Harry Redknapp departed west London optimistic that third place can still be prised back from Arsenal, even offering up a raucous "bring it on, Arsène", albeit bellowed through a guffaw. Yet a truer measure of Tottenham Hotspur's conviction that their recent slump has been checked was the underlying sense among the players that a draw at Chelsea actually represented a missed opportunity.
This point was secured on Saturday at a ground where Spurs have not prevailed in 22 years and maintained a reassuring five-point cushion over their fifth-placed hosts with an eight-game run-in to come. Yet, having created the game's more presentable opportunities, Tottenham were left with a nagging sense of what might have been. To have edged eight points clear of Roberto Di Matteo's side might have broken Chelsea for good. As it is, there is work still to be done even if confidence has been pepped.
"We were on a little bit of a sticky run and, while we knew it would be difficult coming to Chelsea, we needed to get back to what we had been doing well," said Scott Parker reflecting upon a three-game losing streak, checked in midweek with a draw against Stoke, which had led to Spurs being displaced from third in the table. "We showed our class today and both sides to our game: we were quite solid at the back and, going forward, we were always a threat. Hopefully after this result, things will turn.
"You'd like to think that, after this result, we can go and build on the performance. We can kick on now and see it through to the end of the season. To be honest, we're probably a little bit disappointed as we deserved to win the game on the chances we had. We dominated possession and kept the ball quite well and, towards the end, it looked like every time we went forward we would score. We'd been on a sticky patch but, at Chelsea, we proved that we are up there with the best of them still."
Juan Mata struck a post for the hosts but Tottenham's had been the more persuasive threat on Saturday, with Petr Cech and Ashley Cole doing well to thwart Rafael van der Vaart towards the end of the first half, then Gary Cahill and Cech denying Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Bale after the break. The Welsh winger also struck the bar with a firm header as Chelsea heaved to contain their visitors. "I think the 'blip' is out of the way, yes, though we haven't played badly," said Redknapp. "Sometimes, you just don't get the breaks. But I'm pleased with how we did against Chelsea.
"It's tough reaching the Champions League this year. Manchester City are a certainty, Manchester United too, and Arsenal have been there every year. Given the money Chelsea and Liverpool have spent, too, you'd have thought they would get stronger so, last summer, it felt it would be even harder to make it. And yet, a month ago, we were nailed on.
"Now it would be a bigger blow to me if we didn't make it. Of course, if Tottenham want to do it again next year, we'll have to improve again. These other teams are not going to stand still. But, for now, third is not out of reach, no. Not at all."