Chelsea have a fantastic team spirit now.
But I don’t think armchair punters have realised that yet.
Tonight’s big match at the Lane could be toughest Spurs have had since Pochettino took over.
Having said that, Spurs might win 1-0.
The bang!bang! twins, Kane and Alli, are back in business, scoring regularly.
These guys shoot early, pop up in unusual places, and can score all sorts from inside or outside the box.
Spurs also have a terrific esprit de corps– that’s why they have such a good home record, why they’re so hard to beat.
On Saturday I went to the Chelsea-Stoke game with my friend Rob and it turned out to be a rocking battle.
First time we had see Antonio Conte’s league leaders in the flesh, first chance to really see why they are such strong favourites for the title.
The Stamford Bridge crowd have enjoyed a history of big centre forwards who scored great goals, like Peter Osgood, Kerry Dixon and Didier Drogba, especially.
Now they have a new hero.
The first time Costa had a shot and missed they chanted “Diego!Diego! Diego!”
They want to encourage their hero to have another shot, so they chant “Diego!Diego!Diego!”
When Chelsea were winning 3-2, Costa bulldozed through his marker and blasted a left-foot shot past keeper Lee Grant. He’d been trying to do that all afternoon.
After slamming home that shot for 4-2, the Premier League’s leading goalscorer raced across towards us and karate-kicked the corner flag.
The contest was over, so we left the Matthew Harding Stand and got the District Line east to Victoria and Westminster respectively.
We had a good day. We’d seen six goals in a proper battle and it was now 13 straight wins for Conte’s Blues
When the warm-up had started we saw that David Luiz had a big bandage above his right knee.
Despite that, Luiz had a storming game. With JT and Ivanovic too old now, the big Brazilian, a lovely bloke as well as a phenomenal gladiator, has become a leader.
Whenever Azpilicueta was in doubt he passed to Luiz – and so did Cahill.
Azpil impressed, as always. He’s a magnetic specialist, fastening onto opponents, giving them no time or space. If football was the army, he would be in the SAS.
Don’t be misled by so many goals: this was a serious tactical battle. A hard-fought game. Tense at times, sometimes attractive, often scrappy.
Stoke were good enough to equalise twice and savvy enough to play three centrebacks and pull four midfielders into deep zones, so that Hazard and Willian couldn’t work between the lines
Mainly, it was interesting to see all the things you can see on TV and my overall impression was that Chelsea’s core value is still pragmatic organisation, as it has been since Jose Mourinho arrived in 2004.
They concentrate, at every stage, maintaining a steely conviction, a fierce concentration. Everything they do is about not losing, not giving anything away Within that alert defensive structure, situations sometimes arise for slick-passing moves to erupt with terrific pace and penetration.
Chelsea, who very good from turnovers, remind us that the second most exciting thing in football is when one team loses the ball and the other regains it.
Spurs can also do that well, or course. So both teams can catapult forward swiftly as soon as they win the ball back and that may be the key to tonight’s contest.
At their best, Chelsea are tenacious but also swift, stylish and incisive in attack, with good variety and killer finishes.
When the Stoke game was still 0-0 a David Luiz megapass went over the head of Shawcross to Diego Costa and keeper Lee Grant had to make a save at the expense of a corner on the left.
You’ve guessed it: the crowd chanted “Diego!Diego!Diego!”
When Fabregas swung in a pinpoint delivery Gary Cahill headed in for 1-0
Going to Stamford Bridge is a totally different experience to going to the Emirates : far less corporate, far less American, much more homely, a stadium where matchday announcer Neil Barnett reads out the teamsheet from the pitch.
But the seats aren’t as comfortable. Arsenal’s seats are the dog’s bollocks and I was among the first to try one out, on a stadium tour with a City friend.
Chelsea is an old-fashioned club that remembers its past, where the crowd still sing, “Osgood, Osgood, born is the King of Stamford Bridge.”.
You see lots of ex-players there and can talk to them outside before the game. Arsenal is also community of shared memories, of course, but their modern stadium, being the first in London, has allowed them to exploit the affluence of a younger generation of Londoners and tourists.
The Arsenal stadium manager, a safety fanatic, would never allow a gigantic flag to be passed across the stand behind the goal just before the kick-off. If a 150 supporters are sometimes under the flag and cannot see the kick-off, it’s all part of the fun.
We noted that Roman’s box was empty. The oligarch was probably watching his team live on a giant screen in the West Indies. He always hosts a New Years Eve party on his estate in St Barts.
Doubt if he will be at the Lane tonight.
Before trying to acquire Chelsea, he contacted Daniel Levy. When Spurs asked for too much money, Roman went down the Kings Road.