It’s early days, but despite a pretty dismal performance against Everton, we’ve seen a couple of positives that Spurs fans can take some comfort from.
Here are the three most important features of an Antonio Conte side that we have been treated to a taste of so far, but could improve Spurs in the long-term if the players buy-in.
The most notable difference seen since Conte’s arrival has been the formation, and particularly against Everton, how high the fullbacks have been.
As well as making the centre of defence more compact, this formation allows the full-backs to effectively be wingers, and thus allowing midfielders and attackers to stay central, and get into the box.
We saw Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon have Spurs’ best chances at Goodison Park from these exact positions, for example.
The issue? We don’t have the full-backs for this formation. And I don’t mean that they don’t have the ability to bomb forward. But neither seem to possess the nous on the ball to recreate the recent success of Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell and Reece James, for example.
Reguilon has a grand total of 0 goals in his Tottenham career, whilst Royal has no goals nor assists in his early days at Spurs. I don’t want to write the pair off, but we’re a long way off possessing full-backs that make this formation tick.
We started to see this against Vitesse during the midweek game, and it was so reassuring to witness the Spurs front three start to get back to what we know they are capable of.
Yes, it was far from vintage, but Lucas Moura’s goal was exactly what the doctor ordered – Harry Kane getting on the ball, and playing a deadly pass through the back line. We know from past experience, just how dangerous Antonio Conte can make attacking players.
At Chelsea, Diego Costa was a real handful, and most recently, with his title-winning Inter Milan squad, Lautauro Martinez has become a well-known name following the Italian’s time there, and Conte arguably turned Romelu Lukaku into a different beast altogether.
Therefore, this is a genuine hope that, following these success stories, every attacking player can improve immeasurably, and the team can get back to an attack-minded, front-foot style of play.
However, the area in which this squad must give their all, in order to make the most of having Conte as the manager, is ensuring that bodies are put on the line.
In the short Nuno Espirito Santo era, the players looked as unfit as I’ve ever seen a Tottenham team – a far cry from the dynamism of Pochettino’s Spurs.
There was a complete lack of pressing, but rather than use this as part of a game-plan, as Jose Mourinho employed, this feels like a part of the game that the squad had completely neglected.
Conte will look to address this straight away, and the performance against Everton was the first proof of this.
Tackles flew in throughout the game, and this ferocity was matched by the statistics, which show that during this game, this eleven ran the most collectively, than in any other game this season, and put in more sprints than in any other game.
And it wasn’t even close. The team ran more than 7km further than the most efficient game under Nuno. We may have barely bared our teeth against Everton in an attacking sense, but this desire and commitment to the cause was much more like it.
And add the report that Conte has banned certain foods from the training ground, it looks like we are starting to see the Italian’s fitness methods in action!
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