Chelsea vs. Tottenham: Villas-Boas' Influence Felt on Both Sides in Draw
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The wait continues for Tottenham Hotspur to claim any sort of win at Stamford Bridge.
It's been 23 years and 26 games now since Spurs last came away from SW6 with a victory. Wednesday's thrilling 2-2 draw means they must now hope for their rivals—both Chelsea and Arsenal—to slip up in their final two league games in order to creep into an all-important top-four position.
Indeed, the clash between Chelsea and Spurs was as intriguing as it was entertaining. Played before a backdrop of Champions League angst, both sets of players sensed trepidation in the opposition and pounced on every opportunity.
This wasn't a cagey affair played out in a style more akin to a chess match. This was an encounter where both teams were aware of the awards on offer and looked to seize the moment.
For the neutral, it was thrilling. For fans of Chelsea or Spurs, it was nail biting.
From a Chelsea perspective, victory would ensure a top-four finish. On the other hand, defeat would add pressure to their final two league games of the season when they have a Europa League final to consider.
It was all the backstory we needed, regardless of Andre Villas-Boas' return to Stamford Bridge.
Aside from the obvious subplots, however, the lineups couldn't hide the fact these two teams were carrying the Portuguese's influence.
The irony surrounding the race for the top four this season was that Villas-Boas had to go head to head with the club that fired him after just nine months in charge last term.
Yet, for all that may have gone wrong during his brief reign in blue, he faced a Chelsea team on Wednesday that had all the hallmarks of a Villas-Boas outfit.
Chelsea used their current 4-2-3-1 formation just a handful of times under the current Spurs boss (notably against Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli in the Champions League), but without Frank Lampard or John Terry in the lineup on Wednesday, they looked like a team built in Villas-Boas' vision.
As we know, Villas-Boas' endeavors to evolve the club in a way that didn't rely on Chelsea's so-called old guard proved to be his downfall. Yet here was a team that, in his absence, no longer depended on two of the star names—who reportedly helped seal his Chelsea fate, according to Sky Sports.
The 35-year-old's time at Spurs has restored his reputation in England, but since he inherited a squad more in tune with his philosophy, that was always going to be the case. In hindsight, he was at Chelsea before his time.
For instance, whereas the Blues fielded a Terry-Alex centre-back pairing in Villas-Boas' first game in charge last season—a goalless draw with Stoke City—Wednesday's encounter saw Chelsea play a more dynamic Gary Cahill-Branislav Ivanovic partnership.
And with a midfield of David Luiz, Ramires, Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard, the Blues also had the pace and guile to play the more intense, pressing football that Villas-Boas looked to impose at Stamford Bridge.
Would Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League this year had Andre Villas-Boas remained in charge?
At times, Chelsea dominated proceedings on Wednesday. Had it not been for an unfortunate slip from Ramires shortly after the interval, they would have ran away with the game, too.
Rafa Benitez's side were pressing the opposition high in their own half, and Spurs struggled to cope, as they were forced into errors.
Villas-Boas tried to implement this philosophy in Chelsea, but without the required personnel, he failed to succeed in West London, paying the ultimate price by losing his job.
He may have departed for new pastures, yet it seems Chelsea have learned his lessons. As irony would have it, it could prove to cost his current club, Spurs.
Wednesday's game ended with each team taking a share of the spoils, but what we saw at Stamford Bridge was essentially Villas-Boas vs. Villas-Boas. For what it's worth, the Portuguese wins that clash on moral grounds.
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