Mikel Arteta’s resurgent Arsenal and an Erling Haaland-inspired Manchester City may have dominated the headlines so far this season, but are Tottenham beginning to emerge from the shadows under Antonio Conte?
Tottenham have not always been particularly pleasing on the eye this season but they now sit level on points with Pep Guardiola’s side and just one behind their north London rivals – albeit having played a game more than both teams.
Unlike City or Arsenal, however, their performances so far this season suggest there is plenty more to come from Conte’s team.
“Spurs are a different animal under Conte,” former Tottenham striker Gary Lineker tweeted afterwards. “Tactically smart and much more resilient. Still a work in progress but encouraging signs.”
Room for improvement?
Despite their impressive points tally, one could argue that Conte’s side are yet to fully hit their stride in 2022-23.
Apart from resounding wins over Southampton and Leicester, Tottenham have tended to grind out a lot of their league victories this season.
They had just 41% possession and three shots on target in their 1-0 victory at Brighton earlier this month, while Wolves had nearly twice as many attempts at goal in a 1-0 home win for Spurs in August.
They were well beaten in the north London derby recently, and needed a 96th-minute Harry Kane equaliser to rescue a point against Chelsea after a largely underwhelming display at Stamford Bridge.
While Saturday’s win over Everton was richly deserved, Spurs rode their luck in the first half and could have trailed at half-time had Demarai Gray and Amadou Onana not missed golden opportunities to score for visitors.
The second half was one-way traffic, as Tottenham laid siege to their opponents’ goal before eventually breaking the Toffees’ resistance.
“It was a great evening for Spurs,” Michael Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Antonio Conte realises that was a big performance from his side. They started really well and the quality was there.
“Now the real test is Manchester United on Wednesday.”
In-game flexibility pays dividends
Saturday’s win was made even more impressive by the manner with which Spurs responded to a second-half injury to former Everton forward Richarlison – while the score was still goalless.
Rather than replacing the frontman with an attacker, Conte instead introduced another midfielder in Yves Bissouma – which gave the home side more stability in the middle of the pitch and helped lay the foundation for victory.
“We faced a difficult situation with Richy’s injury so I changed the system,” Conte told BBC Match of the Day. “When you change a system during the game you create difficulties for the opponent.
“This team can play with three strikers or three midfielders, and I decided on that solution because Lucas Moura only started training with us this week again. His fitness is not at the top level yet.
“[Richarlison’s injury] could have created something negative but we found the right solution. We are talking about a good opponent and despite the injury we were able to solve the situation.
“That means the players are growing in many aspects. I’m proud of them.”
Prolific Kane closing in on Greaves
Kane’s penalty, which came just seven minutes after Richarlison’s withdrawal, means he has now scored 14 goals in 15 Premier League appearances against Everton.
The England captain has also found the net in five successive top-flight games for the first time in his career.
He is now on 258 goals for Tottenham – just eight behind Jimmy Greaves’ all-time club record of 266.
Kane twice went close to breaking the deadlock against Everton before his second-half spot-kick, having a header blocked by Toffees defender James Tarkowski before sending a vicious volley straight at Jordan Pickford.
“I don’t worry about Harry because we are talking about a player whose performance was amazing,” Conte said.
“[But] everyone played well today. They showed me they had the desire and the will to get the three points.”