Jose Mourinho failed to take advantage of Tottenham’s 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan in this stalemate.The Special One decided he could do without Diego Costa, with whom he had a bust-up in Israel last week and left the striker on the bench.Without him the ailing Premier League champions were unable to find away past their London rivals who remain undefeated since the opening weekend of the season.
Chelsea’s best chance came in the 67th Eden Hazard forced a fabulous save from Hugo Lloris with a sizzling volley. Tottenham’s best opening came in the 27th minute when Son Heung Min had a header saved by Asmir Begovic when he should have scored. The draw leaves Tottenham fifth in the table, five points off leaders Manchester City. Chelsea stay 14th.
Here are five things we learned:
1) Fear factor gone for for Spurs
They kept the ball better. Theirs was the better distribution and they created the better chances.
Eric Dier was derided on social media for insisting the days that Tottenham cowered at the prospect of facing Chelsea are over. The way that the two teams performed here it is Chelsea that will not want to be facing Spurs too often.
2) Costa’s Chelsea days may be numbered
He was dropped to the bench despite Mourinho’s claim after their bust-up in Israel last week that they had enjoyed “kisses and cuddles” as they made up.
Even more significantly, Costa failed to appear for the pre-match warm-up. Kane, Vardy, Greizmann, Teixeira and just about every other half-decent striker has been scouted as a possible replacement. The smoke signals suggested back in the summer that Costa wanted out. Chelsea denied it. If he still wants to go it would appear there are few people at the club that would stand in his way.
3) Tottenham have their best backline for years
Credit for that has to go to Toby Alderweireld who is helping Jan Vertonghen to fulfil his potential.
Before Alderweireld’s arrival. Vertonghen was moody, flaky and not the kind of guy you would want in the trenches. Now he has toughened up and the understanding between the pair is one of the bedrocks of Tottenham’s success.
4) Pochettino not averse to doing a Sherwood
You won’t have seen it on TV too much but from the press box it is a regular sight. Pochettino, legs apart, fists clenched and screaming at his players when they either give the ball away or waste an opportunity from a good position. Unlike Sherwood, however, it always elicits a response from the Spurs players who ensure they do not make the same mistake twice.
5) Dembele is back to his best
During his time at Fulham – and at times early on at Spurs – Dembele was tipped to go on to even bigger things. His touch, vision and ability to shield the ball while creating space for himself were a joy to behold.
Manchester United were the club repeatedly understood to be biding their time for him. He was then unlucky with injuries, struggled to get back into the side and at one point even sought a way out.
Pochettino has seen the quality in him, however, and he is now a key player in the Tottenham team in an advanced position.
Should Chelsea ditch Diego Costa?