Every now and again when a new manager goes to a football club, there are moments when you can tell things are starting to click.
Former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino scored two of those moments in his first season in north London, getting big wins over Chelsea and Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dismantling Manchester City in the Champions League showed they were a side ready to compete for the long haul. Antonio Conte even switched things up at half-time in a game his Chelsea side lost 3-0 and that forecasted their Premier League title triumph later that campaign.
While it’s easy to get overexcited and giddy when comparing the lows of Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo to the high of the emotion Conte has brought since joining Spurs in November, the last two games under the Italian have been immensely positive.
Tottenham have lacked any sort of attacking identity over the past few years – usually resorting to the ‘give Kane and Son the ball and hope for the best’ tactic – but in the games against Liverpool and West Ham they’ve looked refreshed with new attacking ideas.
In the 2-2 Liverpool draw, Spurs played with an extra midfielder and that got the best out of Dele Alli – so often out of sorts over the past year or so – while the precise passing ability of Tanguy Ndombele was on show for Harry Kane’s strike.
Chances are becoming easier to come by as a result of Conte’s changes, too.
In that draw with the Reds, Spurs racked up an xG of 2.46 – in the same statistic for the whole of August and September combined, they only managed 2.7.
Sure, Liverpool had their own injury issues and have struggled with some coronavirus-enforced absences, but Tottenham have had similar problems and still produced enough chances to win that game.
Another strong step was taken in the Carabao Cup victory over West Ham, with Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura scoring lovely team goals. The Hammers are without some key players but still had Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen lining up in their starting XI.
Spurs are more incisive in their attacking play now. Balls are fired into Kane and Lucas, quickly recycled and sent out wide where the likes of Sergio Reguilon and Emerson are waiting with space to attack. They’ve been able to exert pressure for long periods in matches recently and that wears teams out and creates opportunities, especially down the flanks.
It also helps that a fire seems to have been lit in the bellies of squad players previously written off as not good enough. Ultimately their futures may lie away from Tottenham, but to coerce excellent and energetic performances from the likes of Harry Winks and Dele shows that what Conte is bringing to Spurs is having an effect.
More plainly, the fact that Spurs average 15km more in distance covered per Premier League game under Conte than they did with Nuno shows the areas that needed addressing are being dealt with.
There will be hiccups and problems along the way – hopefully not to the Mura extent – and the squad needs some reshaping, but the progress made just over a month into Conte’s stint shows there’s reason to be optimistic heading into the second half of the season.