Second place, anyone?

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

I’m tempted to name the entire side as MOTM, the overall effort and performance was that good. Dele Alli probably pips the rest in what was a simply sublime first half that shaped the entire contest, clearly his best game of the year (and the same for the entire team, for that matter). It could have been 5, easily but then again Foyth dodged a bullet for his shove of Hazard and Chelsea had a few good chances before Giroud finally scored the only way they were going to on this night.

Let’s just do one simple thing first. Spurs have played 8 away games, more than any other side in the league—and their home games are being played at a ground neither they nor their fanbase care ever to visit again unless a trophy is involved. We aren’t City.  News Flash: no one else are either. But the notion that Liverpool or Chelsea were somehow a notch above us was always based on a pundit prisoner of the moment belief. Poch hasn’t ever finished below the Reds. And we have now beaten Chelsea twice on the bounce, and by any objective measurement Spurs have more talent in more positions than a team that faded out of the Top Four just six months ago.

This game was won by sheer effort—I have rarely if ever seen a Chelsea team having so many difficulties getting the ball out of their own end as this one did in the first half-hour. Spurs were pressing all over the pitch—Barcelona/Pep style—and Sarri and Co. were simply unable to deal with it. There were two or three decent chances before Dele’s exquisite header from a terrific Eriksen delivery got us going. And one or two more before Kane—again from Eriksen—flat-footed Kepa with the killer second. Sissoko had another first-rate game; Aurier showed why he should be preferable to Trippier going forward because he simply plays hard and well up and down the pitch. Dier did have the predictable giveaways but the rest of the defence held and our Portuguese Dierwolf grew into the game. And but for the clumsiness on Hazard, Foyth continues to impress. The one wasteful player early was Son—particularly from a great lob from Eriksen–but then again he was flying up and down the pitch.

That speed paid off in spades when Dele lifted a nice ball to the Korean in the second half, running 1 v 5 seemingly about to wait for reinforcements. Not this night—bye bye Rudiger and Luiz was toast and the next thing you know the game was over. Goal of the season. Goal of his career. Third place. On to Inter and then the NLD next weekend. A team that everyone associated with the club, most notably the manager, and all of us supporters, knew had not played their best had somehow gotten off to the best record “start” in the Premiership era, despite the lack of signings, despite the Lloris scandal, despite the new ground embarrassment, despite the 8 of 12 away games. We all knew a game like this was coming—like the wins over Liverpool and Real Madrid last season, United, Arsenal and City the year before, the game at Stamford Bridge last spring.

So there it is. This team can and should qualify for the UCL next year, whether we get through the group stage or not. A win v Inter this week and a result at Camp Nou to get us through are entirely possible, if not likely. The two away games at the Emirates will say a lot about just what the club’s ambitions might be this season. The title is not realistic—not when a superteam with a super wage structure and a super manager is playing better than last season—and without their best player for most of the year so far. But everything else—meaning three trophies—is still to play for. This is the best Spurs have had it for more than a half-century—let’s never forget that. Tonight was a reminder about just how good they can be.

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