It was exactly a century ago Sigmund Freud wrote about the concept of the unheimlich. The uncanny, as it translates to in English, examines the strangeness in the ordinary; the psychological experience of encountering something strangely familiar.
Those who prefer their psychoanalysis terms defined this side of the millennium need only look at Spurs’ recent showings at Stamford Bridge for a copybook definition. As for away supporters, what is the feeling of arriving at Stamford Bridge with nervous hope and leaving with pensive chagrin nothing if not strangely familiar? It’s like Groundhog Day minus Bill Murray’s dry wit and Andie MacDowell’s quaint charm; the whole experience laced with the underlying feeling of “Wait, haven’t we been here before”?
There’s no need to press the panic button. Losing against Chelsea doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Last season’s heroics was the anomaly; the exception that proved the rule true. Gary Lineker should probably update that anecdote now, replacing Germany with Chelsea and adding Tottenham into the equation: Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball at Stamford Bridge, and in the end…
Maurizio Sarri knew this too. Speaking to Sky Italia after the game the former Napoli man revealed he had no problem sleeping prior to the showdown; he even had a siesta a few hours before the game because he was feeling that serene. His assured confidence came courtesy of one, small detail: Tottenham… at home. Anyone know the Italian for “Lads, it’s Tottenham”?
If one needed a botched Kieran Trippier back-pass to reveal the status quo, then 2016’s Battle of the Bridge must be long lost in the memory. Remember that testosterone-fuelled night in May? A manager-less, tenth-placed Chelsea side flicked on the switch for the first time in 34 games to bury Tottenham’s title hopes. Fast-forward three years, and a vastly improved Spurs — against a vastly inferior Chelsea — failed to register a shot on target in a match for the first time under Mauricio Pochettino.
Call it a curse but it seems that no matter the stakes, no matter the players on the pitch or the managers in the dugout, when Tottenham and Chelsea face-off in a match that may have huge ramifications on each other’s seasons, it’s Chelsea who emerge triumphant — that FA Cup semi-final determines it fact.
Is it hyperbole to suggest that even if Tottenham were sitting top and Chelsea twentieth it would still be the Blues who’d bag the bragging rights at the Bridge? Think: if you can’t beat Chelsea featuring their second-choice goalkeeper, debilitated after losing a 120-minute cup final, playing for a manager who has reportedly lost the dressing room, when can you? It’s said form goes out the window in derbies, but in this one, form on matchday perpetually lands in the favour of those wearing blue.
Some call it Spursy, some call it bottling — whatever helps you sleep at night. But there’s an undetermined reason why Spurs continue to come up short at Stamford Bridge despite the contrasting predicaments of both clubs. Maybe the answer is as uncomplicated as that it’s Chelsea’s biggest game of the season; the one they have to win above all. We don’t have the luxury to prioritise the same way — Arsenal and West Ham have to be part of our thinking too.
Normal service resumes then, it remains a Bridge too far. The only consolation is that our west London woes are not exclusive to Pochettino’s tenure, and perhaps in solving this conundrum we may find the final piece of the puzzle in our pursuit of the Premier League. Until then, our title hopes have been extinguished at Stamford Bridge again — doesn’t that feel uncanny? It’s a habit we must kick quick.
Enjoyed this article? Hit the heart below!