When Antonio Conte joined Spurs in November 2021, its suffice to say that fans were ecstatic. Having missed out on the Italian coach in the summer, and the hangover of Nuno Espirito Santo’s short reign already setting in, Spurs were finally content after getting their man. A board that is constantly under fire, namely chairman Daniel Levy, finally seemed to have got something right for the fans. However, things are anything but settled over at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. When Conte came in, he was impressed by the facilities, the stadium and the prospect of working with a star like Harry Kane. However, without major backing, the problems persist at spurs. What can Conte do to turn things around?
Having come in during the season, at least for the first two months Conte had no choice but to work with the players currently at the club. However, January came around and saw four departures in Dele Alli (permanent), Tanguy Ndombele (loan), Bryan Gill (loan) and Giovani Lo Celso (loan), but only two incoming transfers in Rodrigo Benatacur and Dejan Kulusevski (both Juventus). Sure, here are two players that Conte clearly wanted, but it still leaves Spurs with fewer options than before the transfer window. What is especially disappointing is that Ndombele, a player who cost £50 million to bring to the club has returned to Lyon only a couple seasons later, on loan. Still aged 25, Ndombele has not even reached his prime, and has shown flashes of the excellence that persuaded Jose Mourinho to bring him to London in the first place. Lo Celso is a similar story. Having played an integral role under Mourinho, the player has been on the fringes this season and now finds himself in Spain. Alli, a former youngster with heaves of potential, has finally left permanently. What is going on at Spurs? Surely the recruitment issue needs to be looked at. Who have they actually purchased in recent seasons that has staked a claim as a difference maker in the Spurs XI?
We all know that Conte loves to play his team in a 3-5-2; wingbacks are essential to his game. That being said, wingback is a position where Spurs seem weakest. You can see how this would be problematic for a manager who depends on reliable wingbacks. Having brought in Emerson Royal in the summer, in what initially looked like a steal, has gone the other direction entirely. The player has looked like Bambi on ice at times, and instead of reveling in what was thought to be a massive coup for Spurs, can now only be declared – how on earth did Barcelona manage to get £25 million? The alternative at right wing-back would be Matt Doherty, a player who played that role exclusively at Wolves for several seasons, to great success. The player did so well that Jose was convinced he was a great addition to the squad. However, things have been anything but fruitful for the Irishman. Having been on the fringes ever since he came to the club, he couldn’t even break into the squad consistently under former manager Nuno Espirito Santo. Having missed on on dream signing Adama Traore earlier in January, Conte has few options in this regard.
The left side is in a better situation, but not the best. Sergio Reguilón is a good left back and has performed fairly well since arriving from Real Madrid. However, the alternative just doesn’t seem to work for Spurs. For example, Reguilón was recently injured for many weeks and Spurs had no choice but to play Ryan Sessegnon at wing back. Sessengon was brought in for £25 million a couple of seasons ago, on the back of a standout season in the Championship and an average first season in the Premier League. The player clearly has talent, and can still achieve this potential seeing as how he is only 21 years old. However, he isn’t currently good enough to be starting week-in-week out for the club in their current form. The only remaining choice, Ben Davies, simply doesn’t have the ability to play as a wingback, rather a left back or left-sided center back.
Lack Of Goal Threat
There’s no doubt that the combination of Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane has been extremely fruitful for Spurs, but there is an obvious over-dependence emerging. Having scored a combined 18 league goals, it seems as though nobody else is really contributing. The next highest scorers are Steven Bergwijn, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Dejan Kulusevski, Lucas Moura and Davinson Sánchez all on 2 goals. Considering Kulusevski only just joined the club, and the fact that Sánchez is only a center back, this is very problematic for spurs.
Fortunately, Spurs do have time to fix things. Every club from 4th-8th has been inconsistent this season, which means 4th place is very much up for grabs. If Spurs were to win their two games-in-hand, for example, they would find themselves sitting in 4th, one point ahead of Manchester United. Consistency is key, though. Dropping points to relegation-battling sides like Burnley, just after winning away at City isn’t the kind of form a team needs to challenge for a Champions League spot. If Conte can get his players playing his style week-in-week-out, and contributing more, Spurs could still end the season fairly well.