Conte may have seen the whites of the players eyes in training this week, but Vitesse gave him the chance to see how the team reacts to a competitive occasion, in a game that provided opportunities, tests and unexpected events. As a game, it was reflective of Spurs season to date. A bright start, but with defensive errors causing more tension than we would like before descending into a scrappy, sometimes farcical affair. Here we consider what we can take from the performance.
Front Three: Movement and Communication
One of the most pleasing, and impactful elements of this Tottenham performance was the movement of the front three: Kane-Son-Moura axis. Much was made of the Kane-Son partnership last season, and this was the first time we had seen that tacit understanding to play through balls for runners etc. during the current term.
The first goal was the perfect demonstration of this, as the players swarmed to find the perfect opportunity, the fast break, the first to the rebound desire we had been missing. All of this was a product of the entire outfield pushing further forward than they had under Nuno. Before taking the role, Conte had discussed Kane’s positioning and a desire to see him as an orthodox striker, something that was more evident at times than others, but his performance benefited from being the spearhead of a dynamic attack.
Tottenham did not look comfortable in possession but that will come, the shape and understanding in attack was the most surprising, and welcome sight of the night for me.
Vitesse exposed Defensive Frailties
It was a brave choice to partner Romero with Davies and Dier in a back-three. My first thought was that we’d need to score at least two or three for a result. Positionally, the three did not look sound all night, this was demonstrated early on when Davies was caught out by Vitesse and lucky not to give away a penalty with the scores at 0-0. Vitesse had a lot of space just outside the box, this will be worrying ahead of Everton on Sunday, particularly if Richarlison recovers in time for the game. Dier looked positionally unsure for both Vitesse goals too, the first he appears to lose his man, for the second he turns as if to avoid a deflection or give his goalkeeper better sight of the shot, it’s moments like these which confirm to me that he is not suited to the role.
Christian Romero’s finest moment of the game was an attacking intervention feeding Son early on with a delightful ball. Beyond this, it went downhill for the Argentinian, as he struggled to undertake key defensive duties before picking up two reckless and unneeded bookings. The change to a back three should in theory enable us to see the best of Romero, he played in the system to great effect for Atalanta, one can only hope that with more time, and better players around him his performances improve.
We know this wasn’t our first choice defence, and Conte didn’t have long to work with them. Let’s hope this reflect early teething problems in adaptation to tactics, and we see more stability moving forward.
Conte wants more width
On reflection, Reguilon did not have a great game for Spurs, he gave up possession frequently, failed to deliver crosses accurately and didn’t carry the ball as would be hoped for the position he occupied last night. Like Romero, I’m putting this down to a lack of time to gain familiarity with the role required of him. Sergio will have been the most grateful of players to make it to half-time last night, if only because he knew in the second half it would put him further away from the manager’s gaze. Conte has a clear, defined role for this position, one that Sergio will need to show he can be trusted within. Conte like his wide players to hug the touchline regardless of other matters around the pitch. Reguilon was far more comfortable following the enforced change to a back four, and for me has all the skills to make a more successful appearance against Everton on Sunday, even in a Conte system.
Bright future ahead
The result was key here, and the first 30 minutes made the difference, even though it was tighter than we would have liked. The shift in approach, and positivity demonstrated, was remarkable given the lack of time Conte had to work with his new charges. There were many bright performances. In addition to the front three, Emerson Royal had one of his best games for the club so far, both offensively and defensively. Winks looked positive on his appearance, although brief, an air of unrestraint pervaded him and I would like to see more of this if he can get back to his best. Hugo played a Captain’s role and kept the scores low enough for a victory to be claimed, saves made look great on the highlight reel, I am sure his manager will speak to him about his quality of distribution but in a full strength lineup I don’t anticipate this to be an issue moving forward.
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