LONDON -- Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday to heap further pressure on Blues boss Graham Potter and leave their Champions League qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Oliver Skipp and Harry Kane scored second-half goals to earn Spurs their first Premier League win over Chelsea at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, moving 14 points clear of their bitter London rivals in the top-four race.
Potter has now failed to win any of his past six games -- the longest such run for Chelsea since December 2012 -- as the Blues remain in 10th place with a negative goal difference.
Tottenham, once again without coach Antonio Conte as he recovers from gallbladder surgery, now have a four-point cushion in fourth place over Newcastle, who have two games in hand.
1. Pressure mounts on Potter
Sunday's defeat at Tottenham leaves Chelsea 14 points outside the top four. The club's owners, led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, have always maintained their support for Potter given the sheer scale of transition since completing their takeover of the club last May. But after spending more than €600 million, there may soon come a point when the hierarchy questions whether it is getting sufficient return on that investment.
Sections of the club's fan base are already turning on the manager, and a failure to qualify for next season's Champions League would rank as an unmitigated disaster given the sheer level of investment. They still have the second leg of their round of 16 clash against Borussia Dortmund to come (they are 1-0 down), but Chelsea have now won two of the past 15 games across all competitions.
- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
This fixture had provided encouragement from a historical perspective: Chelsea had won all three Premier League fixtures at this stadium by a combined score of 6-0 and have won more games against Tottenham (33) than any other Premier League side. Spurs have hardly been playing consistently themselves yet they still proved too much.
Potter has had an incredible amount to contend with, and the club's desire to plan for the long term is sincere. But he needs results in the short term to retain that faith, and this present slump has reached alarming levels already.
2. Skipp steps up in Bentancur's absence
The loss of Rodrigo Bentancur for the season following knee surgery was a major blow to Tottenham, given they do not possess another midfielder capable of influencing the game in the same way. With Yves Bissouma also out for some time due to an ankle injury, it was a huge bonus for Skipp to step up in his absence.
And what a way to go about it, scoring his first goal for the club with a fine strike just 19 seconds into the second half. Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg seems to revel in these combative, physical encounters. Together with Skipp, they formed a formidable partnership that should encourage Spurs for the challenges ahead.
Conte's assistant, Cristian Stellini, extended his remarkable record in the dugout to four wins from four. The beaten teams are equally impressive: Marseille, Man City, West Ham, and now Chelsea.
3. Disjointed Chelsea suffer another injury blow
The sight of Chelsea's best defender, Thiago Silva, being forced off through injury inside 20 minutes was a reminder of the dreadful luck Potter has had with injuries this season. N'Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta are among those unavailable, while in the buildup to this game, Potter cited the absences of Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella and Raheem Sterling at various points this season.
Yet the suspicion remains that Potter does not know his best side. Given the sheer turnover of players, to some extent, it is fair to ask how he could? But there are clear signs of confused thinking.
Hakim Ziyech was on his way to Paris Saint-Germain on loan last month, yet after that moved collapsed at the 11th hour due to the misfiling of paperwork, he has started three of Chelsea's five games since the window closed. Potter continues to insist Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is part of his plans, but despite a goal-shy team in poor form, the striker has barely featured and was given just seven minutes to make an impact here, as was €100m January signing Mykhailo Mudryk.
The Blues remain reliant on the 38-year-old Silva to hold together an expensively assembled back line which Wesley Fofana (€80m) and Benoit Badiashile (€37m) did not get into on Sunday. And it is ironic that after spending over €600m, the attacking player most likely to make the difference in the final third is Joao Felix -- a player who is only on loan from Atletico Madrid.
Injuries are one thing, but this is palpably still a team in flux, and the short-term damage is mounting.
Best and worst performers
Oliver Skipp. Helped Tottenham win the midfield battle and capitalised on poor defending to fire home his first goal for the club.
Emerson Royal. Caused Chelsea all sorts of problems marauding forward down the Tottenham right flank and won more tackles (7) than any other player.
Cristian Romero. Organised Tottenham's backline superbly, making a series of important interventions.
Enzo Fernandez. Panicked needlessly for Skipp's goal, taking the ball away from goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with a clearance that enabled Spurs to maintain their attack.
Hakim Ziyech. Looked disinterested and got himself needlessly embroiled in a scrap before half-time that initially saw him sent off before the decision was overturned on VAR review.
Kai Havertz. Chelsea's attacking problems run deeper than just one player, but Havertz remains disappointingly ineffective, failing to register a shot of any description.
Highlights and notable moments
There was a lot of confusion over Hakim Ziyech's red, then yellow, card.
Ziyech was handed a red card for this slap on Emerson Royal.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 26, 2023
VAR later overturned the ruling to just a yellow card.
Correct decision? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/51TuWjudlJ
Skipp lashed home the opener for Tottenham.
WHAT A START TO THE HALF FOR TOTTENHAM!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 26, 2023
📺: @USANetwork #MyPLMorning | #TOTCHE pic.twitter.com/wMgS0U9HQP
And Kane popped up to make the game safe late on.
Harry Kane is there at the back post to double Tottenham's lead!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 26, 2023
📺: @USANetwork #MyPLMorning | #TOTCHE pic.twitter.com/aPm0yPHZ1V
After the match: What the players/managers said
Chelsea boss Graham Potter: "There's always that question [over the owner's loyalty], absolutely. You can't stop that question while the results are like there are and I accept it. It is part of the job. We were talking before the game about watching [the Amazon documentary] All or Nothing and Arsenal, two years into Mikel [Arteta]'s reign he's close to getting the sack, people wanted him out and it is a disaster. Obviously now, things have changed a little bit. That's just the way it is. Look at Jurgen's situation. He doesn't get results and all of a sudden people want him out. That's just the nature of football. I haven't done enough at this club to have too much good faith and I also accept that as well. My job is not to worry too much about that. I understand the question and where it comes from. I just try to focus on the team, keep supporting the players because I really like these players. They are good lads, they want to do better, they want to win but at the moment we are suffering. That's my responsibility."
Spurs assistant coach Cristian Stellini to BBC Sport on the Ziyech incident: "The referee was good and explained the situation to us. VAR needed time to see who the player was and then to check if it was violent or not so they took their time and made this decision."
Tottenham's Harry Kane, to BBC Sport: "Chelsea have been a difficult opponent for us over the last few years. So it's a really important win to keep us around fourth. Overall I thought we deserved the win. It was an unbelievable goal [from Oliver Skipp] and what a time to get your first. He has been working hard so it was nice to see that one fly in. First half both teams created a few half-chances. We struggled with our pressure a bit and sorted that out second half. I think we just showed a bit more quality in the final third and whenever you break the deadlock it helps open the game up. Another clean sheet, two goals, so overall a good home performance."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
- Chelsea had been unbeaten in their past eight Premier League games against Tottenham (W6, D2).
- Both Tottenham and Chelsea combined for just one shot on target in the first half.
- Skipp scored his first-ever goal for Tottenham. It was only his second goal in professional club football.
- Via OptaJoe: Skipp's goal was scored 19 seconds into the second half, the earliest such goal in a Premier League game since Gerard Deulofeu for Watford v West Ham in May 2019.
- Via OptaJoe: Kane is one of only two players to score 20-plus goals in each of the last nine seasons in all competitions for clubs in Europe's Big Five leagues, along with Robert Lewandowski.
- Chelsea have only managed to score four goals in 11 matches in 2023.
Tottenham: An FA Cup clash with Sheffield United on March 1, then a trip to Wolves in the Premier League on March 4.
Chelsea: A home game in the league against Leeds United on March 4, then the Blues host Borussia Dortmund 1-0 down in their second leg of the Champions League round of 16 on March 7.