As Frank Lampard knows, Jose Mourinho will sometimes settle for a stalemate away from home. As Lampard can testify from experience, his former manager can be pragmatic enough to deem a goal-free game a good result.
There was something perversely fitting about Mourinho turning Roman Abramovich’s 1000th game as Chelsea owner into an anti-climax.
The Portuguese illustrated he remains a skilled spoiler and Abramovich’s most successful manager cancelled out his old club, managed by the most prolific player of the Russian’s reign.
A draw suited Mourinho, in more ways than one. Tottenham regained the Premier League lead and retain a two-point advantage over their capital rivals.
Lampard did a double over Mourinho last season and it was evident the older man was determined to avoid more suggestions the apprentice had bested the managerial master. Not this time. Lampard cannot have been surprised by Mourinho’s approach, but his team could not find a route past Spurs.
If this was something of a throwback to Mourinho’s glory days 15 years ago, Tottenham were defensively excellent. Chelsea had the majority of the chances and the greater ambition, but Spurs showed organisation, determination and concentration.
It was a tactical affair; there have been some high-scoring shootouts this season but this never threatened to be one of them. After Spurs’ prolific start to the league season, they have settled into a more solid pattern.
They were content to let Chelsea have possession, especially in deeper areas; it was part of the Mourinho blueprint, with a compact, deep shape where Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Moussa Sissoko operated industriously as policemen in front of the back four.
When they started to spring players forward, right-back Serge Aurier drew a fine save from Edouard Mendy with a crisp shot. When left-back Sergio Reguilon charged forward, first Hakim Ziyech and then Reece James were booked for halting him.
Tanguy Ndombele highlighted his renaissance, the Frenchman proving dextrous and elusive with some lovely touches. Yet Harry Kane and Son Heung-min , so potent so far this season, had quiet games.
The Englishman did at least set up Steven Bergwijn when the winger, who had been preferred to Gareth Bale, posed Tottenham’s first threat with a rising shot that cleared the bar. But Mendy has still only conceded one Premier League goal and he was not unduly troubled as he kept another clean sheet.
That Spurs were so muted illustrated the improvement Thiago Silva has brought to the Chelsea defence. At the other end, another recent signing also flourished. Joe Rodon’s first Premier League start came in a high-pressure game but the Wales international slotted in seamlessly as he deputised for the injured Toby Alderweireld.
The Tottenham defence had more to do and, briefly, it appeared as though they were pierced in the 11th minute. Timo Werner beat Hugo Lloris with a brilliant curling finish, but the German’s celebrations were shortlived; he was fractionally offside when Mason Mount passed to him.
It was, though, a sign of Mount’s menace and he directed a shot over after surging past Hojbjerg and Sissoko. With 10 minutes remaining, Lloris made the game’s best save to tip Mount’s drive wide.
But it was a rare opening. Tottenham looked for safety in numbers, trying to crowd Chelsea out. Lampard’s team were the more positive side in the second half with their right-back looking the best chance of a breakthrough.
James delivered two enticing crosses, but Tammy Abraham headed both wide and should have done better with an inviting centre from Werner. Ziyech skied a shot over but it was arguably his most ineffective game so far.
The depth of Chelsea resources were such that the fit-again Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz began on the bench and Lampard turned to the both, along with Olivier Giroud, who could have scored after Rodon’s only error. He replaced all of his front three, none of whom impressed, in a game that revived questions what his strongest forward line is.
But that was testament to Tottenham. Mourinho’s strategies have shut many a side out at Stamford Bridge over the years. This time Chelsea were the side he stifled.