Despite having their best ever start to a Premier League campaign, Spurs haven’t been playing an attractive brand of football, often being dominated throughout games and hitting their opposition on the counterattack. However, recent results have probed the question: is Antonio Conte and the style of play he deploys at Spurs unsustainable?
The Lilywhites took 23 points from a possible 30 in the opening 10 league games of the season. Prior to their loss at home to Newcastle on Sunday, Spurs had been 7 points better off this campaign than they were last season.
But the two most recent fixtures really highlighted the inefficiencies of Conte’s system. Spurs have had 186 shots taken at their goal in the first 12 league games, with only Nottingham Forest and Everton facing more in the PL.
In the clash with Man United last week, which saw the Red Devils dominate the encounter and win 2-0, Spurs conceded 28 shots at goal which is the most any PL side has faced in match this season. Furthermore, the defeat at Old Trafford was also the most shots an Antonio Conte side has faced throughout the Italian’s entire managerial career, stretching 318 games.
When analyzing the players’ average position, it’s clear to see that Conte’s system is more defensive than any point before, which comes as a surprise given the aforementioned amount of shots they’ve faced. This could be testament to the fact that an antagonistic approach invites pressure, and it is unsustainable to have your goal constantly barraged with opposition shots.
The Italian has always been notorious for his defence-first approach. However, his sides are generally always capable of turning on the style and playing free-flowing, attacking football, especially when needing a goal.
Despite the host of attacking talent in Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison, Spurs haven’t looked as potent in front of goal. Although this may be a result of not being able to progress the ball up-field quick enough, especially with a lack of creators in the team.
Speaking after the defeat to Newcastle on Sunday, Conte emphasized that his process at Spurs is only in the beginning stages, stating that he needs ‘patience and money’ to get his team where they aspire to be.
“We need time and patience and, also for sure, money,” said Conte to BBC Radio 5.
The former Chelsea boss then addressed the lack of squad depth and quality he has available.
“My only worries in this moment is we have to try to keep the fingers crossed and don’t have injuries because we are not a team with such a depth of squad to face competitions like the Premier League and Champions League, but this is not something against the club,” continued the Italian.
“For sure there are players that need to rest for two days to recover because we have players who for them this was seven games in a row and we don’t have the possibility to make rotation in this moment.
“When I spoke before I always said look, we have just started the process for Tottenham to bring Tottenham into the best position to be more competitive to fight for something important, we have just started.
“For this reason we need to cope with this situation. For me it is not easy, it is not simple but we have to cope and to manage the situation with experience and stay together.”
However, Conte can’t be too upset with the Club’s acquisitions as he was involved in the transfer of all 7 players brought into the squad, with the exception of Djed Spence, whose lack of minutes indicates he was a signing driven by the Club.
And towards the end of the summer transfer period, many lauded Spurs’ window as up there with the best in the league, maybe even Europe. Furthermore, Conte was the coach that brought in Bentancur and Kulusevski in January, with the latter’s deal becoming permanent in the summer.
With that being said, it’s difficult for Conte to shift the blame onto the owners, citing a lack of investment as the cause for the stale football on display.
Former Spurs and Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood recently expressed his concern over Conte’s future, saying the Spurs manager’s comments are ‘not good.’
“They need to sort out his contract issues. He’s talking about it’s the project and that we need patience and time and money, all of this is not good noise coming out of there,” said Sherwood on the Kelly and Wrighty Show.
“The reason it’s not good noise is that he’s only got a contract until the end of the season.
“If you want to go through with the project you need to extend your contract, then perhaps Kane and Son will commit their futures to the club.
“If I’m the owner at the moment I’m not letting him spend any more money until he commits himself to the club because you could end up buying players for another manager with different ideas.”
Spurs and Conte face a season-defining fixture against Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. Given that any two teams in the group can still progress to the next round, it is imperative that the English side get the job done.