Football Features

“To win suffering is good for this team” – Five things learned as Spurs suffer their way to victory over Vitesse in Antonio Conte’s debut

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:34, 4 November 2021

In a raucous night of football, 10-man Spurs beat 9-man Vitesse during Antonio Conte’s debut in the Europa Conference League.

What did we learn?


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1. The Conte Effect

The first half an hour at Tottenham Stadium would have filled Antonio Conte’s heart with pride as Spurs came flying out at their opponents and buried them under an avalanche of goals. He’s barely had time to train them but already you could see the players running, pressing and moving in ways that were reminiscent of Conte sides at their best.

The quality of the opposition should be taken into account, for sure, but the way Spurs absolutely blitzed Vitesse was breathtaking. Son’s goal was an instinctive bit of finishing and Lucas’ was a terrifying hint of the potential that awaits with Lucas Moura as a third man running, but the third goal best illustrated The Conte Effect as Ben Davies, ostensibly playing centre-back, drove forward into the Vitesse box and playing a key pass that led to Jacob Rasmussen turning it into his own net.

“Every game, every session I want to learn,” said Heung-min Son, of his new coach. “I want to take everything from him.” It’s clear that the Spurs players hold their new boss in the highest regard and given the impact he has already been able to have on the speed of Spurs’ attacks, it bodes very well for their immediate future.

2. Vitesse show their stuff

Vitesse actually came into this game above Spurs in the group and in all honesty they played like they were at least on Spurs’ level. The Dutch side were an equal participant in the night’s action and that they went three goals down but fought back to 3-2 and then held Spurs there having just as many good chances to win as their hosts is just such a credit to Thomas Letsch and the work he’s been doing.

It would have been so easy for Vitesse to let their heads drop as they were overpowered by the wave of optimism that is the Conte era, but they never doubted themselves nor did they stop playing football with a bold, attacking intent. And while Jacob Rasmussen profited from some atrocious defending to score, Matus Bero’s goal was sheer class.

3. Sanchez the Standout

Before the game began there was always a question over which Spurs player was going to shine brightest in Antonio Conte’s system and while many would have expected it to be one of the forwards (who were all good, to be fair) or maybe the wing-backs, the outfielder who stood out the most (Hugo Lloris was great in goal) didn’t even start the game.

Davinson Sanchez began the game on the bench, watching as a back three containing Eric Dier and Ben Davies was unsurprisingly ripped to bits by Vitesse’s movement. In the second-half, with Spurs struggling since going down to 10 men, on came Sanchez (along with Harry Winks, Tanguy Ndombele) and suddenly, Spurs began shutting down Vitesse.

It wasn’t that Sanchez was a duel dominating demon, he was just what we’ve always wanted him to be: a great defender. He marshalled space, controlled the ball and got it out of harm’s way with a minimum amount of fuss. Conte will be pleased, especially as he seemed to giving him particularly detailed instructions just prior to the Colombian coming on (he was playing with his fingers as though he was doing “this little piggy.” Regardless, one suspects Davinson Sanchez will be starting the next game, and many more after that.


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4. Pure chaos

While many would have expected Spurs’ first game under Antonio Conte to be full of drama, no one could have anticipated the masses of drama that we ended up getting. Beyond the fact that Spurs went 3-0 up and then got pegged back to 3-2, they also saw Cristian Romero sent off for two silly yellow cards in the second-half.

To follow up from that, Danilho was then sent off for two yellows within a five minute spell. That levelled things up at 10-apiece, but then four minutes later Marcus Schubert came flying out of his goal and was sent off for a handball as he tried to stop Emerson Royal’s shot.

10 vs 9 to end the game and Spurs still managed to miss a couple of gilt-edged chances to win it late on. A really tremendous nights entertainment that was nothing but pure chaos. If every Conte game is even half as relentless as this we’re in for a really good time watching Antonio Conte’s Spurs.

5. Much work to do

Spurs were really bright in that open 30 minutes, but after that spell (and even during that spell, really) they were very ropey at best. Antonio Conte’s post-match interview betrayed the fact that while he was pleased to win, the Italian knows there was much to do.

“It was a crazy game,” said the Italian, but added: “to win suffering is good for this team, for these players. They need to improve their confidence, they need to work a lot.” Pinpointing Spurs’ key weakness in the mental focus area (aka being “Spursy”) shows how sharp Conte is. And he’s absolutely correct in that regard, albeit there is more to be done tactically.

However, as Conte said: “the problem is we have to find the time to work, because in two days we have to play again, then is international break.” The packed fixture schedule is going to make the kind of intense tactical work Conte likes to do difficult. That’s why he shone so fast with Chelsea, as the Blues were out of European competition so Conte had all of most every midweek.

He doesn’t have that here, but he’ll have to find a way to make it work because the size of the task facing him is substantial, and he knows it. “In my mind there is a lot of space for improvement in this team, every single player,” the Italian said. “We need to have a bit of patience, because we have to work on many aspects; tactics, physically.” So things won’t change overnight, there’s a long way to go.

What will bring joy to Spurs fans hearts, however, was Conte’s closing remarks. A statement of intent, if you will. “I’m not afraid of all the work, because all my life I know that only through the work can you reach important targets.”

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