Opinion: What Kulusevski needs to do if he wants to remain Conte’s first choice

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Dejan Kulusevski
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Dejan Kulusevski arrived at Tottenham only six months ago but already he has managed to embed himself in the club, becoming a fan favourite in the process due to his integral role in Spurs’ top four finish.

The transition from Turin to Tottenham was almost seamless for the Swede as he grabbed eight assists whilst also netting five goals of his own (TransferMarkt).

Kulusevski’s impact was as important as it was impressive as he helped Tottenham get a memorable win away to Manchester City with his early opener before assisting Harry Kane’s winner.

The winger also ensured Tottenham would finish above their rivals, Arsenal, come the end of the season with a brace that contributed to Tottenham’s thrashing of Premier League backmarkers, Norwich.

Due to the maturity with which Kulusevski has entered the English top flight, you would be forgiven if you thought the forward was an older, more experienced winger; but he’s not.

The Swedish international is still only twenty-two years of age and is enjoying his first consistent run in a team since his days at Parma Calcio back in 2019/20.

Although Kulusevski’s age does give promise for the future, there are still many imperfections to his game that he will have to iron out if he intends to remain Antonio Conte’s primary pick on the right side of Tottenham’s three-man attack.

The most significant issue with Kulusevski’s game is his lack of trust in his weaker (right) foot, meaning he is often seen shifting the ball onto his left in shooting positions.

If you watched the first half in particular of Tottenham’s pre-season game against Rangers you would have noticed that a goal-scoring opportunity can pass him by due to this weakness.

So why is this so significant to Conte? Well, we know that Conte likes his teams to attack with pace and often counter-attack against superior oppositions like Liverpool and Manchester City.

Therefore this slowing down of attacks or wasting of chances could be critical for Spurs next season, especially in games where chances may come few and far between.

Take the Burnley game for example towards the closing stages of the 2021/2022 season; Lucas Moura started the game ahead of Kulusevski, which was seemingly forced as the Swede was feeling unwell (Standard).

The match highlighted how Moura’s dynamism was useful in breaking down an opponent like Burnley who set up in a low block with the intention of frustrating Spurs over the course of the 90 minutes. 

The numbers only further strengthen these observations as Kulusevski has scored 100% of his Premier League goals with his stronger (left) foot (Premier League). For comparison, Dejan’s teammate, Harry Kane, scored only 52% of his Premier League goals last season with his predominant right foot (Premier League).

Fellow winger, Heung Min-Son has an incredible record of scoring one more goal with his left foot (12) than he did with his right foot (11) last Premier League season (Premier League).

Son is a shining example for Kulusevski as the South Korean has climbed his way to being one of the top players in the world. One of the key factors that have helped him to reach that stature is his unpredictability due to his equal ability on both feet.

It makes it difficult for defenders to play against him as they aren’t able to force Son to a weaker side due to him not having one. As such, if Son is given just enough time and space he is almost guaranteed to capitalise on the opportunity.

Even if there is a defender that chooses to close down the Korean, he can still shift the ball and create a goal-scoring opportunity for a teammate.

It’s therefore easy to see why it will be crucial that Kulusevski develops his unpredictability over the next season, especially as the Swede will be entering his first full season in England and people will have done their research on him. 

However, this isn’t to say that Kulusevski will definitely struggle next season as it’s easy to forget he’s still young at twenty-two years of age and will only get better and mature with experience.

There may not be that same dramatic high numbers of goal contributions this season but it’s likely that will be due to the introduction of Richarlison, who will give Kulusevski a tough battle for his place.

Despite his game not being complete or at a world-class level yet, Kulusevski will still cause trouble for opponents due to his direct running, quick footwork, drive and determination on the ball. 

Just like any player, there’s always something to improve on and the concern is that Kulusevski may be found out next season if he doesn’t adapt or work to fix his weaker foot.

But if any manager has the incredible ability to improve players and their abilities; it’s Antonio Conte.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I agree 100% with regards to Conte being able to sort out players weaknesses, and this is why I would go for Traore AND Milekovic instead of Zaniolo for similar money.
    Traore is a beast at running through players as if they aren’t there, but his finishing is woeful. Conte would be able to fix him, perhaps..

  2. History proves these facts wrong. Many of the greatest players only use their stronger foot and if the are top class its irrelevant. Defenders may know what a one footed player is likely to do, but stopping them doing it is not a forgone conclusion if they are top class.

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