With just a few weeks left until the Premier League returns, Antonio Conte will undoubtedly have his eye on Tottenham’s Boxing Day trip to Brentford. However, he could soon be faced with a tough attacking decision.
Pre-Qatar, with both Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski spending prolonged time on the sidelines, the Swede’s eventual return was a welcomed addition.
Within minutes of gracing the field, Kulusevski reminded fans of precisely what we’d been missing; setting up Harry Kane for our lone goal against Liverpool. The following week, an assist for Bentancur’s winner over Leeds further reinforced his importance to the side, helping Tottenham seal a much-needed three points.
Since his arrival back in January, Kulusevski has seldom disappointed, becoming a crucial member of the side, scoring six times and assisting a further 13 in 32 appearances for the Lilywhites.
However, the signing of Richarlison in the summer, alongside Kane and Son being nailed-on starters for Spurs, has left Conte with a tough choice in deciding between his remaining two forwards with this extending post-Qatar.
Richarlison made a statement to Tottenham, the world at the Cup
Leading the line for his country, Richarlison was outstanding in the World Cup – netting three times, including an impressive brace against Serbian where he converted a remarkable acrobatic effort.
Given his form, the Brazilian now looks undroppable for Spurs, but his place remains for debate in a team alongside Kane, Son, and Kulusevski and in a system viable for just three forward players.
Moreover, this season, Richarlison has looked most effective when playing centrally for Brazil, spearheading the attack and being the focal point of his side – vastly differing from his more support-based role at Spurs.
With that considered, Conte has important tactical and personnel decisions to make. Although Richarlison performs better as a conventional nine, Kane understandably has a monopoly on said position at Spurs.
Whilst unlikely, one option would see Kane deployed deeper in a 3-5-2, with Richarlison and Son as a striker pairing; however, that would see Kulusevski miss out.
Alternatively, Kane and Son could become a familiar forward duo, with Kulusevski acting as a 10. However, this leaves no space for Richarlison and would see the World Cup star start from the bench.
With a pragmatic manager like Conte, it’s hard to envisage a world where all four of Tottenham’s attackers start, with one almost certain to be named on the bench.
Granted, it’s ideal to have a high-quality, impact sub to change the game if things are stagnant for Spurs. Whichever one of presumably Kulusevski or Richlarlison finds themselves in that role can ultimately feel hard done by.
Conte’s decision has been unexpectedly hastened with Richarlison and Brazil’s upset departure from the Cup. Though his decision might be easier against Brentford, given the game takes place just a week after the World Cup final, if Kane and England find themselves taking part.
Ultimately, for Spurs and Conte, this is a good problem to have, and with a busy post-Qatar schedule in 2023, Kulusevski and Richarlison are bound to rack up the minutes, although, with both forwards in respective good form; fans will await with ease to see who gets the nod this Boxing Day.