Despite being less than a week into 2023, it’s already been an eventful year for Tottenham Hotspur and Antonio Conte.

Bryan Gil Harry Kane

(Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

In welcoming Aston Villa to North London, Spurs kicked off Premier League football in 2023, however it was a match those associated with the club will be keen to forget.

Dejan Kulusevski’s absence was an unwelcomed surprise for fans, and alongside Bentancur, both were a clear miss for the side.

Spurs looked near toothless without the Swede, registering just 0.57xG compared to Villa’s 1.22 – the lowest rate in a Premier League game all season for the Lilywhites (Understat).

Moreover, Spurs had just six shots all game; looking sluggish, tired, and uninspired in midfield, with a 2-0 defeat being the worst way to kick off the new year.

Three days later, Tottenham were back in action as we travelled across London to take on Crystal Palace in search of our first win at Selhurst Park since the 2017/18 season (Transfermarkt).

We made a decent start, holding our shape well and enjoying time on the ball but as usual, there was little in terms of clear chances ending the first half with just 0.18xG.

Whilst the hosts threatened on occasion, out with a good shot from Andre Ayew forcing Hugo Lloris to make a smart save, Palace also ended the half with little to cheer about, with the game unsurprisingly goalless at the break.

However, minutes after the restart, Kane got his head on the end of a trademark Perisic cross to put Spurs ahead and finally end our illusive 10-match run of conceding first.

From there, it only got better for Conte, as just five minutes later Kane riffled a tightly-angled shot past Gualta to double Tottenham’s lead and largely quash any hope of a Palace comeback.

15 minutes later, Doherty’s goal truly sealed the points for Spurs, with Son then capping off an excellent win and scoring a much-needed goal to put Tottenham four to the good.

Impressions of Conte’s game management work were clear in what time remained, with Spurs giving little away and in truth still looking like the side most likely to score again as we cruised to a well-earned three points.

Whilst a win was all important and is ultimately, and rightly so, what the game will be remembered for, there were also a few key takeaways for Spurs fans;

Bryan Gil can play football

Understandably, most Spurs fans likely exhaled a sigh of disappointment upon seeing Gil’s name in the line-up rather than Kulusevski’s, however the Spaniard finally was impressive.

Having failed to live up to the hype he arrived with since joining Spurs, the winger finally put in a memorable performance; playing a key role in Kane’s opener with a good run and pre-assist for Perisic before setting up the second himself with a slick pass into Kane.

If he gets down the gym and puts on some muscle, we might yet have a player on our hands.

Skipp and Sarr

With Bentancur still injured and Bisssouma suspended, Skipp came into the side for only his second start this season partnering Hojbjerg in midfield.

In truth, the Englishman looked off the pace, losing the ball on several occasions and failing to win three of his four ground duals (Sofascore).

However, this paved the way for Sarr to pick up his first meaningful minutes of the season, replacing Skipp in the 66th minute and impressing from thereon out.

The Senegalese was solid in midfield, winning three out of four ground duals and putting up a strong pass accuracy of 95%.

Moreover, he showed good strength to dispossess Odsonne Edouard late on and looks like a reliable asset to the squad moving forward.

Son back on the scoresheet

It’s no secret Son hasn’t been himself lately, as before Wednesday he had just three Premier League goals this season which all came against Leicester City.

The Korean’s underlying statsitics have also been poor, putting record-low numbers for expected goals, chances created, touches in the opposition box, and completed dribbles since 2016/17 (Sky Sports).

Hopefully, Son’s goal at Palace can be a springboard to rediscover last season’s Golden Boot-winning form, as we could certainly use his quality for the remainder of the campaign.

Conte still doesn’t fancy Spence

At 4-0 up, Conte made his final substitution with just 12 minutes to go bringing Emerson on in place of Doherty.

Considering his recent rumoured training ground bust-up and Spurs having the game all but won, you can’t help but feel this was the perfect opportunity to give Spence a runout for more than five minutes, but you never know, maybe he’s being saved for this weekend’s FA Cup tie?

Moving forward

Ahead of a North London Derby, facing Manchester City home and away, and a tough trip to Fulham, both Conte and the players needed a victory like Wednesday’s to at least paper over the growing cracks in the team and restore some semblance of positivity.

With an FA Cup tie with Portsmouth this weekend, Tottenham now has well over a week to prepare for what’s likely going to be a hard-fought North London Derby as Arsenal painfully remain one of the league’s best sides.

With any luck, Levy, Conte, and Paratici may even conduct some much-anticipated transfer business between now and then, and hopefully, the likes of Bentancur and Kulusevski may be fit enough to return to action.

However, for now, we can enjoy a statement win over a London rival and look forward to the resumption of FA Cup action this weekend.

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