Less than a fortnight has passed since Tottenham were, for the second time in a week, outplayed and outclassed by a Chelsea side barely out of second gear.
Since then, none of the hoped-for new signings have arrived and some of Antonio Conte’s injured players, including Cristian Romero and Heung-min Son, are still not back home.
If Sunday’s quick rematch between the two teams at Stamford Bridge was a horse race, it would take some imagination to find a reason why Spurs could reverse form.
Admittedly, Chelsea were barely galloping, but their discomfort, which continued at Brighton on Tuesday night, dates back to last year and did not stop Thomas Tuchel’s side from raising their game for the two legs of a semi-final of the Carabao Cup. , not that they particularly need it.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg said Wednesday’s late win over Leicester looked like ‘just over three points’ and will therefore need to be proven as the nature of the success perhaps fills Conte’s side with aggression , a positivity and a confidence that was so lacking across the world. 180-minute passive course against the Blues earlier this month.
But there are also more tangible adjustments to be made to the King Power, notably in the performance of the in-form Sergio Reguilon at left-back and, after his half-time introduction in place of the paced Emerson Royal . , that of Matt Doherty on the opposite flank.
Tuchel knows all too well the benefit of having two flying, well-rounded wingers playing on the right side of the pitch – indeed, he would attribute much of Chelsea’s recent downturn to being without the best of him. And for all that he’s not the long-term answer, Doherty surely needs to get in to start here.
Steven Bergwijn, naturally, has a major case to join him, after his King Power rescue act, but it remains to be seen where he fits in.
Conte launched a conservative three-man midfield Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks and Hojbjerg at Leicester and, thanks in large part to Reguilon’s drive, did not suffer in an attacking sense. Abandoning this structure so early for a more ambitious formation among the European champions would be a gamble.
This could mean Lucas Moura makes way instead. Although he generally impressed under Conte, the Brazilian was subdued midweek, and Bergwijn’s biggest threat behind could stretch Chelsea and get the best of Harry Kane, who was too easily kept under wraps by Antonio Rudiger the last two times these teams met.
Where Conte has less leeway is in his own defense. Eric Dier is back in contention but, for the last time before Romero’s return, he will have to turn to at least one of Japhet Tanganga and Ben Davies, as well as Davinson Sanchez, a trio who, even when he doesn’t don’t conjure up their own mistakes, have a Frank Spencer touch about them, stalked by misfortune wherever they go.
To turn things around on Tuchel’s side, Spurs must be bold, choose smartly and make their own luck, or face a familiar story.