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Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Better late than never

Welcome back to the Premier League, Antonio Conte.

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Peter Powell - Pool/Getty Images

The Antonio Conte era is off and running after Thursday’s bonkers win over Vitesse in the Europa Conference League. On Sunday, Conte will become the fifth different person to manage Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League over the past 24 months. He sure seems like the best option since Mauricio Pochettino, but how this next stretch plays out will show just how true that is.

Conte has an uphill battle in front of him, but really one that could have been much worse. Spurs enter the weekend with 15 points through 10 matches, ninth in the table, but only five points back of third place. With nearly three quarters of the Premier League season remaining, there is still plenty of opportunity for a top four finish and a return to the Champions League.

Sunday’s opponent, Everton, come into the weekend one point behind the visitors. The Toffees are in terrible form, having lost three straight league matches and a 1-1-5 record over their last seven fixtures across all competitions. Normally Spurs are a remedy for all ailments, but perhaps the club can turn the page under new leadership.

Everton (t-10th, 14 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (9th, 15 pts)

Date: Sunday, November 7
Time: 9:00 am ET, 2:00 pm UK
Location: Goodison Park, Liverpool, England
TV: NBCSN (USA)

It was only the Conference League, but Conte gave a taste of his tactics on Thursday. Tottenham rolled out a back three as expected and the strategy should look much different than the lineups fielded by Nuno Espirito Santo to open up the year. The personnel is what it is for this season, so Conte must wind a way to make these pieces fit.

The focus will be on the midfield to start, with Tanguy Ndombele and Giovanni Lo Celso the main candidates to sit ahead of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Players like Dele Alli and Oliver Skipp may get a chance to earn a spot as well, but the creativity that Spurs have desperately lacked over the past couple seasons may finally be unlocked under Conte’s system. The raw talent is there, but the right tactics have simply been absent for too long. Hopefully a new dawn is upon us.

Three themes

  1. Conte’s system should put Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in position to really ratchet up the Spurs attack. Goals have been very hard to come by thus far, and while some of that is due to the system, partial blame goes to Kane as well. The new manager will address both aspects and it would not be a surprise to see scoring jump up quickly.
  2. Everton ranks sixth in goals scored and fifth in xG this season, so the new backline will be tested. Conte’s system is not necessarily defensive in nature, but the defenders will be put in position to succeed. Most supporters will accept a little risk in the back if it leads to more scoring up top, and this match will be a good early test as to how that might work out, especially following Thursday’s 3-2 scoreline.
  3. Spurs took just one point from Everton last season, dropping the season opener at home and drawing 2-2 last spring behind a Kane brace, but the most excitement came in a 5-4 extra time Toffees victory in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. Davinson Sanchez had a surprising brace, while Erik Lamela and Kane were on the scoresheet as well in the defeat at Goodison Park.