Ottenham justified pre-season optimism with a 4-1 victory over Southampton, which will increase belief that Antonio Conte’s side are as well placed as anyone to break the duopoly at the top of the Premier League this season .
Spurs’ nerveless end to the previous campaign and an unusually decisive summer in the transfer market have raised expectations and rarely have fans entered a season with so much confidence in the team and, in particular, the manager.
The question was whether Conte’s side could live up to the hype against an opponent they failed to beat twice last season, including in a disheartening 3-2 home loss .
Without any of their six summer signings in the XI, Spurs effectively picked up where they left off last season with a display like their head coach, full of intensity and attacking verve, and led by decisive exits from full-backs Ryan Sessegnon and Emerson. Royal.
Sessegnon leveled the score midway through the first half after James Ward-Prowse gave the visitors a shock lead, and Eric Dier leaned in to lead Spurs in front before the interval.
The identities of the scorers suggested that Conte’s side could be less dependent on the firepower of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, and therefore even harder to stop, this season, and of course Emerson forced Mohammed Salisu to a comical goal and Dejan Kulusevski finished the rout. .
Spurs’ performances resembled many of their games from late February last season, including wins over Aston Villa and Newcastle, when they simply leveled up after the interval and blew away their opponents.
They really should have scored more, with Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu making a number of clean saves, and it was telling that Spurs were so effective without Kane or Son anywhere near their best.
Despite the feeling of newfound optimism, Conte’s XI was actually surprisingly familiar with just one change from the squad that ended last season at Norwich, with the return of Cristian Romero.
The Italian’s bench has been transformed, however, with five of the six summer recruits among the substitutes and only the suspended Richarlison missing. Ivan Perisic played the final half hour, while Yves Bissouma and Clement Lenglet also made their debuts as late substitutes.
The prospect of new additions to the squad, including Richarlison, who was serving a one-match ban, suggests that Conte’s side still have many new levels to reach, although it’s also remarkable how the Last season’s team players reacted to the new competition.
Sessegnon, who strengthened over the summer, was excellent and scored the equalizer when he found himself behind Kyle Waker-Peters to head in Kulusevski’s cross at the far post. It was a display of killer and decisive instincts which suggests the 21-year-old is already learning from Perisic and will battle the Croatian legend for the left-back position.
Sessegnon had the ball in the net again seconds after the restart but the flag was up ruling out his cool right-footed finish – another heartening moment.
Emerson also responded to new competition on the right in the form of Djed Spence with two assists in as many minutes to secure the game.
As easy as it is to predict, Kulusevski is nearly unstoppable when in full swing
The Brazilian, often Spurs’ weak link last season, was partly to blame for Saints’ goal when he was too quick to go to ground on the touchline, allowing Moussa Djenepo to latch a fine cross that Ward -Prowse flew into the ground. and beyond Hugo Lloris.
But Emerson led the counterattack for Spurs’ third goal before Salisu somehow deflected his tame shot over the line with a sloppy clearance attempt.
Emerson added another assist with a cut for Kulusevski, the Outstanding Player of the Game who fired a low shot into the far corner in a display that suggested Richarlison would have his work cut out to dislodge the 22-year-old .
As easy as it is to predict, Kulusevski is nearly unstoppable when at full throttle and he’s been unleashed down the right flank.
Kulusevski was so good last season, there is a case where he should soon suffer a drop in form, but it looks like the Swede and Spurs are only going from strength to strength under Conte.