Tottenham Hotspur

Antonio Conte's first week as Spurs boss ends with clarity over problem areas

By Sean Walsh
Conte's Tottenham drew 0-0 with Everton
Conte's Tottenham drew 0-0 with Everton / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages
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A week is a long time in football. It's even longer if you're Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs fans woke up on Monday with Nuno Espirito Santo on the verge of the sack, and will go to bed tonight safe in Antonio Conte's warm embrace (you know, metaphorically).

After a crazy 3-2 win over Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday - which Conte admitted he hated because Spurs weren't in control - Tottenham travelled to Goodison Park to try and get a faltering Premier League campaign back on track.

The good news is Spurs weren't terrible and for the most part looked defensively solid in a 0-0 draw. The bad news is that they failed to register a shot on target for the second successive league game - a new club record since Opta began collecting date in 2003.

Well, you can't have it all.

Where Tottenham looked clueless and passive under Nuno, they already look far more engaged with Conte. No longer are the defenders hoofing the ball upfield aimlessly, no longer are they frightened and intimidated by every duel they get into. Those are decent baby steps for a side that looked hopeless only eight days ago.

But there are significant weaknesses that have been exposed in Conte's first two matches. While Tottenham had decent spells of possession at Goodison Park, they largely came in their own half or in midfield, with Son Heung-min having to drop deep to try and (unsuccessfully) drive at the Everton defence.

Conte has spoken before about how he would keep Harry Kane towards the penalty area if he had control of him, and you could see that idea coming through, though that left him isolated and he contributed almost nothing to the game.

Harry Kane
Kane was quiet at Goodison Park / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

After 60 minutes, Spurs - who fielded the same starting XI as they did on Thursday - looked dead on their feet, with remnants of Jose Mourinho's failed era glaringly obvious. You can understand why Conte was keen to bring in three of his own fitness coaches.

Conte's 3-4-3 already looks pretty well drilled off the ball, though you can see the kinks and faults on it. It didn't help that the likes of Lucas Moura and Giovani Lo Celso were unable to complete the fundamentals of football, mind.

While some of Tottenham's stars will head away for international duty, Conte - who is currently still residing at Hotspur Way's lodge - must treat the break like a bootcamp, a pre-season crash course in order to get the bulk of the squad up to speed physically and tactically.

There are good players at Spurs, but right now a lot of them are distressed assets - some are woefully unfit, some haven't had a prolonged spell of good form for months amid the quick turnover of subpar coaches, some probably just need a fresh start.

Conte is the best manager in the world at squeezing every last drop of quality out of his players, though it will soon become obvious enough which parts of the team even he is unable to solve. In his first press conference this week, he revealed he would show loyalty and respect to his new Spurs players as long as they showed it back - some of them might have to worship the ground he walks on to get some more chances in the starting lineup though.


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