Everton have dropped three straight, and while the play has been disappointing during this run, a win against Tottenham on Sunday would steady the proverbial ship for Rafa Benitez and the Toffees. They, however, will have to beat a Spurs club run by Antonio Conte as Nuno Espirito Santo was let go earlier this week; Conte has already shown his ability as a manager over his career, and will likely have Spurs firing and playing at a much higher level than either of the last two Tottenham managers were able to.
Three points from the Blues would be massive, and would settle this team as the third international break arrives, while Spurs could also use a victory in the Premier League; which scenario will occur?
RBM: First off, up to this point in time, the season has been a bit uneven for Spurs; as the good start has given way to struggles and the recent sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo, since replaced by Antonio Conte, what is the feeling around north London right now?
“A bit uneven” is being very generous to Spurs. The good start was three 1-0 victories that could have easily gone the other way. Yes, it was nice to see Spurs at the top of the table but the way the matches had gone was a thinly veiled foreshadowing of the problems ahead. It did not take long for that to come true as Spurs lost four London derbies and looked outmatched in every single one. We were not confident as the slide started that Nuno Espirito Santo was the right man for the job and, ultimately, that was confirmed.
Right now, there is cause for optimism because of the change on the touchline. I do not dislike Nuno. In fact, by all accounts, he seems to be a good human being and that was refreshing after going through the Mourinho era. I certainly wish him all the best and I know he’s going to get a job somewhere down the road at a place better suited for him. Antonio Conte, however, is a proven winner. He’s won the Premier League with Chelsea and has four Serie A titles between Juventus and Inter Milan. He knows what he’s doing at the highest level and will bring stability to a side that desperately needs it. That match on Thursday against Vitesse was the most entertained any of us at Cartilage Free Captain had been in a long time, and while we’d like to not feel like we spent two hours riding the craziest roller coaster for each match, it wasn’t boring and we had attacking ideas.
RBM: What are some of the shortcomings of this Tottenham outfit that the new boss will have to work on straight away?
I still think the defense needs an overhaul. I absolutely love Cuti Romero and I think he’s a stud in the back line. Emerson Royal may take a huge leap in the new system because he will be unleashed down the right flank. I still think Sergio Reguilon can be better and will benefit in the same way.
After that, it’s a problem. Davinson Sanchez has not lived up to his transfer fee, though we’ve seen flashes of it from time to time. Eric Dier is still a liability and has been for a couple of seasons now. We have no idea if Joe Rodon is good because he either doesn’t play or is injured. Conte will figure out who he can trust quickly and he might jettison the rest.
The rest of the squad is loaded with talent but the shortcoming has been figuring out the proper combination of players, especially in the midfield. Spurs went out after the Champions League final in 2019 and bought two of the most promising young midfielders in the world in Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele, then sacked Mauricio Pochettino and brought in managers who played tactics that basically hamstrung both of them. I am dying to see them play together and terrorize defenses. Conte might finally make that dream come true.
RBM: Can Antonio Conte and a rejuvenated Spurs realistically keep Harry Kane beyond this season? If so, what might it take to achieve this innovation, and what final league position and achievements should be expected of Tottenham this season?
There’s already signs that Harry Kane is happy again because Spurs went out and got a manager who meets his idea of a winner. We have a running joke on Carty Free that Kane is absolutely a “ringzzzzz” guy because he’s friends with Tom Brady so bringing in a manager who has won a bunch of titles keeps the striker happy. In order to keep Kane around beyond this season, Spurs need to win something and not fall flat on their faces in a cup final if they reach it.
On this topic, though: I have no idea how keen the club is to keep him around. The Kane-to-City saga really hurt his image in the club. He will be 29 years old next summer and it’s probably the last time Spurs can truly cash in on him. I think if he has a good season and shows he isn’t crocked, Spurs might take a bit less than the £150m valuation that Daniel Levy has for him, especially since he’ll have two years left on his contract.
RBM: Who on this team might benefit the most from the new coach's style and vision of play?
The midfielders I mentioned before, Lo Celso and Ndombele, are at the top of the list. I’m going to throw in Dele because if anyone can get him back to form, it’s Conte and his system. I also feel like this is Dele’s last chance at Spurs. If Conte can’t get him going again, the club probably cuts their losses and ships him out. He has not been the firecracker Spurs first brought in for at least two and a half seasons and the club has reached sh*t or get off the pot time with the midfielder.
RBM: Which of Spurs players do you think could cause Everton the most problems, and how do you expect Tottenham to set up on Sunday?
You should always fear Heung-Min Son because he’s terrifying when he’s on form. While Kane has been more or less ass this season, Son has busted his and tried all that he can to make up for it. He’s been fine-to-good but a lot of it was Nuno’s tactics keeping him locked up. I feel like Conte is going to love having Sonny in this system and vice versa.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s match?
I think the new manager bump gets Spurs the victory. I have absolutely no idea how they get it done, but with proper tactics and direction from Conte, this squad has more than enough firepower. I’ll go 3-1 Spurs.
Our thanks to Sean for his time.