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva
- It means that Spurs have lost to the Blues three times in the space of 18 days
- Harry Kane had a goal harshly disallowed in the first half for a soft foul on Silva
- Antonio Conte must feel he now needs to dip into the transfer market this month
No sooner had Thiago Silva glanced a header past Hugo Lloris to offer Chelsea a degree of comfort than a familiar refrain rang around Stamford Bridge.
‘Tottenham Hotspur it’s happened again,’ they gloated.
Spurs have lost three times in 18 days to Chelsea. Throw in the 3-0 home defeat in the reverse fixture in September and it is four with eight goals conceded and none scored.
Tottenham’s players could not believe that Harry Kane’s goal in the first half was disallowed
Thomas Tuchel has averted his midwinter crisis thanks to beating the Blues’ London rivals who have won only once at the Bridge in more than 30 years.
Antonio Conte, however, must wonder how he is supposed to elevate Tottenham to this sort of level without major investment in the transfer market.
Conte, in position since the start of November, is still learning about his players and the best way to get the best from them, although his team selection hinted at some of the conclusions drawn by the Italian.
There was no sign of Dele Alli or Tanguy Ndombele, both free to leave if they can find a suitor. Also absent was Giovani Lo Celso, who took to social media to let everyone know he considered himself to be fit.
Conte set out with four central defenders in a back four, plus wing-backs and a pair of holding midfielders.
Antonio Conte has been left with plenty to think about following defeat against his former club
Thiago Silva’s goal condemned Spurs to a third defeat against Chelsea in the space of 18 days
It was the sort of tactical system West Brom used to set up with at Stamford Bridge under Tony Pulis. At least with Harry Kane and Steven Bergwijn there was threat on the break.
One of Conte’s early successes has been to make Kane dangerous again, and perhaps the masterplan would have revealed itself had Kane’s goal not been ruled out in the first half for a foul on Thiago Silva, a gentle push in the back before he gathered the low cross and fired it past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Spurs were still fuming about it at half time. Ryan Mason, now on Conte’s coaching team, was busily making his case to referee Paul Tierney as the officials disappeared into the tunnel and seemed to continue his point when they met again on the way out for the second half.
It was certainly soft, part of an annoying trend in defenders falling down to buy a foul rather than defend a dangerous situation, but Tierney spotted the nudge, gave the foul and there was no reason for the VAR Darren England to overrule.
Chelsea took a grip on the contest with two goals in 10 minutes at the start of the second half and kept the visitors at bay.
Kane provided Tottenham with a threat on the break, but could not find a way through
Conte threw on what few senior attacking options he had on the bench but there would be no late fightback as there had been at Leicester, four days earlier.
Arrizabalaga denied Kane with a good save in the 86th minute and Chelsea celebrated a clean sheet, and a win much needed to cement their place in the top four before they head off to represent Europe in the Club World Cup. They will not play again in the Premier League until the second half of February.
Conte shook Thomas Tuchel by the hand and smouldered straight back to the dressing room. Plenty to occupy his thoughts as the Premier League takes a break and the transfer market moves into its final week.