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Chelsea’s victory comes at a cost for Spurs, Pochettino’s former club

LONDON – Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino will always have a special place in his heart for Tottenham Hotspur and has one more reason to be grateful for his former club after his current club’s 2-0 win on Thursday night. evening.

A goal in each half from Trevoh Chalobah and Nicolas Jackson gave the Blues a priceless victory that puts European qualification within reach as they sit two points behind seventh-placed Newcastle United with just four games left. The 52-year-old needed it urgently.

Pochettino would never align himself with the sentiment of joy behind the home fans’ “We hate Tottenham” chant given his affection for the club where he spent five and a half years, but this victory gave Stamford Bridge a sense of unity that has missing during much of this. season. National local elections were held in England on Thursday and it remains debatable whether Pochettino would win a popular vote on the question of whether he has done enough to warrant a second stint in his newly adopted home.

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This meeting could hardly have come at a more opportune time. Few matches between the traditional “Big Six” are more one-sided: Spurs have won just one of their 32 visits here in Premier League history. That record extends to a single victory in all competitions dating back to 1990 and Pochettino was in charge of Tottenham that day, a 3-1 victory in April 2018.

Chelsea were not exceptional here but built on a positive second half at Aston Villa on Monday with a morale-boosting display with more activity from Conor Gallagher, flashes of quality from Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke capped by Jackson’s 11th goal of the season .

“It’s the happiest I am after (a match this season),” Pochettino said, firmly forgetting his personal history. “Because of the way we played, the way we competed, that’s what we wanted from the beginning of the season that we wanted to apply to the team. Today we were very competitive. This way we can grow, we can do better and improve in all the areas.”

Chelsea were missing 14 first-team players, relying on talented young defender Alfie Gilchrist to nullify Son Heung-Min on his second Premier League start and then handing a league debut to Jimi Tauriainen shortly after Josh Acheampong made his senior debut as a substitute for Gilchrist. . They have a goal to strive for that should sharpen minds and could help give Pochettino the sense of progress this campaign desperately needs after many tumultuous months.

Indeed, for a long time, the work that Ange Postecoglou had done at Tottenham painted Pochettino in an uncomfortable light given the speed with which he had implemented the radically different “Angeball” style into a group of players trained in conservatism under his predecessor. Antonio Conte. So much so that when these teams met in the first leg in November, Spurs were applauded despite losing 4-1 at home and being reduced to nine men, such was the delight at their enduring commitment to attacking football. .

How times change. Three consecutive defeats will raise further doubts as to whether they have lost their way somewhat as UEFA Champions League qualification disappears from sight.

Postecoglou’s body language certainly suggested as much. He has rarely been more angry with his players than during a first half in which it was difficult for them to prevail. He yelled at his team: “Stop passing backwards” during one particularly loud tirade. Equally worrying, however, will be Tottenham’s fallibility on set pieces exposed again. The 15th goal they conceded from set pieces came thanks to a header from Chalobah in the 24th minute, when poor marking gave the centre-back time and space to head past Guglielmo Vicario.

Cole Palmer’s free kick in the 72nd minute hit the crossbar and the rebound was taken advantage of by Jackson, adding to the two goals conceded from corners against Arsenal last weekend. Postecoglou spent the aftermath of that match insisting that his set-piece problems were exaggerated and that the lack of a specialized coach on his staff was not a sign that they were missing a trick.

But by constantly dismissing the fact that the problem exists rather than simply acknowledging a work in progress, Postecoglou generated more questions, some of which he clearly didn’t like. “Come on mate, we didn’t play well, do you want me to write you a file on where it went wrong?” he told Sky Sports.

“I feel like we’ve lost a bit of faith and conviction in our football and it’s up to me to change that. It wasn’t about conceding the (first) goal, it was our way of playing football and we weren’t anywhere near good enough. That it depends on me.

“We’ve been in a little bit of difficulty for a while, that’s part of our challenge and part of our growth. We have to go out and perform and sometimes you have to push yourself. We were poor today.”

The end result was a rare, comfortable and largely uneventful evening for Chelsea. “Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again,” chanted the Chelsea fans about the almost inevitable nature of this match. At one point that would have hurt Pochettino, but now it is music to his ears.