Both Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho must know this is a great chance for their sides to win the Premier League title 


Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard had argued that it is too early for title talk, while Jose Mourinho this week claimed that he and Tottenham Hotspur should not have to work under any expectation or pressure.

But Sunday’s London derby showed that, no matter what they might say publicly, privately at least both men know full well there might be an opportunity for them this season.

We are often told that the table does not take shape until 10 games have passed and, now more than a quarter of the way in, top-of-the-table Spurs and third-placed Chelsea are right in the mix.

It may, as Lampard has reminded us, be early doors but it was clear that he and Mourinho felt not losing was more important than risking everything for victory – even though Chelsea did enough in the second half to be disappointed they did not claim all three points.

There was none of the blood and thunder of the 2016 ‘Battle of the Bridge’ or the touchline row that accompanied this season’s Carabao Cup tie, but nobody was prepared to give an inch.

The match at Stamford Bridge wasn't a great spectacle but that will not have bothered to two men in the dugouts


Having watched Manchester City dominate possession against Tottenham only to lose the previous week, Lampard clearly did not want to give Mourinho any early gifts at Stamford Bridge.

It was a sound tactic, as Mourinho’s well-drilled Spurs have become a tough team to fight back against, particularly with the danger they pose on the counter-attack.

Chelsea attempted only two shots from inside the box during a cagey first-half. Only against Liverpool in September did the Blues have fewer in the first 45 minutes of a Premier League home game under Lampard, when they failed to register a single effort.

Timo Werner put the ball in the net in the 11th minute, but was correctly judged to have been offside, but, otherwise, Tottenham had the best first-half opportunities through Steven Bergwijn, who shot over, and Serge Aurier who forced Edouard Mendy into a smart save.

Chelsea threw greater caution to the wind after the break, using the attacking threat of Reece James to create opportunities for Tammy Abraham.

Twice Abraham failed to make a good connection with dangerous James deliveries from the right and the England international also missed the target from a good cross from Werner.

Had Abraham put any of those chances into the net, then it would most likely be Chelsea and not Spurs sitting on top of the Premier League table.

But Tottenham are resolute these days under Mourinho and a draw at Stamford Bridge on the back of beating City will make it harder for the Portuguese to argue that expectation should not be placed on him and his players.

Chelsea had won six successive games going into this clash and Mourinho will take satisfaction from the fact he managed to halt that run.

Without Toby Alderweireld, Mourinho handed a Premier League debut to Joe Rodon and he responded well, getting over a few nervy moments, not least when Werner had a goal disallowed, during the early exchanges.

Rodon was quite literally spitting blood in the final minutes after being caught by substitute Kai Havertz, but the Welshman can be proud of his first top-flight appearance.

Eric Dier is learning to make better decisions as a defender, as proved by the fact he did not dive in and concede a penalty, as he did against Paul Pogba last season, when Abraham beat him on the touchline.

And Harry Kane once again showed his growing versatility by staying back when needed to help his defenders and dropping deep to make it difficult for Chelsea midfielders to create.

On the one occasion Mason Mount did find some space, in the 81st minute, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was equal to his powerful low shot.

The fact Lampard could throw on Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud and Havertz will only strengthen Mourinho’s theory that Chelsea have the necessary depth to warrant the pressure of being considered title contenders.

But he kept a certain Gareth Bale on the substitutes’ bench, clearly favouring trying to hold on to a point, rather than going for all three in the closing stages.

Liverpool’s draw at Brighton, in which James Milner became their latest casualty, had further indicated that no team is likely to run away with the title in this most unpredictable of seasons.

Giroud might have won it for Chelsea in added time, but Lampard and Mourinho will know that a draw keeps both of their teams in contention to mount a title challenge – even if they still might not admit it.