First Impressions From Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Debut

© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev / Go to the mediabankAntonio Conte
Antonio Conte - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.11.2021
Antonio Conte received a rousing ovation from fans at the Tottenham Hotspurs stadium. The Italian manager returns to London amid sky-high expectations. These are three first impressions from Conte’s Tottenham debut.
Antonio Conte’s first match in charge saw Tottenham face off against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League. The match was a helter-skelter affair that saw Tottenham go up 3-0 before the 30-minute mark, only to concede two goals before half-time. While the second half was scoreless, it was far from uneventful.
In the 59th minute, as Tottenham clung to a one-goal lead, Cristian Romero was shown a second yellow to see his side go a man down. Twenty-one minutes later, Vitesse’s man advantage was erased when Danilho Doekhi was shown a second yellow following a cynical foul on Harry Kane.
Four minutes later, Vitesse’s keeper was presented a red card for stopping a chipped shot with his hand outside of the box. Tottenham, using their man advantage, saw the game secure the first win of the Conte era.
While the performance will arguably leave the fiery Italian unsatisfied, these are three things his first match can tell us.

Three Centrebacks

Conte has had tremendous success through the use of three centrebacks. In his first match at Tottenham, he went back to the strategy, although with mixed results. The formation gave his wingbacks the ability to attack, with Emerson Royal taking particular advantage of the new freedom. However, the benefits it provided his wide players in attack were lessened by problems encountered by his centrebacks.
Tottenham doesn’t have the defensive talent that Conte is used to. Three centreback sets are great because they can help make up for individual defenders’ deficiencies, but after one match, against a weak opponent, Conte will likely be looking at the position as an area of weakness.
The three centreback formation is here to stay, but which three centrebacks remains an open question.

How to Unleash Harry Kane

If Conte wants to get the best out of Tottenham, it could start with reigniting Harry Kane’s form. Last season, Kane led the Premier League in both goals and assists but has only registered one apiece across nine matches played. His expected goals, 2.1, and expected assists, 1.5, suggest he’s been unlucky, but Tottenham and Conte are surely expecting more out of him.
Conte played Kane in a front three flanked by Hyung-min Son on the left and Lucas Moura on the right. For the first 30 minutes of the game, the front three linked well, and both Son and Lucas secured goals, with Kane providing the assist on the Lucas goal.
Kane almost scored the third but narrowly missed the ball and it was instead ruled an own goal. As Tottenham lost control of the game, Kane was routinely fouled as he received the ball. Conte hasn’t yet unleashed Kane, but it was a good start for the out-of-form striker.
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A Lot of Work to Be Done

The good news is that Conte got 30 minutes of brilliance from Tottenham. The bad news is that the next 60 minutes were less inspiring. Title contenders put games to bed when they’re 3-0 up. The attack, which had been horrid under Nuno Espirito Santo, looked much improved after one game in the Conference League.
The wingbacks constantly created problems and width, while the front three showed the potential to be devastating. Vitesse aren’t world beaters but they’re far from a poor team. Improving the defense will be priority number one for Conte.
The backline looked uncomfortable playing out of pressure at times and it’s far from clear that Tottenham have three centrebacks that deserve to see the pitch. If Conte can get the best out of his attackers and instill discipline in the backline, Tottenham will be able to hold their heads above water until January when reinforcements can be brought in.
Antonio Conte has a lot of work to do, but there were enough positives from his first match leading Tottenham that many retain hope for the season to be turned around.
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