The processing of Tottenham's failure to advance from a gift of a Champions League draw is ongoing. Spurs never really seemed up for the matches and their football looked a healthy mix of desperation and disinterest throughout. While the autumn of Tottenham's 2016-17 season has been marred by injury, Spurs certainly had enough quality to get results and advance. What frustrates most is that in five matches the side never really gave supporters a sniff of engaging football. There were pockets here and there, but a prolonged run of effectiveness was never displayed. In retrospect, maybe a marquee matchup like a Barcelona or Bayern could have focused the group and made every game invaluable. There always seemed a sense that regardless of each game's outcome, the lack of a dominant side in the group allowed the next match to be most pivotal. Hopefully this will prove a learning experience for a young team, but it is a massive opportunity missed nonetheless.
In dramatic fashion, Spurs defeated West Ham 3-2 last Saturday. It broke a run of four draws for Spurs in the Premier League and kept them at pace with the front pack of five vying for the competition's top spot. After twelve matches Tottenham has amassed twenty-four points, sits fifth in the Premier League table, and is only four points off first placed Chelsea. Forget about form, its a nice position to be in with December closing in.
Chelsea F.C. welcome Spurs to Stamford Bridge where NBC promos tell me Tottenham have never won in the Premier League era. Nothing conjures violent emotions like a tie with Arsenal, and West Ham are incredibly annoying in that horsefly at a beach type way, but Chelsea ain't too far behind either. Whether its the oil money, the constant snatching of players Spurs are linked to (Mata, Hazard, Willian), Jose Mourinho, or just everything about that first class global citizen John Terry, they are a despicable side to tolerate.
They are also painfully good. Antonio Conte has implemented a 3-4-2-1, that has rose Victor Moses from the ashes and complements what was always an abundantly talented side well. Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are back to 2014-15 form, with N'Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matic bossing the midfield with an even mix of steel and class. Oh ya, and David Luiz is back in central defense too. This is a side that has defeated Leicester, United, and Everton by 3-0, 4-0, and 5-0 scorelines respectively. If there is a side in the Premier League to be wary of, this one might be it.
Looking back, the "Battle of the Bridge" really was a turning point in last season's title run. Spurs failed to take three crucial points late in the year and our form wasn't the same after. The ripples of that match could even be felt this season with Mousa Dembélé's absence leading to the bland Dier-Wanyama central midfield partnership that cost Spurs points early on. The opponent is formidable and our form less so. If Spurs trot out a performance like they did against Monaco, there is a real chance of embarrassment at Stamford Bridge. That said, its Chelsea and its a London Derby. If motivation was a question in the sparsely populated Stade Louis II, it won't be on Saturday. These are two sides that straight up don't like each other and Tottenham's late season draw, and the shenanigans that ensued during and after that match, won't be far from anyone's minds. Look for a hotly contested encounter in West London on Saturday.
How to Watch
Date/time: Saturday, November 26th, 2016, 5:30 p.m. (UK), 12:30 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, UK
Official: Michael Oliver
TV: NBCSN (NBC), BT Sport 1, BT Sport 4K UHD (UK), TSN2, TSNGO (Canada), Optus Sport (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio London, BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
When Dustin Menno creates Projected Lineups he usually ends with something like "and here is my hilariously wrong guess". The confidence I have in myself predicting correctly is a shade below Menno's, but I always felt like I had somewhat of a feel for what Mauricio Pochettino's selections would be. Today I have not a clue, and this is Danny Rose's fault.
Tottenham Hotspur continue to miss Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela, and Ben Davies due to injury, but the accumulation of five yellow cards means that Danny Rose won't play either. In general, I dislike lineups that don't include Danny Rose, but with the magnitude of this match and an unfit backup, it leaves our left side barren of proper choices.
Spurs can lineup in our more traditional 4-2-3-1 or even 4-3-3 or, like the match against Arsenal, we can shift to a 3-5-2. The 3-5-2 makes sense because we remove the need for a true left-back. Sure Jan Vertonghen can perform there, but do Spurs really want to remove him from the spine of defense against Chelsea? One can argue Wimmer or Dier to be thrown out left, but neither are great options. Wimmer feels to bulky to be played out wide, while Dier isn't well suited for the position. He is right footed and hands down his worst performances in a Spurs shirt have come while playing outside back. On the flip side, if a 3-5-2 is deployed, who can play the left wing-back role effectively? Can any of our attackers show enough pace and fluidity, in combination with some defensive prowess, to fill that void? The name that comes to mind for this occasion would be Georges-Kevin N'Koudou as he is the truest out and out winger of the bunch. Yet should Pochettino threw the young Frenchman into a London Derby of colossal proportions and, even if he could handle that challenge, is he defensively capable enough to be effective in that role?
Its for this reason that I think Poche opts for a 4-2-3-1. (P.S. My lineup for 3-5-2 would be Lloris, Wimmer, Dier, Vertonghen, Walker, GNK, Wanyama, Dembélé, Winks / Eriksen, Alli, Kane). While Vertonghen is the most well-suited and Trippier is an outside back by trade, Kevin Wimmer has played left-back for Austria in the past. I don't think Poche wants to sacrifice Dier & Vertonghen in the middle, so he'll throw Wimmer out left and probably have him play quite conservative too. The back four will be Walker and Wimmer out wide, with Dier and Vertonghen in the center.
Victor Wanyama needs a rest in my opinion, but I don't think it will come against Chelsea. Against Manchester City, another top side, he bossed the midfield. Its these types of games where he is asked to defend more and play less that he is better suited for. He will partner with, wait for it, Harry Winks in the double pivot. Poche already made commentsabout playing Winks on Saturday and he performed at a mature level in his two chances thus far. I think Harry will get the shot with Poche trying to capture that fearlessness that young players sometimes offer early in their careers.
Our attacking four will deploy Mousa Dembélé in his destroyer winger role out right, Dele Alli in the hole, with Christian Eriksen (the eyre of Spurs support right now for weird reasons) out left. Harry Kane will be the lone striker.
Exactly half of the Cartilage Free Captain writers predicted a Spurs win, which only highlights how damn uninspiring Spurs form has been. It was West Ham, in 17th place, at White Hart Lane for goodness sake! The signifiant changes in the table saw the resuming of GN Punk's upward momentum and Brian Mechanick distancing himself from the middle of the pack. Bryan A, while still eighty-two floors below the labs of Westworld, now has company. Ed F and Salmon Chase have been shuttled downward for a premature retirement. If only there was a proper storyline that could reanimate this lot.
|Earl of Shoop||4|
Dustin Menno: Life sucks and everything is terrible. 3-1 Chelsea.
Matthew Pachniuk: Spurs never seemed overly interested in the Champions League. Controversial to say, but results against Chelsea while still within reach of the top four, let alone the top spot, are just as glorious. I think the players feel this way too. Its either going to be a blow out in favor of Chelsea or a hardy point nicked from Stamford Bridge. I'll choose the latter. 2-2 draw.
Jake Meador: 2-0 Chelsea
Brian Meyers: 2-0 Spurs Harry Kane loves scoring against Chelsea
Pardeep Cattry: I said this before and I was wrong, but I'll say it again (in some ways, hoping I'll be wrong again) - Spurs will finally record their first loss in the league this year, capping off what has been a depressing last several days since the high of beating West Ham. At the very least, Kane will score and provide a little bit of joy, but Victor Moses will crush it. 2-1 Chelsea.
GN Punk: It's a good thing I have this shiny new bottle of bourbon! I'm going to need it for this match, but I still think Spurs can get a draw, because we are the new Draw City. 2-2.
Salmon Chase: I'm in North Carolina in a daze created by constant cooking, drinking ipa's and when I try to drink whiskey my father refusing me the house jim beam bottle to try and impress me with something he keeps in a secret drawer. In thoroughly pickled gang, What sport is this? Spurs 2-1.
Earl of Shoop: There's a part of me deep down that wants so badly to believe this is where we start looking like ourselves on the pitch again. Wouldn't that be great, to really get things on track by clobbering those jerks from across town? Sure, just like it'd be great if I hadn't consumed twice my body weight in gravy on Thursday. But we live in a cold, unforgiving world and sadly we have about the same odds of beating the Blues on our current form (especially with our cobbled together back line) as I did of ending Thursday with pants that could still button. Spurs give it a valiant effort but, like my pants, ultimately fail. Chelsea 3-1
Alex Greenberg: We haven't beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1990. We're unbeaten, but they're the ones who are flying in the league. We've got injuries and just too much working against us. Spurs drop their first in the Premier League here 2-1.
Luke Zimmerman: The only thing to stop Chelsea will be apathy. Spurs encourage a barrage of insufferable tweets, 0-3.
Brian Mechanick: I think Spurs get up for this London Derby against Chelsea! And by get up, I mean draw yet again. 1-1 draw.
Ben Daniels: Things are getting a little too dark around Spurs fandom these days. We need something to give us hope again so we can truly know disappointment later. Having our first win at the Bridge since 1990 would be the perfect sort of false dawn right before everything implodes. 2-1 Spurs but we probably get relegated.
Bryan A: TBD
Ed F: TBD