team lost 4-1 to one of their fiercest rivals, and while Tottenham’s unbeaten streak may have come to an end, this was a potentially disastrous night for the team.
Both defenders were sent off, so Spurs will be without Cristian Romero for the next three games and Destiny Udogie for Saturday’s trip to Wolves. Micky van de Ven will undoubtedly be out of the team for a far longer period after pulling up with what appears to be a significant hamstring injury.
For at least three games—including the December 3 visit to Manchester City—a temporary defense is in order.
All at once, Spurs’ luck appeared to run out and many of their calculated gambles backfired, specifically the squad’s lack of cover at center-half and for James Maddison, who was also forced off in the first half with an ankle complaint.
And yet, despite the result, the injuries, and the suspensions, the most chaotic and controversy-packed game of the Premier League’s VAR era was an oddly uplifting occasion for Spurs.
It felt like the night when the club truly came to belong to Ange Postecoglou, and it may prove as galvanizing as it was damaging.
The way Spurs battled with nine men, stuck bravely to their head coach’s high-risk approach, and kept the crowd fully onside made it feel like a moral victory and suggests the whole club — from the dressing room to terraces — has fully bought into Postecoglou’s approach.
When Nicolas Jackson’s second of three goals made it 3-1 to Chelsea deep into stoppage time, the home supporters greeted the killer blow by standing to applaud their team’s efforts.
It was quite a moment and more meaningful than the loss of key players or Chelsea returning to west London with the bragging rights.
Players will always miss games and teams will always suffer bad results, but having a club this energized and unified is hugely significant.
For Postecoglou, most encouraging was the way his players committed steadfastly to his high defensive line even with a two-man deficit; he has said that the type of football his teams play when their backs are against the wall shows who they are, and, after just 13 games, the entire Spurs squad is fully committed to Angeball.
Admittedly, Jackson was able to walk in one of the simplest of hat-tricks but at, 2-1 up, Chelsea looked like a side who did not know how to win the game, even with two extra men.
Eric Dier, who was outstanding in his first minutes of the season, thought he had scored a spectacular equalizer — one of five disallowed goals in the game — while Heung-min Son and Rodrigo Bentancur both missed fine chances to level the score.
If there was a concern for Postecoglou, aside from the injuries and suspensions, however, it was the way his side played at 1-0 after Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected strike had given them the perfect start.
After Pedro Porro’s error, the hosts became nervous right away, and Jackson should have equalized fast. However, Guglielmo Vicario, who was amazing, denied the striker with the first of several spectacular stops.
Son then put the ball in the net to make it 2-0, the first of four goals that were disallowed due to close offsides. Spurs then looked to be coasting back to the top of the table and applying more pressure to Pochettino.
However, they foolishly let their feelings get the better of them and the game, turning the match into a brawl with a fervor reminiscent of Pochettino’s most notorious night in this fixture—the Battle of the Bridge in May 2016.
Udogie and Romero were both lucky to avoid red cards before they were eventually dismissed either side of half-time, and the Argentine — who was named as one of Postecoglou’s vice-captains in the summer — was particularly guilty of losing his head.
His reckless follow-through on Enzo Fernandez earned Chelsea a penalty, from which Cole Palmer equalized, and turned the game on its head.
Romero cost his team but he was not alone in appearing naive and rash; Spurs may be Postecoglou’s team but they remain a long way from the finished product.
It may also prove a significant night for Chelsea and Pochettino, although it was the Argentine who looked the most agitated of the two managers as the clock wound down, exchanging heated words with Thiago Silva after Chelsea’s third goal — which came seconds after Son nearly made it 2-2.
Pochettino can reflect that his young team handled the occasion better than Spurs and they fully deserved to level the score in the first half, despite being so jittery when they finally took the lead.
This result may accelerate Pochettino’s process of making his club his own and potentially prove a turning point in his tenure.
For different reasons, the same could be true for Spurs, particularly if their form hit the rocks without key players, but Postecoglou can be reassured that he has quickly made an indelible imprint on this club.