It feels like it has been much longer than two and a half weeks, but Antonio Conte is probably still just familiarizing himself at Hotspur Way. The new manager led his squad to an important Conference League win over Vitesse before overseeing a somewhat encouraging 0-0 draw against Everton. With the international break behind him, now is the time for Conte and Tottenham Hotspur to make a push.
Spurs come into the weekend ninth in the table and six points off fourth place. There is plenty of time to get back into the hunt, and their next six matches are against teams below them right now. Conte has not had a ton of time to make drastic changes, but the raw talent level of the squad should be enough to see this team make a jump.
The first true test of that will be on Sunday against Leeds United, who have not fared too well this season. Leeds have just two league wins all season — against bottom-four clubs — and were bounced out of the League Cup by Arsenal. A -7 goal differential is comically level with Tottenham’s, but still can be an indication of the team’s struggles thus far.
Tottenham Hotspur (t-8th, 16 pts) vs. Leeds United (15th, 11 pts)
Date: Sunday, November 21
Time: 11:30 am ET, 4:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: NBCSN (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Conte has rolled out the 3-4-3 for his first two matches, but one has to wonder if that is really his best use of his players. The goal is clearly to get more action into the final third, which requires incisive passes from the midfield and opportune runs into the channels. Expecting that from the current personnel seems somewhat unrealistic.
Sunday might naturally bring some changes, however. Oliver Skipp is out due to yellow card accumulation and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Giovanni Lo Celso could also miss after picking up injuries. Despite the probable inclusion of Harry Winks, these vacancies surely mean players like Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli could make a cameo as well. These forward-thinking players should help build up the attack.
Leeds have been led by Raphael Dias Belloli, who has nearly matched his goal total from last season with five tallies already. No other player has more than two league goals, so keeping track of Raphinha will be the main task for a Cristian Romero-less back three this weekend.
- Unlike last season, Leeds has been much better in defense, allowing over 1.1 xGA just once during its past five league matches. Scoring (or not scoring) is going to continue to be the theme for Tottenham until the issues can be resolved, but this matchup is not the best opportunity to change that. Hopefully Harry Kane can carry over his output from international duty.
- The clubs split the contests last season, with a 3-0 Spurs win at home fueled by Kane, Heung-Min Son, and even Toby Alderweireld. However, the reverse fixture saw Leeds claim a 3-1 victory with only Son getting on the scoresheet.
- As Conte’s system continues to take shape, the wingbacks will be interesting to watch. Emerson Royal seems to be an early winner so far, but Sergio Reguilon continues to be inconsistent. For Spurs to get back into the top four, both positions will need to contribute to the attack.