Best start in 59 years and a ‘different animal’ – are the suitors for Antonio Conte’s Tottenham side?
Mikel Arteta’s resurgent Arsenal and an Erling Haaland-inspired Manchester City may have dominated the headlines so far this season, but are Tottenham starting to emerge from the shadows under Antonio Conte?
Tottenham haven’t always been particularly good to watch this season, but they are now level on points with Pep Guardiola’s side and only one behind their north London rivals – despite having played one game more than both teams.
Unlike City or Arsenal, however, their performances so far this season suggest there is plenty more to come from Conte’s side.
‘Spurs are a different animal under Conte’, ex-Tottenham striker Gary Lineker tweeted afterwards. “Tactically smart and much more resilient. Still a work in progress but encouraging signs.”
Room for improvement?
Despite their impressive points tally, it could be said that Conte’s side are yet to fully hit their stride in 2022-23.
Apart from resounding victories over Southampton and Leicester, Tottenham have tended to claim many of their league wins this season.
They had just 41 per cent possession and three shots on target in their 1-0 win at Brighton earlier this month, while Wolves had nearly twice as many attempts on goal in a win 1-0 at home for Spurs in August.
They were well beaten in the North London derby recently and needed a 96th-minute equalizer from Harry Kane to salvage a point against Chelsea after a largely disappointing display at Stamford Bridge.
While Saturday’s win over Everton was well deserved, Spurs took advantage of their first-half chance and could have trailed at half-time if Demarai Gray and Amadou Onana hadn’t missed golden opportunities to score for visitors.
The second half was one-sided, as Tottenham besieged their opponents’ goal before finally breaking the resistance of the Toffees.
“It was a great night for Spurs,” Michael Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Antonio Conte realizes it was a great performance from his side. They started very well and the quality was there.
“Now the real test is Manchester United on Wednesday.”
In-game flexibility pays off
Saturday’s victory was made all the more impressive by the way Spurs responded to a second-half injury to former Everton striker Richarlison – with the scoreboard still goalless.
Rather than replacing the leader with a striker, Conte instead introduced another midfielder in Yves Bissouma – which gave the home side more stability in midfield and helped lay the groundwork for victory.
“We faced a difficult situation with Richy’s injury so I changed the system,” Conte told BBC Match of the Day. “When you change systems during the game, you create difficulties for the opponent.
“This team can play with three forwards or three midfielders, and I opted for this solution because Lucas Moura only started training with us again this week. His physical condition is not yet at the best level. .
“[Richarlison’s injury] could have created something negative but we found the right solution. We are talking about a good opponent and despite the injury we were able to unblock the situation.
“It means the players are growing in many ways. I’m proud of them.”
Prolific Kane closes in on Greaves
Kane’s penalty, which came just seven minutes after Richarlison’s withdrawal, means he has now scored 14 goals in 15 Premier League appearances against Everton.
The England captain also found the net in five consecutive top-flight games for the first time in his career.
He is now on 258 goals for Tottenham – just eight behind Jimmy Greaves’ all-time club record of 266.
Kane came close to breaking the deadlock twice against Everton before his second-half spot-kick, having a header blocked by Toffees defender James Tarkowski before sending a vicious volley straight past Jordan Pickford.
“I’m not worried about Harry because we’re talking about a player whose performance has been incredible,” Conte said.
“[But] everyone played well today. They showed me that they had the desire and the will to get the three points.”