Tottenham Hotspur 0, Chelsea 3: Blues cruise in London derby underlines their Premier League title credentials
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have produced some memorable ding-dong battles in recent history. This wasn’t one of them, however, such was Chelsea’s overwhelming superiority.
The visitors won 3-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but it would not have flattered them unduly had they triumphed by a greater margin.
With four wins from five Premier League games, they and Liverpool are making the early running as they look to add domestic honours to their European crown.
Perhaps only Manchester City will be able to keep pace with them and make it a three-horse title race, and they are already three points behind.
As has become their calling card under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea gradually dominated the ball to the point where it became a question of when, not if, they would score.
Led by Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, they passed a Tottenham side who had made a promising start to the game into submission and squeezed the life out of them after half-time.
There is something coldly fascinating about the way they starve opponents of the ball and then meticulously pull them out of position.
It is the footballing equivalent of death by a thousand cuts, or suffocation by possession, and only Liverpool have proven too wily for Tuchel’s traps so far this season.
Chelsea effective even with Lukaku muted
Spurs might have felt confident that they would have a fighting chance if they prevented Romelu Lukaku scoring his fifth goal in as many games.
Despite Cristiano Romero and Eric Dier marshalling Lukaku more effectively than Chelsea’s other recent opponents, they couldn’t keep the Blues at bay altogether.
There was little in the way of artistry in Thiago Silva’s header, N’Golo Kante’s wickedly deflected strike and Antonio Rudiger’s sharp finish, but they felt inevitable.
Kante himself only emerged after half-time from a bench that also included Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Saul Niguez.
The lesson for their Premier League rivals is clear: if Lukaku doesn’t get you, someone else from perhaps the division’s most stacked squad will.
Tottenham faded in the second half, unable or unwilling to keep up their intense pressing of early in the game when the outcome became abundantly clear.
The last 20 minutes in particular became, for Chelsea, an exercise in trying to get Werner on the scoresheet. Once again, it was unsuccessful.
For Spurs, it became a showcase for the goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris, who added fine saves from Kovacic and Werner to earlier stops from Marcos Alonso and Thiago Silva.
Had any of those efforts beaten the France stopper, it would have made for an even more sobering afternoon for the home faithful.
Spurs slump adds spice to north London derby
The honeymoon is well and truly over for Nuno Espirito Santo as Tottenham manager, at any rate.
Those three wins to start the new Premier League season feel a long time ago now, and the goodwill towards a coach who was hardly a unanimously popular appointment is seeping away.
They are now winless in three matches and have lost consecutive league games 3-0, following their reverse at Crystal Palace last week.
It adds extra spice to an already loaded north London derby at Arsenal, whose season has so far been a sort of mirror opposite of theirs, on Sunday.
On an afternoon of tributes to great Tottenham strikers of days gone by, Harry Kane gave only a passable impression of the current one.
Kane has been known to start seasons slowly, so it is no great shock to see him labouring through the first few weeks, especially given a pre-season delayed by helping England reach the final of Euro 2020 and a subsequent transfer stand-off with the club.
A couple of long-range efforts aside, Kane lacked sparkle and only occasionally managed to link up effectively with Son Heung-Min.
Still, given the comfort with which Chelsea ultimately won, even Jimmy Greaves in his pomp might have struggled to salvage something from this game for Spurs.