After a bright 30-minute cameo appearance in Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League draw against Sporting Lisbon, the only thing Tottenham fans (and reporters) want to talk about is Bryan Gil. Gil really made an impression with a spirited performance in the 1-1 draw, and it’s led some to ask whether he should start in Spurs’ Premier League match at Bournemouth tomorrow in the absence of Dejan Kulusevski.
Antonio Conte wouldn’t commit to that, of course, but when asked about Bryan in his pre-match press conference, he was full of (only slightly qualified) praise for the young Spaniard.
“Bryan Gil is a player that I always said to you is a really good prospect but physically is not so strong. I think at the moment we were pushing a lot and to make his substitution was important because he is very good 1v1. He has good personality. For sure if I have to ask Gil to defend. I think in this moment I think Gil can be useful for this type of situation. It wasn’t the first time as also happened against Frankfurt. It means I believe in him, otherwise I don’t risk playing him in Champions League.
“But I try to find the right moments when he can be useful for the situation we’re facing at that moment. Because you see my substitution was Gil, then [Clement] Lenglet for another defender, then Emerson for Doherty. I tried with the players on the bench to change but sometimes you can go much better. Sometimes you have injuries and you have to try to do your best.”
I mean, this makes sense. Conte is not a manager who is going to start a player in the Premier League if he doesn’t feel the situation is right for him to play, just because some pundits and fans think he should. It’s an interesting response, because while it does seem to throw a little cold water on the calls for Gil to start on Saturday, it indicates that he knows what he has in Bryan, and the situations where he can be useful. But there are still concerns over his slight frame and the physical nature of the Premier League, and Conte was not shy about pointing that out while also comparing him to a quality player.
“[I’ve seen] good improvement. For Gil it was really important to go out last season and play more games in Spain because we’re talking about a league that you don’t have to be so strong to play in this league. There’s more technical quality and for him it was really positive to go there and play games.
“But I’m sure about Gil future because we’re talking about a player who sees football. When I ask him something in the training session, he understands quickly and also his desire is to become an important player. If I have to compare him with someone I can see him like Bernardo Silva at [Man City] in his structure. But, for me, at this moment Silva is physically stronger than him but we are talking about this type of player.”
Conte confirmed that Kulusevski and Richarlison are both still out injured and will not feature at Bournemouth this weekend. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Cuti Romero were both surprise inclusions in Conte’s starting XI against Sporting, but the Spurs manager said that he took a rare risk with Romero in the Champions League.
“We have taken a big, big risk for this decision. Especially for Cuti, for Romero, because he was really tired and we risked him a lot. But you know for this time of game you have to take risks and the players can gave us their availability to play. Now we have to try to manage very well because he played and was lucky to finish the game but he finished the game with great will and desire.
“For this reason it is right to say thanks to him and Pierre. I think Cuti needed to recover better but Pierre is OK 100%. Cuti is OK but we have another important game on Tuesday and for this reason we try to make the best decision for him.”
Conte’s response hints that Romero might be rested tomorrow, likely with Davinson Sanchez replacing him at the right-sided center back position.
Next week marks one full year since Conte joined Tottenham Hotspur, replacing Nuno Espirito Santo. Conte was asked to reflect a bit on his first 12 months on the job, and whether he’s still enjoying his time at the club.
“I always said that I’m enjoying my time at Tottenham. I think in one year we had a great path together with the club, the players and the fans, and with you [the media]. I’m enjoying every single moment with my adventure in Tottenham.
“For sure, I discovered a modern club, a club with fantastic training ground, amazing stadium, the passion of our fans and at the same time also the demands of our fans. Because with our fans the demand is very high! Yeah, I continue to enjoy every day to stay here, to work here for this club.”
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham kicks off tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. UK. It is not televised, but will be streamed on Peacock in the USA.