It’s wild to think about, but Tottenham Hotspur have only one match between now and Boxing Day, and that’s tomorrow at home to Leeds United. Spurs are coming through a period of intense pressure and wall-to-wall matches that has left them banged up both physically and mentally, but they can still put themselves in a very favorable position for the back half of the season with a win.
Spurs manager Antonio Conte went before the media to talk about an upcoming Spurs match for the last time until after the World Cup, and gave a quick update on the status of several Spurs players. Ryan Sessegnon, who was seen limping somewhat during Spurs’ 2-0 EFL Cup loss at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, will not feature. Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski are available for selection, but it’s not yet known whether either will start. Son Heung-Min is, of course, still out and recovering from surgery after fracturing his eye socket.
“About Sessegnon, today he didn’t train with us. He had a little problem and he’s not available for tomorrow’s game. Richarlison and Kulusevski have another training session before we decide about the starting XI.”
That puts Spurs potentially in a bit of a bind. Sessegnon’s alternate at the left wingback position is, of course, Ivan Perisic. However, in the absence of Richarlison, Kulusevski, and Son, Perisic was moved to the top of the line to partner Harry Kane as a second striker. If Richy and Deki are both yet not ready to start against Leeds, there’s a big question as to what Conte could do.
One option would be to split time in a 3-5-2 — Richarlison playing up top for one half, and someone else rotating in for him if he’s not able to play a full 90. We’ve never seen Deki play in a strike partnership so it’d be weird, but hey, it’s the last match before the winter break, right?
Another option would be to again split time between Richy and Deki, but in a 3-4-3 with Bryan Gil joining the attack no wait stop laughing what do you mean that won’t happen stop
Or, perhaps we’ll see the changes at the back — Perisic starting up top again with Kane (at least initially) and someone like Ben Davies shifting wide left. That would likely mean a back three that includes Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Clement Lenglet, assuming Cuti Romero (who was not mentioned) is still out. Or perhaps we’ll see a right wing back like Matt Doherty playing out of position on the left.
So many options! Maybe Deki and Richy should just start, right?
Elsewhere, Conte was once again asked about the state of his Tottenham contract, which expires in June although Spurs have the option to extend by a further year. There have been murmurs that Conte and Tottenham officials will have talks about a contract extension during the World Cup break, though the issue is (obviously) far from resolved.
Conte, for what it’s worth, gave comments about the situation which will probably only stoke further angst and concern in the ensuing weeks.
“You know very well that my contract expires in June. Until that moment the club has to make the best evaluation. I think that everything you need to deserve and it will be important to see the rest of the season and if we are happy with the improvement we are doing. I think that every situation it’s important to deserve. From my side, it’s important to feel that I deserve a new contract, to sign a new contract with this club. I have to feel this. We will take with the club and find the best solution.
“But you know, I think when you start a path with a club the dream is to stay here for many years and try to build something important. I think it’s very important the relationship you create with the players, the club and the environment around you. Don’t forget the ambition. If you’re used to winning, it’s important to match all these situations. If you’re lucky to match all these situations it’s easy for a coach but in modern football it’s different.”
Conte, man. For every comment he gives that ratchets the rhetoric on his future down a notch, he says something else that makes supporters go “uhhhhhhhhhhhhh...” The man does love drama, doesn’t he?
Spurs kick off against Leeds United on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. UK. It is not televised, but will be streamed on Peacock in the United States.