The Week In Tottenham: Hello, Champions League
The week in five words
Champions League: Hello, Old Friend.
What went well
If reports are accurate, Mauricio Pochettino should be signing his contract extension within the next few days. Wonderful, because none of this would work without him.
It's true to say that Tottenham have been built around several complementary infrastructural components, but the Argentine is most valuable of them all. Paul Mitchell is an extremely useful resource and the club's academy is already a mine of talent, but Pochettino is the one who has converted that potential into tangible success. Without him, there would be nothing but theory and vague hope.
Equally, while the team's form is the basis for harmony within the fanbase, that's something for which the Argentine is also ultimately responsible.
Tim Sherwood's abrasiveness eroded away at many supporters' love for the club and Pochettino's greatest gift has been to repair that damage. He's a tremendously unifying figure and someone who has allowed even the most embittered, cynical fans to feel unusually close to their football team.
Losing him now, when the future looks so bright, would have been a heavy punch to take. He's charismatic, tactically astute, and has had the galvanising effect which so many of his predecessors have lacked; in a season full of admirable contributions, he's been the real star.
At half-time on Monday night, the burden of a twenty-six year losing streak was easing from Tottenham's shoulders. An hour later, the lead and the title were gone and the weight of that sequence remained. What a pity. Given how Leicester - and, more importantly, Everton - are playing, the championship would likely have been beyond this team even if they'd won, but this was a missed opportunity to exorcise some demons.
And the discipline. For seventy minutes and with the exception of Mousa Dembele's rake on Diego Costa, Spurs had bullied Chelsea in a way which, for fans used to flimsy performances, was actually rather heartwarming.
Beyond that, however, lines were crossed and they became the first Premier League side in history to receive nine yellow cards in a game.
It was difficult to judge, because it was conflicting. The players' recklessness was almost a manifestation of how many of their supporters were feeling and so there was a mildly cathartic value to that vigilantism.
Realistically though, it was the kind of team-wide psychosis that nobody should be in a hurry to witness again. It was an understandable reaction from a team who are, in the main, comprised of young, inexperienced players, but there is a difference between being physically committed and completely losing control.
Tottenham are tougher and nastier these days and that's very welcome, but Monday night evidenced their need to sometimes use that steel in a more considered way.
Quote of the week
"I did not need assurances [in contract discussions]. I didn't ask for anything. In the moment that the chairman wanted to extend my contract, he showed his ambition.
The players are very happy here. I want to be involved in the future of the club," Mauricio Pochettino said.
How unusually painless that was.
Video of the week
A bittersweet memory given how the game finished, but Heung Min Son’s goal was a perfect example of Pochettino's ideology at work: win the ball back high, break quickly with numbers, and then exploit an attacking overload.
Need to know facts
- Tottenham have not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 26 games. The last time they did so was back in 1990, Feburary 10
- The wait for an English Premier League title goes on, with Tottenham's last title truimph coming in the 1960-61 season
- Tottenham are still on course to finish above Arsenal in the league standings for the first time since 1996
Winner of the week
Leicester City, of course.
There were some strong performances against Chelsea, and Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela both furthered their reputations, but it's more appropriate now just to applaud Leicester from the stage. They've been more consistent, they've been more tolerant of the pressure, and they thoroughly deserve their championship.
The great irony is that, although an extreme example, Leicester represent a movement to which Tottenham also currently belong. They too are hoping that intangibles and coaching can elevate them beyond the petrodollar monopoly at the top of the league and Leicester's victory, although at Tottenham's cost this year, is a validation of that approach.
It's Leicester's time now - so well done to them - but everything about Tottenham suggests that they will have their own day soon.
Loser of the week
Mousa Dembele, because of his gouging lunge at Diego Costa.
What a wonderful player Dembele is. Even in the hothouse of Monday's game, he showed again what a precious midfielder he is and what a steadying influence he can be. But there's never any justification for deliberately making contact with an opponent's eyes or actively trying to do another professional harm.
The Belgian - apologies for the Tony Pulis-ism - has never been that type of player, but he badly let himself down at Stamford Bridge and will presumably now be suspended for the rest of the season. Yes, it was out of character and, yes, his disciplinary record is relatively clean, but that shouldn't prevent him from taking ownership of his actions and gracefully accepting whatever punishment is due.
This Tottenham squad have inspired a level of supporter pride which is unprecedented in the modern era, so that moment felt wholly out of context.