Sluggish, one-paced and devoid of inspiration: Problems mount for Antonio Conte and Tottenham after defeat

 (PA)
(PA)

Harry Kane hardly even saw his clanger coming. Boubacar Kamara blindsided the England captain in Tottenham’s own half, launching the raid that sealed Aston Villa’s 2-0 Premier League win in north London.

Hugo Lloris should have seen his howler a mile off. Instead the France and Spurs skipper spilled a speculative long-range shot from Douglas Luiz, inciting Villa’s opener.

Emiliano Buendia slotted home Villa’s first goal, as Lloris’ major mistake allowed Ollie Watkins to steal in and tee up the Argentina midfielder at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

And when Kane had his pocket picked on his shy shoulder by Kamara, a wretched start to 2023 was quickly confirmed. Luiz traded passes with John McGinn, ghosted into the box and slipped past Lloris for a Villa win every bit as impressive as the Spurs loss proved demoralising.

Antonio Conte only warned Spurs on Friday that their top-four battle could be the toughest yet, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all out of the Champions League qualification spots ahead of the turn of the year.

One day into 2023 though, and Spurs now find themselves outside dropped to fifth place off the back of a majorly galling defeat.

The smug presence of a jubilant Unai Emery in the rival dugout will only have wound up Spurs fans even further, with the ex-Arsenal boss extending his unbeaten managerial run against Tottenham to four matches.

A 10th match where Spurs have conceded the first goal is at the heart of the problems ahead for the embattled boss Conte.

Tottenham appeared sluggish, one-paced and devoid of inspiration in an insipid first-half where Villa were happy enough to keep shape and keep the game scoreless at the interval.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Those two major mistakes cost Spurs any chance of a victory here, with their concessions leaving no tangible time for another stirring comeback.

A trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday ought to be the ideal time and place to hit back to something approaching form. But on the first day of the year, Conte and Spurs already find themselves with problems mounting.