It was a pretty good weekend to be a Spurs fan, wasn’t it? First, we got to watch Kane scrape out a narrow 1-0 win for us over Crystal Palace. Next, United squeaked past Chelsea 2-1 to drop the Blues out of the top four. Then finally, the pièce de résistance—Arsenal got absolutely smashed in a cup final, losing 3-0 to City in Sunday’s Carabao Cup title match. Alright, maybe that last one has nothing to do with the league standings, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
At this point, it looks like a three-way race for the last two Champions League positions between Spurs, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Our Merseyside adversaries are moving from strength to strength, having obliterated both Porto and West Ham within a week. But the future looks considerably less bright for our London contemporaries, whose form is sliding to such a degree that manager Antonio Conte looks in danger of getting the sack despite winning the league last campaign.
Can Spurs push on and lock Chelsea out of the Champions League places? The prognosis looks good, thus far.
Spurs gaining momentum at the right time
A criticism I’ve often leveled at Spurs is that we tend to start seasons very slowly. While other teams fly out of the gates in August winning all their matches, we’re out there drawing against the likes of Burnley. Now, part of this comes down to our star striker refusing to score until the calendar turns to September, but that’s beside the point.
One area in which we have excelled in recent seasons, however, is the mid-to-late season push. Spurs seem to hit their stride right around February each season and then refuse to lose more than a handful of matches from that point forward. Last season, we lost just one league game from mid-February on, winning the rest of our matches without so much as a solitary draw.
This season, we were unbeaten in January and February, picking up valuable scalps over United and Arsenal in the process, while also avoiding defeat to fellow contenders Liverpool. If this solid winter period turns into another dominant late-season run, it’s difficult to see us dropping too many more points. City and Chelsea are the only teams in the top six we have left to play—with the Chelsea game a likely six-pointer in determining which of us finishes inside the top four.
Chelsea fading fast, chasing red and white shadows
The fortunes of Spurs’ London rivals, meanwhile, could not be any more opposite our own. Chelsea have dropped some serious points to lesser sides in January-February, losing to both Watford and Bournemouth by frankly embarrassing scorelines. You simply don’t deserve to be top four come the end of the campaign, if you’re allowing Bournemouth to blast three goals past you at home or losing 4-1 to Watford on the road.
On top of their evident defensive issues, Chelsea have also found scoring rather difficult for the past two months. In their seven league matches over January-February, they managed just eight goals. Compare that tally with Spurs’ 14 or Liverpool’s 18 goals (scored over the same period) and you can see that Conte’s men are badly off the pace of their competitors’ offensive output. Spurs’ Harry Kane, and Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah alone, already have nearly as many league goals between them (47) as Chelsea have scored as a team all season (50).
Conte’s future could determine Chelsea’s
Further compounding Chelsea’s struggles is the uncertainty of their manager’s future. Next to the permanently embattled Arsene Wenger, the Italian is the only top-six manager anywhere near losing his job. Pep is working wonders at City. Mou is performing well enough at United (and would likely be leading the league if not for City’s unexpected dominance). Poch and Klopp are both somewhat over-performing with the squads at their disposal and are the form-favorites for the Champions League positions.
And then there’s Conte. Title-winner not even a year ago, incapable of rallying his team to beat relegation fodder today. If he gets sacked, the board risk throwing a clearly upset dressing room further into chaos. If he stays, however, he may further erode Chelsea’s league position to the point where they miss out on the cash-cow of Champions League football. It’s a Catch-22 for notably trigger-happy chairman Roman Abramovich, who will need to decide quickly whether he can afford to gamble on Conte for the rest of the year.
With Kane fired-up, sky is the limit for Spurs
When it comes down to crunch time in a season, every goal and result matter. Spurs are fortunate enough to boast the league’s most prolific attacker, who has proven time and again his ability to snatch points from improbable positions. Harry’s latest last-gasp heroics at Palace only further underlined the fact that when Spurs face an obstacle, he is likely to smash it down.
The lad is on pace for 30+ goals in the league again this year and is carrying his team through European competition as well. Put simply, when Kane is on form, Tottenham Hotspur win games. He went on an absolute scoring spree late last season and is poised to do it again. It doesn’t matter if he scores one, or three per game. As long as Spurs keep picking up points via his goals, Chelsea will be powerless to catch them. Given that Chelsea’s nearest top-scorer in the league has fewer than half of Kane’s tally (Hazard on 11), it’s tough to see them matching Kane’s exploits with a talisman of their own.