Had you told me at 7:30 am ET that a Tottenham Hotspur squad that was without both Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele would lose 4-2 to Chelsea, I probably would have had two immediate reactions: That seems about right, and from where did Tottenham's goals come? Saturday's scoreline stings a little bit extra, however, largely because Spurs could, and possibly even should, have earned a result. Champions rally from behind when away from home while lesser sides make excuses, and Chelsea certainly look like the best team in the Premier League at this stage of the campaign.
Spurs 2-4 Chelsea: The first half
Spurs had what was far and away their worst half of football under Andre Villas-Boas on Saturday. Nerves, rust caused by the international break or a combination of the two had Tottenham a complete mess on all areas of the pitch during the game's opening 45 minutes. Their passing was as wretched as I've seen from Spurs since late last winter, the team's midfield was thoroughly outclassed, and multiple defensive miscues probably should have landed the hosts down by at least two goals at the halftime break.
Chelsea obviously deserve plenty of credit for putting together a performance that left little question about the quality that is in that team. It does deserve mentioning, however, that Tottenham made things far too easy for the Blues. The Spurs side that barely managed to survive the first half of Saturday's contest would struggle to compete against any team in the league.
Spurs 2-4 Chelsea: LVPs
Juan Mata will grab the headlines for his two goal, one assist afternoon, but make no mistake about the fact that Tottenham defender William Gallas was Chelsea's man of the match. Gallas notched his first non-assist assist of the game in the 17th minute, when he curiously attempted an across the box clearance that fell right to Gary Cahill. Cahill expertly volleyed the ball past Brad Friedel to open the scoring.
Gallas being unable to adequately clear the ball from danger again cost Spurs six minutes after the hour-mark of play, when he set Mata up for the Spaniard's first tally of the contest. Two minutes after that goal, Mata lost a ball-watching and possibly daydreaming Gallas in the penalty area before again beating Friedel for what would ultimately prove to be the game-decider.
Not to be outdone on the list of Tottenham goats for the day was Kyle Walker, who has somehow devolved from one of the best backs in the country to a liability in defense. Walker was unable to handle Chelsea attacks throughout both halves of play, and his curious and inexcusable turnover in the opening seconds of stoppage time resulted in Mata connecting with Daniel Sturridge for the goal that put the game out of reach.
Spurs 2-4 Chelsea: Looking forward
AVB has taken a week-by-week approach when selecting his EPL starting elevens, a method that I've been just fine with up to this point. I can't help but wonder, after this weekend when Bale and Dembele will (hopefully) be available options, if Spurs need to feature both Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor against the better teams in the league. Gylfi Sigurdsson demonstrated zero confidence while with possession in and around the penalty area, and Clint Dempsey looked like a guy playing with nine strangers in his 74 minutes of action. I understand Villas-Boas wanting/needing to save quality attackers as second half options, but the win over Manchester United reminded us all that Spurs are undoubtedly a better team when they take the fight to an opponent right from the start of play.
Spurs 2-4 Chelsea: Conclusion
Sometimes, you merely have to admit that you were downed by a better side, dust yourself off and move on to the next one. This is one of those times for AVB and his team. How Spurs respond in three straight away contests, a Europa League match at Maribor, an EPL game at Southampton and a Capital One Cup clash at Norwich, will tell us quite a bit about the state of the Villas-Boas era. The high that existed following the win at Old Trafford is now long gone. Just how hard Tottenham crash, if at all, will be determined over the next week and a half.
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