hen the Tottenham team finally returned to Hotspur Way at 8 p.m. on Sunday, following a weather-disrupted flight south and an unnecessary night in Burnley, no one felt particularly grateful for the postponement. from the 11th hour to Turf Moor.
Spurs highlighted the advantage of a clear training week under Antonio Conte with a performance that, for the first time, carried some of the hallmarks of a Conte side.
Their second goal, in particular, was a devastating move straight from Conte’s playbook, as Heung-min Son started and ended a quick counterattack involving Harry Kane’s defensive pass and Sergio Reguilon’s back wing play. .
If Spurs had faced Burnley as planned, the start of this week would have been spent in recovery sessions, but as soon as the game was postponed Conte made revised plans, starting with a full session on Monday.
“We were disappointed because we wanted to play [Burnley], but the Premier League made the best decision to save the players and for the fans, ”Conte said. “But on the other hand, having the opportunity to have a practice session was important because we worked together.
“We worked on the physical aspect and the tactical aspect and that was very, very important to us. We have exploited this situation. Every moment we have, we have to try to improve ourselves and try to bring my philosophy into the minds of all my players. “
The schedule of events is also important, with the team’s week off ahead of a 10-game run in 30 days, starting last night and culminating against Watford on New Years Day.
The race will give Conte limited time for some fitness or substantial tactical work with his players, which could make the extra day all the more important. Burnley’s postponement could still cause a headache down the line as matches threaten to pile up – especially if, as likely, Spurs find themselves in a Europa League play-off after Thursday’s visit to Rennes – but, in the short term, it may prove to be an opportunity for Conte, helping him more quickly shape the squad in his image ahead of a crucial period.
As the Italian admitted, there is still huge room for improvement and Spurs are still not able to play their own way for 90 minutes, showing only flashes of the desired game plan on Thursday night.
Their best moments came through the rejuvenated son and when Kane was able to move from a deep position to full-backs Reguilon and Emerson Royal.
Overall, however, Spurs were more comfortable and in control than in any great game this season, and they have won the League by more than one goal for the first time since last day. from last season. Their defensive display, led by Eric Dier, was equally impressive in the face of the calculated aerial bombardment of Brentford.
While it is too early to talk about turning points or milestones, especially given the modest quality of the opposition, this was an encouraging step forward.
Individuals are also improving noticeably, among them Reguilon, Ben Davies and Oliver Skipp, and it is telling that Conte has so far relied on the less glamorous, malleable and hardworking members of his team then. that it aims to “create a solid foundation [from which] build. ”Add more flair to that base, and the Spurs will start to look really promising.
Reguilon had never played as a winger before Conte arrived and it was easy to wonder if the Spaniard had the end product to really succeed in his system.
On Thursday he started to look like a true Conte winger, coming forward well from the start and helping Spurs quickly establish their dominance on the left flank.
Their first goal came from a small, well-crafted corner from the left, with Son whipping a cross that Pontus Jansson aimed at hapless Sergi Canos, under pressure from Davies.
Skipp, meanwhile, may have produced his best performance in a Spurs jersey, which then left Conte purring on about the 21-year-old.
“I can improve it a lot in possession and technically,” said Conte. “He can become a top midfielder. “
Skipp really should have finished with an assist after a through pass for Kane, but the England captain’s effort was too close to Alvaro Fernandez in Brentford’s goal.
Another blank for Kane was one of Spurs’ few frustrations on a night when Conte started making his mark on the side.