59’s best start and ‘different animal’ – are Antonio Conte’s Tottenham contenders?

Antonio Conte’s Spurs have made their best start to a top-flight campaign since 1963-64.

Mikel Arteta’s resurgent Arsenal and Erling Haaland-inspired Manchester City may dominate this season, but are Tottenham starting to emerge from the shadows under Antonio Conte?

Tottenham haven’t always been particularly pleasant this season, but they are now level with Pep Guardiola’s side and only behind their north London rivals, despite having played a game more than either side.

Unlike City or Arsenal, however, their performances so far this season suggest there is much more to come from Conte’s side.

“Spurs are a different animal under Conte,” the former Tottenham striker Gary Lineker tweetedexternal link after “Tactically smarter and much more resilient. Still a work in progress, but encouraging signs.”

Room for improvement?

Despite the impressive points tally, it could be argued that Conte’s side have yet to hit their stride in 2022-23.

Apart from great wins against Southampton and Leicester, Tottenham have had plenty of league wins this season.

They had 41% possession and just three shots in a 1-0 win at Brighton earlier this month, while Wolves had nearly double the number of attempts on goal in a 1-0 home win over Spurs in August.

They were well beaten in the recent north London derby, needing Harry Kane’s 96th-minute equalizer to salvage a point against Chelsea after a laborious display at Stamford Bridge.

Although Saturday’s win over Everton was deserved, Spurs were fortunate in the first half and could have trailed at the break had Demarai Gray and Amadou Onana not missed golden chances for the visitors.

The second half was one-way traffic as Tottenham laid siege to their opponents’ goal before finally breaking the Toffees’ resistance.

“It was a great afternoon for Spurs,” Michael Brown told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Antonio Conte realizes it was a great performance from his side. They started really well and the quality was there.

“Now the real test is Manchester United on Wednesday.”

In-game flexibility pays dividends

Saturday’s victory was made all the more impressive by the way Spurs responded to a second-half injury to former Everton striker Richarlison – while the score was still goalless.

Instead of replacing the striker with an attacker, Conte introduced another midfielder in Yves Bissouma, which gave the home side more stability in midfield and helped lay the foundations for victory.

“We had a difficult situation with Richy’s injury, so I changed the system,” Conte told BBC Match of the Day. “When you change a system during the game, you create difficulties for the opponent.

“This team can play with three forwards or three midfielders, and I decided on that solution because Lucas Moura only started training with us this week. His fitness is not at the top level yet.

“[Richarlison’s injury] It could have caused something negative, but we found the right solution. We are dealing with a good opponent and despite the injury we were able to solve the situation.

“That means the players are growing in many aspects. I’m proud of them.”

Prolific Kane approaching Greaves

Harry Kane, Tottenham, Everton, celebration
Harry Kane has scored 258 goals for Tottenham

Kane’s penalty, which came seven minutes after Richarlison was withdrawn, means he has now scored 14 goals in 15 Premier League appearances against Everton.

The England captain has also found the net in five consecutive top-flight games for the first time in his career.

Tottenham have now scored 258 goals – eight short of Jimmy Greaves’ club record of 266.

Kane twice came close to breaking the deadlock against Everton before second-half kick-off, with Toffees defender James Tarkowski blocking a header before Jordan Pickford’s vicious volley.

“I am not worried about Harry because we are talking about a player whose performance was amazing,” Conte said.

“[But] everyone played well today. They showed me that they had the will and desire to get the three points.”

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