Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel both have reasons to be cheerful despite Chelsea-Tottenham derby fracas

·4-min read
Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel both have reasons to be cheerful despite Chelsea-Tottenham derby fracas

An angry bust-up between Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte should not distract from a fascinating tactical battle, and reasons for both managers to be cheerful after this draw.

Tuchel and Conte were both sent off after the final whistle for squaring-up during a clash over their post-match handshake — moments after the second of Tottenham’s two controversial equalisers, scored by Harry Kane in the sixth minute of stoppage-time.

Tuchel was left speechless that both Spurs goals were allowed to stand, believing Richarlison was offside for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s strike and that Cristian Romero should have been penalised for pulling Marc Cucurella’s hair before Kane headed home a corner.

The Chelsea boss may have felt like the loser in the circumstances but he largely won the tactical battle with Conte, on an afternoon when his side suggested that claims they could slip behind Spurs this season may have been premature.

The hosts were far the more impressive side, certainly in the first half, largely thanks to a tweak in Tuchel’s formation, which overloaded the midfield and nullified Spurs’ counter-attacking threat.

The electric draw between Chelsea and Tottenham was overshadowed by touchline bust-ups (Action Images via Reuters)
The electric draw between Chelsea and Tottenham was overshadowed by touchline bust-ups (Action Images via Reuters)

N’Golo Kante showed up Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur with a vintage midfield display before he was forced off with a muscle injury, while Reece James, who restored Chelsea’s lead with 13 minutes to play, marked Heung-min Son out of the game as the right centre-half.

Tuchel’s summer signings have only improved the technical quality of his side. Kalidou Koulibaly was superb, opening the scoring with a first-half volley that would have made any centre-forward proud, and winning possession in the build-up to James’ goal. Cucurella and Raheem Sterling both finished with assists and look ideally-suited to Tuchel’s high-octane side.

The Blues, though, are still missing a cutting edge in the final third, best exemplified by Kai Havertz’s glaring miss from James’ cross moments before the wing-back restored the hosts’ lead.

For their part, Tottenham had refereeing decisions to thank for coming away with a point but, a draw was a vindication of sorts for Conte.

Spurs have too often crumbled in this type of game, particularly after falling behind, but they showed an impressive resilience to twice equalise, maintaining their focus at the death when Chelsea allowed concentration to waver.

Conte’s spat with Tuchel exemplified the fight in his team, who are developing a habit of taking results from the League’s toughest grounds, having won at Manchester City and drawn at Anfield from February last season.

This Spurs side are no pushovers, and know the value of gamesmanship. The result also underlined their new-found squad strength. Last season, Spurs’ first XI was a match for anyone from February onwards but Conte mistrusted his squad players, best exemplified by the introduction of Davinson Sanchez as the first sub when Spurs chased a winner at Brentford in April.

Richarlison changed the game for Tottenham after being introduced for his debut off the bench (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Richarlison changed the game for Tottenham after being introduced for his debut off the bench (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Yesterday, the introduction of debutant Richarlison changed the game, the Brazilian replacing wing-back Ryan Sessegnon as Conte switched to a 4-2-4 system, leading to Hojbjerg’s equaliser.

The introductions of Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma were fractionally too late to prevent Chelsea’s second goal but they also contributed to Kane’s equaliser, the quality of Croatian’s delivery causing havoc in the Chelsea box and Kane glancing home a header via a touch off James at the back post.

Both managers laughed off their confrontation afterwards but their touchline clashes may be the start of the Premier League’s latest managerial rivalry, the like of which has arguably been missing since Conte sparred with Jose Mourinho.

Certainly, there was more to the bust-up than the emotions of the occasion and the seeds were sewn in the days leading up to the game.

As they prepare for their touchline bans, both coaches can reflect that their teams are taking encouraging shape

Conte, who was borderline humiliated to lose three times in 12 days to Tuchel in January, was riled when claimed the Chelsea manager claimed he did “not believe everything that Antonio Conte says before games and after games” in his pre-match press conference.

Conte considered using his own presser, later on Friday, to give Tuchel a piece of his mind but in the end the opportunity did not arise because he was not asked about his opposite number’s comments.

Facing the media again after the match, Conte was naturally able to be the more magnanimous but, as they prepare for their touchline bans, both coaches can reflect that their teams are taking encouraging shape.