Premier League good weekend, bad weekend
Saturday’s 4-0 win over Watford was the sixth time in 2017 that Tottenham have scored more than three goals in a Premier League game. They really have developed a habit of exerting their authority on lesser opponents.
What has been particularly striking about the past few months is the consistent attitude of Mauricio Pochettino’s players. Rather than being one of those sides whose application waivers from team-to-team, they are an equal opportunity bully who appear to relish the opportunity to dominate. Saturday was particularly impressive given that it came just two full days after that long, long night in south Wales and yet, on a lazy, sunny afternoon at White Hart Lane against an apparently soft opponent, there was no drop in standard whatsoever. If anything, they looked more energised: content with what they achieved in Swansea, but still sure of the need to improve.
Fatigue often blunts a team’s creativity and yet here, during their third game in seven days, Tottenham played with a precision that yielded four goals and warranted many more. They thundered with purpose.
Perhaps this evidences Pochettino’s growth as much as his team’s? The last week has relied on the calculated rotation of a small squad and the clever insertion of a few particularly imperfect pieces. The result: a freshness to their quality which seems too much for most sides to bear.
Ice cool in the warm spring sunshine. Chelsea’s win over Bournemouth didn’t teach anybody anything and neither did it reveal anything which wasn’t already known about Antonio Conte’s side. Still, all the common platitudes relating to title challenges concern emotional resilience and within that lies this team’s most significant advantage: they’ve been built to be mechanical rather than expressive, and so their style is less susceptible to pressure.
Bournemouth were hurdled without so much as a checked stride. The sun caused some initial difficulties (and nearly immortalised David Luiz on YouTube), but from the moment Diego Costa opened the scoring Chelsea enjoyed almost complete control. Even Josh King’s goal didn’t obviously fluster the visitors, who continued to play the same football that they have all season, at the same temperament and with the same result.
Of the eleven players who started for Conte at Dean Court, only Pedro, Victor Moses and David Luiz have not won the Premier League before. But even that little group of title debutantes has a whole range of domestic and continental medals to their name, meaning that this side is packed with experience of how to cross the line in this kind of situation.
And it shows. Chelsea look nerveless.
Pretending that sheer survival was the aim at the start of this season would ignore the noise that West Ham made during the summer. Evidently, this was supposed to be the start of a new era. Instead, Saturday’s win over Swansea represented the end of a successful failure - and, in the short term, the bookending of five straight defeats with a nervy, fearful victory.
Still, they got it done. These players have not coped well in London Stadium and so this performance, in their most important game in years (according to Mark Noble), was not backed by traditional home advantage. There’s certainly a point to be made about how meek Swansea were, but this was still West Ham’s players taking responsibility and, ultimately, ensuring that they remain at this level next year.