Tottenham Hotspur are struggling in attack, and while we can speculate on how to fix it in the interim, the common denominator is that Dejan Kulusevski’s injury is a huge blow.
Deki has been injured since the international break, having suffered the injury while playing in an international friendly for Sweden. While the injury didn’t seem too bad at the time, Antonio Conte has confirmed today that they’re taking it slow and he may not return to action until Boxing Day, the official restart of the EPL season following the World Cup. Beat writer Alasdair Gold did his usual pre-match press conference column over on Football.London and asked about the situation:
Are you worried that Kulusevski might not play again until after the World Cup?
Yeah because his recovery was going well and then one day the situation worsened. Then when this type of situation happens, you have to restart. You need time, but we have the medical department to face injury situations and they have to solve the situation in a short period because you know if you are good to solve the situation in a short period, it means points in the table.
(Conte clarified as he was walking out of the press conference that he expects and needs Kulusevski to be back before the last game in November)
Okay, so let’s get the bad news out of the way and talk about the good things. Spurs attack has been sputtering as of late. With both Deki and Richarlison both out, the belief has been Conte will switch to the 3-5-2 and rely on Kane and Son, or he’d put someone like Ivan Perisic or Lucas Moura in the attack and keep his preferred 3-4-3. It’s hard to say what is better given how putrid Spurs were against Manchester United, but it’s clear that Deki is vital to making the 3-4-3 click in this squad.
Compounding the situation is that Spurs have a packed schedule like everyone else before the World Cup. The remaining schedule looks like this:
Oct. 23: Newcastle
Oct. 26: Sporting (UCL)
Oct. 29: at Bournemouth
Nov. 1: at Marseille (UCL)
Nov. 6: Liverpool
Nov. 9: at Nottingham Forest (EFL Cup)
Nov. 12: Leeds United
That’s seven matches with no break over the next three weeks. Conte has said he needs Deki back before we hit the World Cup break, but rushing him back and creating a much longer issue is potentially catastrophic.
Here’s the good news: Spurs can lock down a spot in the Champions League knockout round with a win against Sporting next week. With a little luck, they could also win the group if Eintracht Frankfurt defeat Marseille since Spurs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the German side. If those fall into place, the match against Marseille becomes dead rubber and Conte can play the U-23s if he felt like it.
The winter World Cup is still a mind-boggling stupid situation, but given Spurs rough form, it might be a blessing in disguise. Fabio Paratici can spend the bulk of it figuring out possible deals for the January window and work with Conte on what makes sense, especially since we know Spurs have cash to spend. While a large portion of Spurs’ squad will be involved in the World Cup, the rest of the squad can rest and get healthy before the second half of the season. Is this a stretch with how I’m spinning it? Probably, but we need a silver lining somewhere and it at least makes sense in my head.
Losing Deki for any period of time is rough, but that’s football and the club are taking their time to make sure he comes back when he’s ready and not a moment sooner. It sucks, but it’s better for the long-term picture.