Tottenham should feel more confident over top-four finish despite Brighton blip as Arsenal derby looms large

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·2-min read
Tottenham should feel more confident over top-four finish despite Brighton blip as Arsenal derby looms large
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Despite kicking off the Premier League weekend with a 1-0 defeat to Brighton, you could make a fair case that Tottenham once again emerge from it feeling more assured about their top-four prospects.

Arsenal’s thin squad look exhausted and out of ideas, incapable of covering for the key men who will not return until the start of next season.

Manchester United, in being pegged back from 2-0 up by bottom side Norwich, showed all their usual frailties before eventually being bailed out by Cristiano Ronaldo again.

West Ham’s draw with Burnley, meanwhile, all but confirmed that their best chance of being in the Champions League next season lies in winning the Europa League in May.

All of which is very well, providing, of course, that Spurs’ loss proves a mere blip. A first real off-day in the league since the defeat at Burnley two months ago is certainly permissible for a team that had won six of their last seven, both in terms of appreciating where this side’s development under Antonio Conte currently stands and in acknowledging the middling level of form likely to be required to clinch a fourth spot that nobody seems to want.

The visit of Arsenal on May 12 now looms large. Before then, Spurs must negotiate Brentford, Leicester and Liverpool.

There will be unease at a toothless attacking display against Brighton that failed to produce a shot on target, evoking memories of their remarkable creative drought of last year. There will also be concern that it came in their first game since Matt Doherty, a crucial part of their attacking rejuvenation after emerging from the wilderness, was ruled out for the season, though the fact that Conte’s men scored four after he was forced off at Villa Park should allay those fears for now.

Conte made multiple references to the way Brighton “closed the spaces” in which his side (and Harry Kane, in particular) thrive, and while the Seagulls hardly looked Spurs’ toughest opponents for the run-in, few of those to come have a midfielder as adept at that task as Yves Bissouma.

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham still occupy the driving seat in the race to finish fourth this season (Getty Images)
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham still occupy the driving seat in the race to finish fourth this season (Getty Images)

The Mali international showed why each of the top-four rivals ought to be chasing his signature this summer. West Ham in pre-empting a possible Declan Rice departure and Arsenal and Manchester United in a bid to resolve long-standing issues, though the latter will almost certainly eschew sense in search of a marquee solution.

Spurs’ midfield want is less severe after Fabio Paratici - who was this weekend cleared following a large-scale investigation into alleged transfer fee inflation in Italy - nabbed Rodrigo Bentancur from former club Juventus in January. Should they capitalise on their chance to clinch Champions League football, however, it is an area where they’d be wise to strengthen again.

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