Tottenham's turbulent defeat to Chelsea throws their season off track - will Postecoglou take heed for their rematch at Stamford Bridge?


There is a picture that stands out most from Tottenham’s crushing 4-1 defeat to Chelsea last November. Not the pictures of jubilation from Mauricio Pochettino’s men or the dejected faces of the home side. It was an image of all eight Spurs outfielders pushed up to the half way line.

Even after being reduced to nine men in one of the most chaotic and frantic Premier League games of all time – with Tottenham 2-1 down – Ange Postecoglou refused to relent.

Genius or insanity? That was the question being asked about Postecoglou’s die-hard attacking philosophy – and to be fair to him, Spurs had two big chances to get level against Chelsea before they were picked apart on the counter. 

Spurs travel to Stamford Bridge on Thursday seeking to wipe those painful memories from existence while still maintaining their manager’s unwavering ethos. 

Tottenham's infamous high line in their 4-1 loss to Chelsea in November has become a symbol of Ange Postecoglou's attacking philosophy

Tottenham’s infamous high line in their 4-1 loss to Chelsea in November has become a symbol of Ange Postecoglou’s attacking philosophy 

The Australian goes up against Mauricio Pochettino again on Thursday as Tottenham look to right the wrongs of their hammering

The Australian goes up against Mauricio Pochettino again on Thursday as Tottenham look to right the wrongs of their hammering

Tottenham lost their heads on that night as they were sent down to nine men against Chelsea

Tottenham lost their heads on that night as they were sent down to nine men against Chelsea

It’s unlikely we will see anything close to that eyebrow-raising highline from Spurs on this occasion, but that doesn’t mean Postecoglou has learnt his lesson. Far from it. Why? As far as his tactics go, he doesn’t believe there’s a lesson to be learnt. 

As for his side’s temperament, there is room for improvement and that will be key to getting any kind of result from a venue where Tottenham have won just once in 14 years. 

Tottenham completely lost their heads in the first game with Cristian Romero sent off for mindlessly lunging in on Enzo Fernandez with a studs-up challenge that also resulted in a penalty. The Argentina international is a fabulous defender but he’s also a notorious hothead. 

Destiny Udogie was given his marching orders too in the second half to give Spurs a mountain to climb – even with the score at 1-1 – as a Nicolas Jackson hat-trick killed the game off and inflicted an agonising scoreline for Spurs. 

Postecoglou took responsibility for the result, which laid down a marker for the team under the leadership of the former Celtic boss. In his words: eleven men or five men – his teams go for the jugular no matter what. This is exactly how he wants his side to play, and in many ways, he might have even been happy about the result as it showed the players had bought into his mindset.

The problem is, this game was more punishing than he could have imagined after a mix of the injuries to Mickey van de Ven and James Maddison and suspensions for Romero and Udogie sent Spurs on a downward spiral, with their early title hopes quickly fading.  

Spurs must show better temperament this time around in order to have a chance of victory

Spurs must show better temperament this time around in order to have a chance of victory

That damaging night in north London had calamitous ramifications for Tottenham's season as injuries and suspensions derailed any title hopes

That damaging night in north London had calamitous ramifications for Tottenham’s season as injuries and suspensions derailed any title hopes 

Resulting games have seen his side ripped open on far too many occasions this season, showing ‘Ange ball’ and the way his side set themselves up still needs a lot of work.

Spurs’ fitness issues have not gone away and that won’t help matters. Maddison is back but looks a fraction of the player who starred for them earlier this season. Udogie, Ben Davies and Timo Werner are all ruled out for the season.  

Chelsea will look at Tottenham’s last result – a 3-2 defeat to rivals Arsenal – and take confidence after watching Spurs go 3-0 down inside the first half as the Gunners took control despite not being the dominant side.

Former Spurs boss Pochettino knows this club inside out and while many of the players who were loyal to him during his five and a half year tenure are now gone, he will feel he has a good idea of how the current Tottenham team will play. 

The Argentinian has come under huge pressure this season and Chelsea into that first game between the two sides amid sketchy form. 

Thrashing Spurs did not prove to be the catalyst that turned their season around as they followed it up with a 4-4 draw against Man City, a 4-1 loss to Newcastle, a 3-2 win against Brighton before back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Everton. 

Tottenham are at a low ebb after losing 3-2 to Arsenal and Chelsea will see weaknesses

Tottenham are at a low ebb after losing 3-2 to Arsenal and Chelsea will see weaknesses 

But Chelsea have been plagued by inconsistency themselves, as well as in-fighting

But Chelsea have been plagued by inconsistency themselves, as well as in-fighting 

Recent results hardly inspire either, with a lack of consistency the pressing issue for the Blues. Draw 2-2 at home to Burnley, then beat Man United 4-3. Draw 2-2 to Sheffield United, then beat Everton 6-0. Lose 5-0 to Arsenal, then draw 2-2 to high-flying Aston Villa.  

You might be noticing a pattern here, though in truth you just never know what you’re going to get from Chelsea. Add recent in-fighting to the mix – after Nicolas Jackson, Noni Madueke and Cole Palmer all bickered over who would take a penalty against Everton – and you have a real mess at Stamford Bridge.

This would be seen as a good time to play them given the fact they’ve shipped seven goals in their last two games, but Spurs have let in the exact same amount after also getting thumped 4-0 by Newcastle earlier this month. 

Spurs will be motivated by righting the wrongs of that 4-1 loss to Chelsea when they arrive in west London. This is an opportunity to show how a Postecoglou side properly functions against another top team – just as they did when they thumped Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park, or when they got a 3-3 draw at reigning champions Manchester City. 

But the Australian insists revenge is not on their minds – insisting the desire to beat their rivals in a massive London derby will be motivation enough. 

Postecoglou insists his side are not out for revenge, but Spurs have a chance to put things right

Postecoglou insists his side are not out for revenge, but Spurs have a chance to put things right

‘I have never bought into that revenge rubbish because that would suggest you need motivation other than winning games of football,’ he said at his pre-match press conference.

‘You can understand the meaning of games to fans but players and staff should not need extra motivation. That is what you have to do every week.’

Tottenham are seven points adrift of Aston Villa with five games to play, yet this is one of two games in hand over Unai Emery’s men. The other is against Man City. It’s unlikely, but two huge results could make things very interesting in the top four race.

The first game against Chelsea was a benchmark for their season in terms of embracing their style of play and lessons learnt. The return game offers a shot at redemption and to show how far the team have come since that painful night. 



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