Antonio Conte discovers scale of Tottenham job after first two games in charge - and there is no quick fix

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Antonio Conte should go into the international break under no illusions about the scale of the job at Tottenham following a 0-0 draw with Everton in his first League game in charge.

For long periods, the match was as cagey as Thursday’s 3-2 win over Vitesse Arnhem was chaotic, but both games have highlighted the problems that Conte has been hired to fix.

In a throwback to Nuno Espirito Santo’s dour tenure, Spurs failed to register a shot on target at Goodison Park, squandering a succession of good positions with wasteful final balls.

Wing-backs Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon, and the front three of Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura were all guilty of fluffing their lines when it mattered.

Spurs may have a superstar manager, who was hailed by travelling supporters waving Italian flags, but they still have a hodgepodge of a side, which may ultimately need more than simply fine-tuning.

Spurs were toothless and loose, and their passing was particularly poor against an Everton side who were missing their spine of Yerry Mina, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Substitute Giovani Lo Celso came closest to a breakthrough, thumping the post with a curling effort in the final few minutes before Everton’s Mason Holgate was sent off for a rash lunge on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in stoppage-time.

There was little else to set the pulses races from Spurs, with Reguilon’s lunge at Kane’s cross their most threatening moment of the first half.

On the bright side, the visitors were energetic – led by the battling Oliver Skipp – and there was more of a defined structure to their play than during Nuno’s unhappy tenure.

It was at least clear what Conte’s team were trying to do – specifically move the ball quickly and pin Everton back through Emerson and Reguilon.

Too often, though, promising positions petered out through bad decision-making or simply poor execution.

Another positive was Everton’s lack of threat, and the closest they came was a Demarai Gray shot which rolled past the far post.

The Toffees, who were coming off the back of three straight League defeats, were awarded a second half penalty for a Hugo Lloris trip on Richarlison but referee Chris Kavanagh overturned the decision after checking his pitch-side monitor on advice from the VAR. Replays showed Lloris touched the ball.

Conte has spent the week preaching the need for patience at Spurs, and in his pre-match press conference made it clear that the club are some way away from challenging for the title or even reeling in the established ‘big four’.

After two very different games in the dugout, the Italian will surely have reached the same conclusion: Tottenham will be no quick fix.

He now has a two-week break to work with his non-international players and begin in earnest the job of transforming Spurs.

Spurs missing a spark

Conte named an unchanged XI from the over Vitesse, with a back three shielded by Skipp and Hojbjerg, and thrust provided by the forwards and wing-backs.

It is perhaps no surprise that Conte has initially put his faith in the steadier, fitter, less risky members of the squad, all of whom were part of Nuno’s core group.

But while Spurs fashioned some good openings, there felt like a ceiling on the quality of chances they were likely to make without an injection of more creativity.

Hojbjerg and Skipp were both impressive at shielding the defence and won the majority of their individual duels, but neither has the range of passing to create something from deep.

You wondered if Tanguy Ndombele or Lo Celso, who were both late subs, would have provided more spark, while even the quick passing of Harry Winks might have made a difference.

For the times being, it makes sense for Conte to favour solidity over creativity, particularly given Spurs’ alarming collapses against Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, although Skipp will miss the visit of Leeds through suspension after a fifth booking of the season.

In the long-term, though, when the new head-coach has had time to get more of his ideas across, a more adventurous midfield pairing is surely needed to unlock compact sides like Everton. With this XI, Spurs still seem too reliant on a moment from Kane or Son for a breakthrough.

Kane clunky

Kane effectively broke cover to throw his weight behind Conte’s appointment after the game against Vitesse, agreeing to his first club interview with a newspaper for over a year.

Kane may be back on side but clearly it is going to take some time for him to get back to his best, and any hopes that Conte will quickly transform the England captain overnight were dampened by another clunky display.

He was often crowded out by blue shirts and struggled to find the space or support to make an impact in the final third.

His goal threat was reduced to just two blocked shots in quick succession during the first half, and he looked a long way from the Kane who scored twice here in Jose Mourinho’s final game in charge.

Conte will hope that Kane can be sparked into life in an England shirt, as has happened previously, and getting his only senior striking firing remains one of the new boss’ biggest challenges.

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