A midseason World Cup has congested Tottenham’s fixture list
Balancing Premier League fixtures with midweek Champions League games is tough for Conte and Spurs. The presence of a midseason World Cup has only exacerbated this issue. This has left Tottenham to play 19 matches in under three months across the Premier League and Champions League.
Typically, Tottenham have had to play a match every three days. While during his time at the club last season Conte often had the ability to rest players during the middle of the week after being knocked out of the Conference League, this season midweek Champions League matches have denied such luxuries.
Without many chances to rest his star players, Conte has seen key parts of his squad spend time on the sidelines. Namely, forwards Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison have been unavailable for long periods of the season, whilst Cristian Romero has struggled with niggling injuries.
Kulusevski has proved to be an especially tough loss to the side. Spurs have struggled to break down teams without the Swede’s creativity. After arriving in January last season, Kulusevski was often the man to provide the attacking intensity and final ball, so without him, Tottenham has often looked flat in games this year.
Romero’s fitness issues have posed another problem for Conte. Without the Argentine, Spurs look much frailer at the back, but even when he has played, there is a noticeable difference between his form this season compared to last. One way or another, nagging fitness issues appear to have affected Romero’s form.
A lack of quality in the squad has handcuffed Conte
When Conte came to the club just over a year ago, he inherited a squad well below the standard of the teams fighting at the top of the Premier League. A January window that brought Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur showed how important it was for Tottenham to back Conte in the transfer market.
A summer that promised so much transfer activity left the Italian without a new star centerback, creative midfielder, or right wingback. Spurs’ squad is slowly improving, but Conte has repeatedly stated his opinion that a few transfer windows are needed before his team can compete for the Premier League.
Conte is used to working with top-level players in defense like Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Bastoni, and Achraf Hakimi. He gets a lot collectively out of players like Eric Dier, Ben Davies, and Ryan Sessegnon. Still, to compete for big trophies, Conte will need more players with the quality necessary to match his ambition and playing style.
With all these challenges, Tottenham have had to pick their moments
Enduring injuries in an already lacking squad during a congested schedule, Tottenham have been unable to attack games at full thrust as they did during the second half of last season.
After Spurs’ recent controversial draw against Sporting, Hugo Lloris illustrated the team’s need to conserve energy during periods of games, “Like every team, playing every three days, you cannot play 90 minutes with intensity, so you miss 20 to 30 minutes in a game. [In that period] we have to be more cautious and try to avoid conceding chances.
“But that is high-level football. It is just a period we have to deal with and go through, and hopefully we will finish this period with better feelings.”
Despite all the challenges this season has brought so far, Conte has Tottenham sitting in third place in the Premier League and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League. It may not be pretty at times, but Conte has managed this difficult season very well. Given time and the backing to improve this squad in the transfer market, the Italian will take Tottenham to new heights.