Why Tottenham’s Title Race Is Still On
After Chelsea won 4-2 in the FA Cup semi-final, it would seem that the title race is a foregone conclusion. It seems as though they have the momentum to lift the title. Nevertheless, it is still mathematically possible for both teams to win, and Chelsea must be on their guard to defend their title from Spurs’ reaching clutches.
Impact of FA Cup
Tottenham’s defeat on the high stage of Wembley could threaten their title chances. The nature of the match suggested that despite playing well in key periods, the footholds Spurs established were not consolidated.
One key part of the match was individual errors. Toby Alderweireld shouldn’t have dived in; Hugo Lloris was perhaps unsighted for the first goal, but really should have saved Willian’s effort; Heung-Min Son set up a perfect opportunity for Victor Moses to win a penalty. If Spurs want to challenge for the title, such poor individual mistakes cannot be repeated.
Another key point was Chelsea’s perseverance. Whether or not they played to the best of their ability is a different matter, but they were clinical and took their chances, with eight shots and five of them on target, scoring four. This is the mark of a title-winning teamand one that is dangerous to compete against indeed.
Recent League Form and Fixtures
Tottenham have recently won seven Premier League matches in a row, a Premier League record for the club. In the last ten matches, they have only suffered one defeat and one draw. Overall, they are in fantastic form in the league. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s recent faltering form has allowed Spurs back into the title race. Out of the last 12 points available, Chelsea have only mustered half the total. In the last ten matches, they have suffered two defeats and two draws. This means that in comparison to Spurs, Chelsea’s recent form is inferior.
Spurs have a much harder run-in than Chelsea, with the likes of Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester United, to play. In contrast, Chelsea have Middlesbrough, Watford and Sunderland, despite some more stoic opposition in Everton and Southampton. Even the bottom feeders of the Premier league, such as Sunderland, may put up a heroic fight to keep their club safe from relegation. Thus, whilst on paper Spurs look unlikely to win all their matches, Chelsea may not be able to do so either.
The main strength is the newfound mentality of the club. A weakness in the mind has pervaded Spurs teams for the last few years. Under Pochettino, his teams now push until the very death to snatch a point or victory. Spurs have rescued 17 points from losing positions this Premier League season. This is a testament to their never-say-die attitude that will be vital in maintaining the title charge.
Another strength is youth. Whilst there are some experienced players from Hugo Lloris to Mousa Dembélé, the average age is only 25.2, the lowest in the league. Whilst inexperience may be seen as a weakness, it is truly the opposite. Younger players are hungrier to prove their worth. They also tend to be fitter and stronger than the older sides. Youth can help add some resistance and flexibility to Spurs’ title push.
Pochettino has tightly-controlled discipline in his squad, but the final match against Chelsea in the Premier League last season became a kicking match. How a single red card was not issued that day is unknown. But, this season, Dele Alli’s temperament has also been brought into question. Since that incident he seems to have improved. Any repeat of such behaviour at this stage could cost Spurs points, as he is so vital to the way they go forward.
No longer are Spurs reliant on Gareth Bale or Harry Kane to score goals, but there have been moments where the players have struggled to convert possessions and chances into goals. Most recently, this particular weakness has been banished. But, every chance must be converted if they are to challenge for the title. Points, as well as goal difference, are significant at this final stage.
Chelsea still hold a four point gap over their rivals. This is a massive strength, as it heaps pressure onto Spurs. At this stage, one loss or draw could hand the title to Chelsea. So long as the club can win their next two to three league matches to consolidate their wobbly form, they will be almost certainly win the league.
Eden Hazard has always been at the enmity of Spurs fans. He has scored 14 goals this year in the Premier League, after a torrid previous season. There is absolutely no doubt in his abilities, such as his precise dribbling, explosive pace and ability to create goals. A title-winning side needs a creative, attacking player to create goals, and Hazard is definitely that player for Chelsea.
The only danger with Chelsea’s four point gap is that they succumb to Spurs’ pressure. One defeat could throw open the title race. If Chelsea’s players can’t handle the pressure, the vastly improved mentality of the Spurs players may steal the title from their rivals clutches.