London ball

Liverpool continue to snatch Palace, Chelsea make London derby history

A big week now approaches for Tottenham – while no manager will ever admit to being happy to lose, Spurs’ 2-0 loss to Chelsea on Sunday could actually do Antonio Conte a favour.

The Italian has hinted at his desire to bring in reinforcements this month. So far, Spurs have not given in to his apparent demands, but another loss to Chelsea could force their hand.

The final week of the transfer window is about to begin and there’s every reason to think it could define Spurs’ season given the clues presented at Stamford Bridge.

This contest arguably lacked the usual sparkle in the build-up given they recently battled it out in the EFL Cup, a two-legged semi-final that left both clubs sidelined.

Even Conte himself was damning in his assessment of their respective prospects, suggesting there was no comparison between his side and the side that won the Champions League last season.

Chelsea won their EFL Cup tie 3-0 on aggregate, so Conte knew changes were going to be needed here.

He returned to his old club with a plan, but perhaps few expected him to go – for lack of a better phrase – ‘full Mourinho’.

The ‘Special One’ built much of their reputation on being hard to beat, and Conte certainly made several decisions that were Jose Mourinho-style, including the fact that he deployed full-backs in front of full-backs on the flank as the Italian seemingly set his side to be functional rather than entertaining.

That’s not to say Chelsea haven’t found joy. Mason Mount proved a nuisance with his movement into the half-spaces in attack, with Spurs struggling to win him back as he seemed to fall outside everyone’s skill in defense and midfield.

This was evident from minute one when his cross found Romelu Lukaku, who flew over the top – later they combined in exactly the same way but the Belgium striker missed his kick completely.

Eventually, Spurs reacted to Mount’s presence with another Mourinhoism, as Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg slotted in to fill the gap in that area, something Mourinho’s central midfielders often did in his classic teams. from Chelsea who went with two banks of four.

With Harry Kane flanked by Steven Bergwijn as Lucas Moura in the lead, Spurs’ grand plan was pretty clear as they hoped they could capitalize on rare forward forays – it looked like they had done that too, the Dutch picking the England captain on goal just before half-time, only for the goal to be cleared for a slight push on Thiago Silva.

But there was apparently an ulterior motive surrounding Conte’s selection and tactics, as he appeared to be sending a message to sporting director Fabio Paratici.

Three viable and available central attacking players have been completely left out, with Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso all missing – the latter has even confirmed on social media that he is fit.

Harvey White, who is still awaiting his Premier League debut, and Dane Scarlett, 17, have been selected ahead of them on the bench, with Conte’s decisions here a not-so-subtle assessment of the attacking midfielders at his disposal.

Fact is, it happened just two days after Conte said he hoped ‘the club would listen to me’ regarding their transfer deals before the end of the month – he didn’t reveal what he was up to. had made it clear to his employers, although these exclusions were surely a clue at the very least.

Given the options available to him – as well as the players he trusts in midfield – Conte may not have had much of a choice to deploy this setup.

But can Spurs realistically hope to qualify for the Champions League with their only trusted central midfielders being Hojbjerg, Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp? You would think not, and certainly not on the evidence of this game, Spurs barely laying a glove on Chelsea bar Kane’s disallowed goal as the hosts were allowed to control the midfield.

Of course, it’s worth saying that Spurs were also a bit unhappy. Whichever way you look at it, Kane’s goal disallowance was harsh and Hakim Ziyech’s magnificent opener was a moment of magic.

Silva’s second was also controversial as the foul that was awarded from which Mount set up the Brazilian looked questionable.

Yet even though they were still within Chelsea’s reach heading into the later stages, a quick look at the benches showed an incredible chasm of talent available to managers.

There is a lot of work to be done with the Spurs squad and the next week could make or break their season.