Tottenham’s attacking quartet look to secure the edge over Chelsea | Tottenham Hotspur

AAs Chelsea and Tottenham look ahead to Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge and the final installment of their own two-handed sub-saga, it’s tempting to see another example of Trigger’s Broom thesis, the search for the essence of things. . Change the stadium, change the atmosphere, change the recruitment. Change managers (key detail: choose one who likes to wield trophies). Change the target expectation level. Is this thing still Spurs?

Or at least are Spurs still in that defining performance mode? Can we expect this team to beat top opponents when winning matters the most? or conform to muscle memory, frolicking proudly on those delicate colt’s legs before collapsing in a whirlwind of hooves whenever the prospect of real success looms on the horizon?

The same sense of flow is of course present at Chelsea and in a much deeper way. It’s still hard to grasp the full jaw-dropping scale of what’s happened over the past six months with the most transformative presence in English football’s century. For two decades the real marvel of Chelsea’s winning machine has been its consistency, the way head coaches have come and gone, a different face, a different coat, a different way of carrying themselves; but still a binding thread of cold, hard sporting will (and £1.5billion in sliding loans) has kept this super-yacht growing.

This 20-year-old project has now been stripped not just of its bottomless pockets, but of every member of the club hierarchy responsible for running the business. Is it still Chelsea? What exactly is Chelsea? Is a self-proclaimed bro-billionaire in Ringo tones really any different than an inscrutable oligarch in designer double denim? Where will we feel the undulations, the changed angles? It’s of course too early to tell, although the signing of Raheem Sterling is a clear statement of sustained elite ambition.

Still, a meeting between Spurs and Chelsea at this stage is brilliantly prepared, if only because these clubs have tended to define each other’s progress over the past decade, only to become a touchstone – not quite a mega-derby or a CLasicobut at the very least a source of deep mutual irritation.

Chelsea dominated this relationship, the greatest single player in the idea of ​​Spurs as almost there and not quite. The Abramovich years were basically a riot on that front, with a decade-long unbeaten streak against their most hated opponents (North London version), a 6-1 win at White Hart Lane, an 11-game streak consecutive with a single Carabao The penalty shootout defeat of the cup and the feeling of existing in another place, a separate VIP lane.

Raheem Sterling (left) is Chelsea’s top source of goals Photo: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

And now we have this, a meeting of clubs looking for new forms, new models. Spurs lost four times to Chelsea last season and Antonio Conte was visibly distressed by the three he was responsible for. Victory now would truly represent progress. And there is hope here for Spurs, for obvious reason. For the first time in a long time, Tottenham have a better attack than Chelsea: more options, more advantages, more goals. And it’s important for other reasons too.

In reality, the gap between these two clubs was never based on omens, omens, bad energy, some kind of ancient wizard’s curse. Spurs have simply had a thinner squad, recruited poorly, spent less than Chelsea (by no means an exclusive club) and played without any real back-up centre-forward for the past eight years.

It has nothing to do with a curse or a lack of spine. It’s more of a tough business design, the reality of cutting down your resources to meet the demands of building a new stadium. Looks like that might be about to change. Forget the culture, the vibrations, the whites with lily liver. There’s real lattice depth and variation here. The team of Drogba, Hazard, Costa, Anelka. Spurs have them covered right now.

Even in the occasional stumble last season, even with Romelu Lukaku wandering in front as the first man to step on Pluto, Thomas Tuchel’s side were so orderly, goals were still spread across the team, with Mason Mount top scorer with 11.

Since then, Lukaku and Timo Werner have left. Sterling and Armando Broja seem good replacements on paper; one of them, Sterling, a serious upgrade, and the team’s most reliable goalscorer even before his first Chelsea goal. Otherwise, Kai Havertz, Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic have 61 goals in 284 Chelsea league games combined.

While Spurs have Harry Kane, who has 17 per season even when playing with a migraine, a grudge and a conical ankle; Golden Boot winner Son Heung-min; Dejan Kulusevski, a very bright hope at 22; and Richarlison, who is leaving for Brazil but is currently watching from the bench wondering how he will navigate this thing.

Seems like the right place to build from, if only because it’s in their attacking hand, a succession of hard-pressed, yet powerful men, that Spurs’ classic fatalism, the Spursiness of Spurs, s is manifested.

From the great days of confusing Soldado, to cheerful but unwaveringly rustic Grzegorz Rasiak, to a fever dream of Fernando Llorente, to the relentless turnover of Bergwijn-Ndombele-Gil and the rest, Tottenham’s attack has been based on the hope and assumptions. . This has been a very basic version of Moneyball where no money is actually won and very few memorable things happen with the ball.

Richarlison is a significant step up in that regard, a striker who is so much better than his most ineffective Premier League days would suggest, and who provides an interesting tactical contrast to the players already there. Perhaps surprisingly, the 25-year-old’s goalscoring record over the past 18 months is almost identical to Kane’s. He lacks Kane’s passing vision and creativity, his playmaking verve. He plays wider, makes more defensive runs, makes more tackles and interceptions, offers another point of speed in attack.

Richarlison in training
Richarlison offers penetration, speed and strength down the Tottenham left Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

For Brazil, Richarlison played center as a fake No.9, or mobile 9.5. Perhaps the essence of the challenger-to-competitor journey is finding a pattern where Kane can finally be rotated once in a while for fitness reasons, or just so the team can attack in a different way.

Conte is nothing if not ruthless. He knows that’s what the best teams do; that the difference between winning advantage and being “in the middle” is not curses or hexes, the vibrating needle of Tottenham’s ouija board, but resources, the ability to constantly sharpen the attacking blade.

Superstition may dictate that there is no surer way to ensure Spurs shoot blanks on Sunday than by praising their attack. But the fact remains that these four attacking players are on par with everything outside of Anfield and the Etihad this season. There are no more excuses now. In a rare break from the majority of his profession, that’s exactly how Conte likes it.

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