Opinion: Analysing the Leicester win, top four race, and Spurs’ summer plans

Antonio Conte
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Tottenham managed to bounce back with a much-needed win this weekend, defeating a much-changed Leicester City 3-1, while Arsenal also continued their winning stream with a 2-1 victory over West Ham. So it’s as you were in the race for the top four…

The first half of the Leicester game felt very much like a number of Tottenham’s other recent games under Conte. Although Spurs weren’t behind… you couldn’t really figure out why or how. After a fast start, they dropped back and Leicester had the best chances.

This was the same against Brighton, when Spurs eventually lost. The same against Brentford, which ended 0-0. Even the same against Aston Villa, who somehow managed to lose 4-0 after battering Tottenham for the first chunk of the game.

What was slightly surprising about yesterday was that Tottenham actually had all the time and space in the world. Leicester made 8 changes due to European commitments, as well as having a number of injuries. So Spurs should have controlled it from start to finish.

Kane was able to drop deep and get a fair amount of time on the ball, but it just wouldn’t stick for him. His first touch and passing was a little all over the place, which is very unlike the Spurs striker. Tottenham’s wing-backs also struggled to progress.

It wasn’t really until the introduction of Kulusevski that things began to click for Spurs. The Swede added a different dimension off the right and directly contributed to two goals, adding to Tottenham’s lead and putting the game beyond Leicester.

Kulu had been quiet in the last two games, with teams doubling up on him and marking him out the game. However, coming on fresh off the bench against tired legs looked like a cheat code for Spurs as he glided past challenge after challenge.

Of course, Heung-min Son put in a world-class performance, showing once again that he has no weak foot. He seems to be getting better and better in that number 10 role, particularly with his hold up play, flicks around the corner, and creativity in the pockets.

Whether or not it is his best position is still up for debate, but I think his game will improve dramatically from playing in those tighter areas and we will see a more well-rounded Son as a result. At the moment, he is proving to be Tottenham’s biggest goal threat.

I think especially after the transfer rumours last summer, that can only be a healthy thing for the Spurs team, Son, and even Harry Kane. Everyone is pushing each other to get better and you can hardly label Tottenham a one-man team, or the ‘Harry Kane team’ these days.

Other players also deserve a mention. Romero arguably had his best game in a Spurs shirt and ran the show. Hojbjerg had his best game in weeks, maybe months. Dier looked solid. Lloris stood up when needed. I thought Sessegnon had a quiet but solid game too.

The thing that was missing, and has been missing for a few weeks, was the overall team performance. Spurs just don’t seem to be effortlessly gelling in the transition as they were last month. I really do believe that comes down to the wing-back positions.

During their best period under Conte, Tottenham has an in-form Sessegnon and a reborn Matt Doherty at LWB and RWB respectively. Both then got injured and Spurs haven’t been the same since. Hopefully, now that Sess is getting back up to speed, Spurs can bounce back somewhat.

However, it is worth pointing out that none of the current wing-back options have had too much experience at wing-back, beyond the injured Doherty. Spurs will definitely look to address that in the summer and are guaranteed to improve next season.

This system relies on the players on the ball having an overload of options in the final third to choose from. For example, when Kane has the ball at his feet in a number ten role, there should be Sessegnon, Emerson, Kulusevski, and Son all occupying space/defenders.

After a summer transfer window, a pre-season, and just hard work on the training pitch, I think Spurs will make leaps and bounds next season. Of course, this relies on them convincing Conte they are fully behind him in the transfer market.

I expect Levy and Paratici to sit down in that meeting with Conte and outline their plans to completely revamp the squad. By now, they will know exactly what he wants – which I expect is a RWB, LWB, LCB, sub keeper, striker, and a creative midfielder… at least.

It is going to be a huge job and it will likely take a sizeable transfer pot… but it needs to be done as a long-term investment into both on-field success and the club’s financials. We need Champions League money back, we need trophies, and Levy needs the fans back on side.

Losing Conte this summer because you couldn’t match his ambition would be an awful look for the club and one the owners/chairman would really struggle to come back from. The rebuild should have been done years ago, but it really is now or never for them.

In terms of the top four… it’s going to be tough. I wish I could be confident, but the results haven’t gone Tottenham’s way this past few weeks. Spurs have dipped in form just as Arsenal have peaked in terms of getting results.

The whole reason many people had Tottenham down as favourites last month was because they were in good form and Arsenal had Man United, Chelsea, and West Ham to come. The Gunners got 9 points out of 9 which has completely turned the race on its head.

I find it hard to be disappointed or frustrated though, because Spurs were playing catch up from the start and required a level of consistency they were never realistically going to find to make themselves favourites heading into the final games of the season.

The important thing is that Spurs are in a race no one expected them to be in. If that isn’t a good starting point for Conte and co then I don’t know what is. Although we would all jump at the chance for CL football, it may simply be ahead of schedule for the club.

Anything Spurs can get off Liverpool is a bonus. Then the Lilywhites HAVE to beat Arsenal and at least put the pressure on the Gunners for those final two games. Beat Burnley and Norwich and hope Arsenal fall at the final hurdle.

But even if Spurs don’t finish the season on a high, there is plenty to be excited about around the club for the first time in a good while… as long as that post-season meeting goes well. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed. COYS!

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