LONDON — This moment has been coming for a while.
Tottenham won at Chelsea for the first time in 28 years on Sunday to end their Stamford Bridge hoodoo, but this is about more than one game, about more than Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli delivering majestic goals at pivotal moments to suck the life out of their London rivals.
April 1, 2018, could well go down as the date Tottenham once and for all edged ahead of Chelsea for London supremacy, even if trophies are yet to arrive for their talented, young, hungry side.
Nobody can take away Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League trophy and five Premier League titles their fans love to sing about. But that was in the past. Tottenham are, in many ways, the team of the future with a young squad able to challenge in the top four and in Europe for many years to come.
Chelsea, the reigning PL champs, have regressed worryingly while Spurs have at the very least stayed at the same level which is no mean feat given they’ve played the entire season in a temporary home at Wembley Stadium. After the “Battle of the Bridge” in 2016 and the FA Cup semifinal win for Chelsea last season, the Blues have managed to just about hold their London rivals at arms length.
Not this season. Spurs will finish as the top dogs in London and deservedly so as they even edge by Chelsea on Sunday without Kane, who came on for a late cameo off the bench following his speedy recovery from injury.
They’re eight points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea with seven games to go and are 13 points ahead of Arsenal who occupy sixth. Baring a monumental collapse, Tottenham will lead the way in England’s capital and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Under Mauricio Pochettino‘s tutelage it has taken four years for Spurs to get to this point. But with a new stadium to move into next season and UEFA Champions League for a third-straight season tantalizingly close, Tottenham’s project has yet another key moment to look back on.
With many calling for Tottenham to win their first piece of silverware in a decade to keep Pochettino around, plus key players Harry Kane, Dele Alli and others, there is still a lot for Tottenham to achieve. They are a club on the up in many ways and they know they are.
Asked after the game how Spurs can continue to move in the right direction, Pochettino had the following to say.
“It is a difficult thing to move forward. We need to talk a lot with the club, with Daniel [Levy], to put it all on the table and see what happens,” Pochettino said. “Because after four years together the club has moved on in everything, not only on the football side and also the facilities. Next season we are going to have the possibility to have the new stadium. It will be fantastic. It is not only my idea, it is to share the idea with the club and see how we can improve.”
As for Chelsea and Antonio Conte, the Blues are heading the opposite direction to Spurs and Conte is unlikely to be given the chance to improve on this season.
The reigning champs fell eight points behind fourth-place Tottenham after the damaging defeat which saw them create, and waste, plenty of chances. With complaints about the quality of players at his disposal all season long and digs at the board and the recruitment policy at the club, Conte has been a dead man walking all season.
It is hard to imagine any other manager (well, maybe Pochettino) getting any better out of this current Chelsea squad, with the rigors of European action hitting them hard after their incredible title-winning season last year where they rode their freshness from not having to compete at all in Europe.
Conte was asked if he has now managed to get the maximum out of the group of players he has at his disposal.
“Yeah. I am sure about this,” Conte said. “We are working very well, very hard and the commitment of the players is top. Despite this you stay in this position… we must be a bit worried about this.”
Chelsea must be worried about their future.
With Conte likely on his way out this summer, a squad regressing with fresh faces badly needed and a new stadium plan still years from completion, Tottenham are threatening to leave Chelsea behind.