Avram Grant was more animated after Chelsea's thrilling draw at White Hart Lane last night than he had been during the chaotic contest, defending his record and reacting angrily to suggestions that he had, once again, failed to win one of the "big games" he needs to cement his role as Chelsea manager.
"I don't know whether to laugh or not to laugh," he said, clearly riled. "Every game we drop points is a big game. Explain to me what are critical games?
"Every game at Chelsea is critical. It can't be that with every game that we lost points it's a big game and every game that we win is a normal game."
Except, unfortunately, Avram, it can. Losing to Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League and drawing with Liverpool and now Tottenham Hotspur at "critical" stages in the campaign, plus going out of the cups to Spurs and Barnsley, does constitute the kind of roll call that defines a regime.
Big managers win big games and at a club like Chelsea the stakes are as high as they can be. Especially when mistakes are made by a manager who made some obvious errors in the Carling Cup final, against the same opponents, too. His initial team selection last night was improved on Wembley but the changes after that went to the heart of his suitability to continue in charge of such an ambitious club.
Grant defended taking off Joe Cole, for example, claiming the England player was "tired" and he needed "more passing in midfield" which is a bit of a slap down for easily the game's best performer, who has never before appeared incapable of retaining a football. Then there was the introduction of Alex da Costa, which Grant said was to shore up his defence because Spurs were playing "long ball and direct ball" when they were not.
The Chelsea manager appeared to fail to notice that Dimitar Berbatov had dropped into midfield, which left Alex with no-one to mark and handed the initiative to Spurs and their head coach Juande Ramos who, once again, out-foxed Grant. Not that the Israeli was having it. He felt the changes had improved matters, although he admitted to being bewildered that Spurs had now scored six times in two games against his team, with five coming from set-pieces. "We have one point and we wanted three," he said. "But we are still in the race and will not give up and will continue fighting."
That fight went too far in the game's flashpoint just before half-time. It followed a rash challenge by Frank Lampard on Jermaine Jenas which may make the latter a doubt for the England squad. Then Ashley Cole caught Alan Hutton with an horrendously high and late challenge.
Grant professed not to see the incident which led to a caution when it should have been a dismissal. Ramos was not going to get drawn into criticising referee Mike Riley. "We have seen tackles which were much less serious for which a red card has been given," he said.Reuse content