Antonio Conte began his Premier League reign as Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager with a hard-thought point against 10-man Everton, after a goalless stalemate at Goodison Park on Sunday.
The energetic Italian made his managerial bow in the Tottenham hotseat with a riveting contest in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night, in which five goals were scored, three players were sent off and nearly 30 shots were attempted. This match didn’t quite offer the same excitement.
There were moments of drama, chiefly an overturned penalty decision in Tottenham’s favour, Mason Holgate’s red card at the death and the feisty on-pitch duel between Argentine Cristian Romero and Brazilian Richarlison, but in the end the contest finished goalless and the points were shared.
For Conte this match will offer an insight into the scale of the task awaiting him in north London. The Scudetto-winning tactician called for patience to implement his aggressive, unrelenting style, calibrate his chessmen and assimilate his ideas through to a disillusioned group of players… he may need that time.
On Thursday, Tottenham attacked with aplomb but looked porous retreating. Here the opposite effect was in place. They were resilience and watertight at the back on Merseyside, but flaky and pedestrian going forward, with the capital club failing to register a single shot on target for consecutive matches.
Tottenham have failed to have a shot on target in their last 227 minutes of Premier League football.
New manager, same problem. 😩 pic.twitter.com/YGIaAq5fjb
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 7, 2021
That is now five successive halves of football in which Tottenham have failed to trouble the opposition goalkeeper. You would have to go back to the opening 45 minutes against West Ham (Harry Kane’s towering header) for the last time a ‘keeper made a save against Spurs.
Concerning for any club, not least one containing last season’s Golden Boot winner and a squad replete with attacking quality, namely Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura. The Conte influence, from a structural perspective, was tangible as Spurs kept the ball well and held their ground at the back, but work needs doing in the final third.
They registered over 50% possession in the first half for the first time this season, which underlines the passive approach of Nuno Espirito Santo’s brand, but ball-hogging is not tantamount to points, as we know. What Spurs did with that possession was, well, not much. They knocked on the door, but Jordan Pickford didn’t answer.
Here was an opportunity to thrown down the gauntlet, probe a goalkeeper who has proven mistake-culpable in the past, frustrate a fanbase still getting to grips with a man whose name will always be associated with an unnamable, attack a club caught in the riptide of a three-game losing run, ask questions of an Everton side without Abdoulaye Doucoure, Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Andre Gomes. The opportunity was spurned.
“I know I need time to work and to change something on the pitch,” Conte said earlier this week. On evidence of his side’s showing vs Everton, he needs changes quick, or Kane runs the risk of enduring his worst scoring run since 2013/14.
Structurally, Spurs resembled a Conte side: compact, tenacious, impervious, organised. But, attacking wise, it felt like Nuno had never left the building.