Antonio Conte’s first Tottenham match in the Europa Conference League came against a Vitesse Arnhem side who had beaten Spurs two weeks earlier in Netherlands when a weakened side played by Nuno Espírito Santo drew criticism from all quarters. Conte was in no mood for playing fringe players in this return match and started a strong side with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Hugo Lloris all starting at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Despite the victory, the size of the task facing Conte is clear to see.
Antonio Conte’s First Tottenham Match Ends With Win but Task Ahead is Clear
Jekyll and Hyde Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham started the game strongly and there was much more energy and movement about the side with quick passing on the ground and touch and go football clearly something that Conte will want to drill into his new players. Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon were both playing as wingers more than wing backs; Royal, in particular, was employed very high on the right and got into some good positions. One thing he will need to watch, however, is his position. Far too often, the defender was caught in advanced areas of the pitch.
It was some quick and incisive football that gave Spurs the lead. Lucas Moura’s shot was saved by the keeper and eventually fell to Son who kept his cool and slotted home. Conte was happy, although seemed more interested in yelling instructions to Ben Davies about defensive duties -something the players will come to expect from the Italian in large doses as he puts his mark on this Tottenham squad.
Harry Kane played in Moura to make it two before an own goal made it 3-0 and Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur were in cruise control. The frailties in the squad were quick to rear their head, though.
Jacob Rasmussen headed home from a corner which displayed Spurs’ problems from set pieces before Moura gave the ball away on the Arnhem left and Matus Bero stifled the home crowd to make it 3-2. Conte could now see the size of the task in front him.
Second Half of Madness and Red Cards
Whatever was in the half-time oranges at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium must have been strong stuff as it seemed to send blood rushing to the players’ heads. Arnhem, backed by a vociferous following, went looking for the equaliser and, but for the heroics of Hugo Lloris, would have got it as the Spurs players started to show nerves.
The slick passing of the first half hour started to dessert them. On 58 minutes the game put the onus of the officials. First, Cristian Romero was sent off for a second yellow card and 20 minutes later, Arnhem’s Danilho Doekhi suffered the same fate. He had been booked for a challenge on Spurs substitute Davinson Sanchez which left the Colombian with a cut over his eye before hauling Kane to the ground.
Worse was to follow for Arnhem as keeperMarkus Schubert came rushing out of his area and when Romero tried to play the ball goal bound, the keeper stopped the ball with his hand and there was no option but to send him off. It was a bizarre second half, but Antonio Conte’s first match ended with a 3-2 win, leaving them in a strong position to progress from the group. One thing for sure, it will be a game that will take some time to forget.
Assessing Antonio Conte’s First Tottenham Match at The Helm
With less than a full day to work with his new players, it was never going to be a game that would define Conte’s Tottenham. But, there were signs of the Italian already starting to exert some of his desires onto his players. The first 30 minutes was much more energetic than anything seen under Espírito Santo and it was clear that the instruction to Kane was to stay up front and avoid dropping deep. Despite not scoring, Kane caused the Arnhem defence plenty of problems and Conte may well look to the striker to show strength and footballing intelligence to press opponents higher up the pitch than he has done in recent games.
What will have concerned Conte is just how open Spurs were and the defensive issues that have blighted the season so far will be on the top of his list to rectify as soon as possible. What will have impressed him is the desire of the players to put their foot in and to play with a more forward thinking attitude. And, if the first 30 minutes can be channelled into 90 minutes, Conte will quickly be loved in this part of London as he once was at Chelsea.
Players Who Caught the Eye
Oliver Skipp had looked a shadow of the player that won the Championship with Norwich City in the 2020/21 season under Espírito Santo, but in his first game for Conte he looked not only capable of breaking up play but also getting Spurs moving forward; he could be a player who really benefits under the new manager.
Royal was strong and athletic when bombing forward and can cause defences problems with his pace; he certainly did enough to stake his claim for the right wing back position, but he will need to work hard on the defensive part of the game as he left the left side open far too often for the visitors.
Moura put in a hard working shift and deserved his goal and continues to be one of Spurs’ best players this season.
Son looked more relaxed than in recent games and could have had a second but was unfortunate to hit the upright. He was back to making his runs in behind defences and with the ball being played on the floor he looked hungry to succeed which bodes well for the future.
Kane also looked more relaxed and it will be interesting to see if Conte can quickly get him back firing on all cylinders in the Premier League, starting with an away trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday.
Conte’s To Do List
Making sure the defence is more solid has to be the top priority for Conte, but what he has already achieved in one game is more shots on target than Spurs had managed in the previous 180 minutes. And he will want his team to attack at pace in every game so going two games without any shots on target should be a thing of the past very quickly.
Getting Kane scoring again and even tying him down to a new contract will be key as well as seeing which players will need to be moved on.
Antonio Conte’s First Tottenham Match: A Win and Plenty to Ponder
Antonio Conte’s first Tottenham match produced a win and an atmosphere in the ground that was louder and more passionate than it had been under the sacked Espírito Santo. Fans saw a drive and determination from the players and that in turn spurred them on. Even when things started to go wrong in the game, the fans just got louder and louder and it felt like the start of a new chapter really was beginning.
Tottenham have had countless false dawns before so there will need to be caution but,Conte looks at home in his new surroundings and he will now go to work on making Tottenham competitive, first and foremost, before ultimately attempting to make them winners at long last.
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