Tottenham 2-0 Chelsea (Skipp 46′, Kane 82′)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM — Graham Potter folded his arms in front of his chest, hands resting just below the Trivago logo on the left breast of his Chelsea coat, looking badly in need of a hotel comparison site to find somewhere to stay for a long holiday. If only he could think of one to use.

That was the pose the Chelsea manager struck in his technical area each time his side conceded against Tottenham. The first perhaps pondering how on earth Oliver Skipp had lashed one in from 20 yards for his first ever Spurs goal, 23 seconds into the second half. Or wondering how his goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga, had failed to get a firm hand to the strike before it dipped in via the crossbar.

The second time he was most definitely searching for reasons why over £100m worth of centre-backs didn’t think it pertinent to mark Harry Kane, one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history, from a corner before he tucked in Eric Dier’s nod on at the back post. That one was perplexing.

Ah well, back to the training ground. Back to trying to get one of the most expensively-assembled playing squads the game has ever seen to play like Brighton and Hove Albion. Back to being the figurehead and public punching bag for the monumental upheaval and change Chelsea have gone through since Todd Boehly and his consortium took over.

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They have promised patience and the purist in you wants Potter – an unassuming, down-to-earth character flying the flag for English coaches – to be given time to succeed. But the realist wonders how much longer he will.

Only six months in and the job is clearly taking its toll. That much was clear when he revealed prior to the match that he had received truly awful emails wishing he and his children were dead.

He looks as though he has recently neatened his beard and had a haircut. Perhaps attempting to freshen things up after walking around with the air of somebody who had just emerged from a forest after several weeks lost in the wilderness, possibly searching for a Chelsea goal.

Potter was asked by Sky before kick-off what his team needed to do to turn things around. “We need to score,” he said. “Simple as that.”

Only that’s clearly not as simple as it sounds. Chelsea have scored once in six games. They haven’t scored more than once in a game since beating Bournemouth by two on 27 December.

Chelsea’s results in 2023

  • Nottingham Forest 1-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 0-1 Man City
  • Man City 4-0 Chelsea
  • Fulham 2-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-0 Crystal Palace
  • Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 0-0 Fulham
  • West Ham 1-1 Chelsea
  • Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 0-1 Southampton
  • Tottenham 2-0 Chelsea

Spurs had never even scored against Chelsea in their stadium since it opened four years ago and now they have a first victory, moving them 14 points clear and surely ending their opponent’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

There is an element of misfortune involved of course, even against Spurs losing Thiago Silva, one of their standout players of a troubling period, in the first half. Still, he was able to call on Wesley Fofana, a £70m signing last summer, with a squad depth most would envy.

And they didn’t even have the excuse of being a player down following a bizarre lengthy delay in first-half stoppage time in which Hakim Ziyech was sent off then unsent off in an event that kept the debate about the efficacy of VAR in the Premier League well and truly alive and kicking.

In a heated moment Ziyech appeared to push out at Emerson Royal and though his hand caught the Spurs defender’s cheek it was hardly Will Smith vs Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Nonetheless it was the sort of moment when it’s handy for a referee to have an extra official with access to replays from multiple angles speaking in your ear. Only, for some reason Attwell was told it was a red card offence, and duly showed Ziyech one.

Everyone appeared bemused and clearly something was nagging at Attwell who decided to take a quick look at the pitch-side monitor, where he decided it was not, after all, a sending off offence and rescinded the red. Maybe it’s not so much a problem with the technology, as with those using it.

Either way, Potter probably isn’t the only one in need of a good holiday.

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