The dust has settled from Conte’s first league game as Tottenham manager, but the frustration remains. It wasn’t so much the result, but the performance which showed the tough road which lies ahead if Spurs are to turn their season around. We take a look at what we learnt from the Everton game and identify three problem areas for immediate improvement.
Giving up space on the edge of the area
The biggest surprise upon announcement of the starting line-up was the continuation of the Davies-Romero-Dier back three. Sanchez rode the bench once more but didn’t make it onto the pitch this time. What is noticeable about the back three is their co-ordination, Romero moves forward to challenge, Dier and Davies drop back to cover behind, later on roles are switched. One can only assume that the team have played this way in training and the Italian has noticed that this particular group has worked most effectively together.
The key concern of this structure, also noted following Vitesse is the amount of space is provides the opposition just outside, and on the edge of, the box. Here it caused a problem once more, and it was a ball floated into this area and not sufficiently dealt with that resulted in the Everton penalty claim, over-turned by VAR on this occasion. It is essential that a solution is found ahead of the Leeds game as they face a team who will regularly shoot from outside the box, and clip balls into this area to great effect as recently demonstrated against Leicester and Norwich.
Offensive problems need attention
The desire, energy and movement shown in the first 30 minutes of Conte’s reign felt like a fever-dream throughout the 90 minutes against Everton. Kane, Son and Moura were largely ineffective in this match, the forward line flat and lacking the speed to penetrate a defence who had not kept a clean sheet in their past 4 matches. It is over 250 minutes since Tottenham’s last league goal and more worryingly 200 minutes since their last shot on target.
Re-watching the game, Harry Kane’s positioning is unfathomable at times, he barely made it into the opposition penalty area for most of the game, and even when he did it was only around the periphery. This was the same for Son and Moura too who’s movement failed to create a problem for the opposition to defend against. It is telling that looking at player heat maps, Reguillon and Emerson Royal spent more time in the area than the three front men combined.The wing-backs looked good in attack, both crossing, and meeting opportunities created by others. Lo Celso came closest to opening the scoring when he came on late in the game although this was a speculative effort from outside the box.
Conte came with a reputation for counter-attacking football, patient build-up play, probing until an opportunity presents itself. Perhaps his message isn’t getting across, perhaps he feels like he doesn’t have the players at his disposal to achieve this yet. Either way, Tottenham’s next home game is against Leeds, another stubborn opposition to break down. Harry Winks, Bryan Gil, Dele Alli and Ryan Sessegnon have not been called up by their respective international sides. With two weeks until their next match, Conte has the opportunity to work with those left behind to see if they can deliver something his first eleven were unable too, we can only hope the answer presents itself as a result.
Playing the full 90 minutes
Comparing Tottenham’s performance after half-time with the opening 45, it is noticeable that Conte’s team had less possession, less shots, 33% less passes, less dribbles, and won less duels as the game wore on. This is a common thread of recent performances, noted against Vitesse, and in the past four league games. Tottenham have created less chances, conceded more shots and ultimately more goals in the second half of games. Where the game has been put beyond doubt, this would be understandable however, Tottenham had all to play for, in the knowledge that three points would retain their place in the top six.
Fitness is an area Conte must address, and it has been noticeable problem throughout the season that Tottenham have been lagging behind their opponents in terms of energy late on. Reports emerging today (via @AlasdairGold) indicate that those Tottenham players away on international duty have been handed extra training schedules in the hope of improving their fitness levels. Conte’s long-term plan is hugely dependent on fitness to press the opposition, win the ball as high up the pitch as possible and force an error to create an opening. For those left behind, including Ndombele, Winks, Gil and Dele Alli, they can expect to be relentlessly drilled in this area in order to push themselves to the limit of their physical cabilities. We will see the result when the face a hard-working Leeds team on the 21st.
Keep up with all the latest opinion from Undrafted at our Facebook page!
Return to the homepage by clicking here.