Coming back from the international break, Tottenham Hotspur looks to make a few changes for their fall play.
After seven matches, the squad has moved near the top of the table, with a chance to take over the first-place spot this weekend, depending on both its North London Derby and the next day’s Manchester Derby. The team has looked good but not, of course, perfect. Heung-min Son, for example, has played better than his surface stats would suggest but didn’t quite click until the Leicester City game. The team has sometimes stagnated and could use more consistent wing back work.
Mainly, though, you can’t move forward by standing still, and Antonio Conte and the Spurs will need to continue to tweak their approach to improve and keep opponents off balance. Here are three changes Tottenham might make when it returns from the break on Saturday.
More Djed Spence
Wing back Djed Spence has only seen one minute of playing time in the Premier League this season. The thinking goes that he might not be quite ready, or at least not ready for Conte’s system. He looked good in England’s U21 victory over England last week. He provides youthful energy and depth at the position. As the year goes on, the Lilywhites will continue rotating players, and if Emerson struggles or Doherty can’t return, Spence would see more minutes. He might not be Conte’s top choice, but with a dense schedule (and hopefully a deep Champions League run) ahead, look for Spence to finally see real playing time with the first team.
More Yves Bissouma
Conte has said all season that midfielder Yves Bissouma hasn’t been playing because he isn’t tactically prepared for the position but that Conte has plans for him. Some of that talk might be merely to spark some competition among the team’s midfielders, but Bissouma’s limited playing time does suggest it’s the case. As he learns the system, he should provide Tottenham with aggressive defending and quick attacking (he surpasses most midfielders in both progressive dribbles and passing accuracy). With Oliver Skipp presumably healthy (he joined Spence for the recent U21 game), Tottenham’s depth at midfield should accentuate its physicality and counterattacking ability. Fans longed for the team to acquire a lock-picker in this past transfer window, and that didn’t happen, but it’s also not entirely necessary for Conte’s 3-4-3.
On that note, we should expect to see more of the 3-5-2 formation after it made its proper debut against the Foxes. Having that formation ready gives Tottenham a few advantages. First, it lets Conte cycle through more players in various ways. Rather than simply managing his four primary forwards and alternating his pairs of wing-backs, he can mix up the lineup. We may even see Dejan Kulusevksi at wing-back, or Richarlison at midfield. More importantly, it lets Tottenham vary its strategies, forcing opponents to plan for two possible looks instead of just the 3-4-3 that the Spurs have aligned and played the same way for most of the season. Moving to the 3-5-2 likely necessitates more play from Bissouma, so as he comes along, so will the alternate formation.
The changes might not appear this weekend against Arsenal, as many of the Spurs have been out on international duty, but they seem likely to come sooner rather than later. With a team near the top of the table and plans to increase their flexibility, the Spurs are poised for some exciting play this fall.