Just when Tottenham’s season seemed to be going from strength to strength, they not only lost to Brighton, but then produced a lacklustre performance at the Brentford Community Stadium. This has now left Antonio Conte’s side two points behind Arsenal and they have an uphill battle to secure a spot inside the top four.
Spurs now have five games left to play, including a trip to Anfield, as well as the rescheduled North London Derby. They will have to focus on getting as many points as possible from their remaining games and hope the teams around them drop points to give the Lilywhites a further boost.
After their trip across the capital on Saturday, they will return to N17 for their next clash. Leicester will travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and hope that there isn’t a repeat of the thrilling 3-2 defeat at the King Power Stadium, earlier in the season.
READ MORE:Tottenham’s final five fixtures compared to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United
Ahead of the next clash, football.london takes a look at Conte’s to-do list for the week.
Back to basics
Thomas Frank’s side produced a solid performance against Tottenham. They played to their strengths with their set pieces and throw-ins and stayed compact to stop Spurs breaking through.
However, much of what the Lilywhites were doing lacked energy and fight and their overall display was just too slow to get anything out of the game. Simple, short passes weren’t making it to the players and a lot of the general play was sloppy.
In his post-match press conference, Conte was asked if he had considered tweaking his usual setup. “If you see in the last two games, I consider our work, our system good defensively because we didn’t concede a goal, but in the last two games we were a bit poor offensively,” he explained.
“I think it’s not the problem of the system. It depends on the way that you attack.” This indicates that he doesn’t think his formation is the problem.
It wasn’t long ago that Tottenham were looking like they were enjoying playing once again and playing with such cohesion. That seems to have been reversed in the last two matches and showed glimpses of the Spurs side from the start of the season.
It wasn’t long ago that the Lilywhites had scored nine goals in two games, against Aston Villa and Newcastle. However Conte’s side have now gone two full matches without a single shot on target.
Some credit should be given to Brentford, as their compact presence kept the likes of Harry Kane quiet for most of the game. However a large part of the responsibility has to go on the Spurs side.
Tottenham’s front three had another quiet game and this was a mixture of their execution being off and the lack of creativity being provided for them. After the game, Conte was also asked about the lack of shots from his side.
“I think that in the last two games we’ve struggled offensively because we’ve found two teams that are very good defensively. Without the ball these two teams defended very deep, with the whole team, with all their players,” he said.
“I think this aspect we are working on, because this week, after the game against Brighton, we worked on this aspect to try to in training find 10 players behind the ball. In the end I think this is a consequence when you score many goals, you start to become a dangerous team and the opponent pays more attention.”
The Italian has stuck with the same formation and largely the same team, where he can, for a lot of Tottenham’s recent games. The last couple have shown that this maybe isn’t working as well as he would hope, but he seems confident in the system which has helped him become a serial winner.
Therefore, Spurs need to put in the hard work in training to improve the basics that became sloppy on Saturday and the attacking flare that has lacked in the last two games.
There are two ways you can look at Tottenham’s current situation. They are two points behind their north London rivals, who currently look like the most likely team to secure a spot inside the top four.
However, results from teams up and down the Premier League table have shown no side can be taken for granted. Therefore, Spurs could win games that they don’t expect to, just as Arsenal could lose some they are expecting to win.
Tottenham went into the clash against Brentford hours after Mikel Arteta’s side secured three points against Manchester United and moved into fourth spot. The pressure was on the Lilywhites to also get a win…which they didn’t manage.
Spurs’ history shows their lack of success under pressure and Saturday was no different. However, the next three fixtures (excluding the North London Derby) find Conte’s side playing before the Gunners.
Of course, Tottenham still need to win their games to stand a chance of reclaiming fourth spot, but if they manage to secure three points in their upcoming games, the pressure will then be on Arsenal to win so they can move back above the Lilywhites.
In an exclusive interview with football.london, Dimitar Berbatov explained that he “prefers to leave them in the shadow and quietly work their way up and maybe surprise people along the way,” when talking about hope his former side can get back to winning silverware. This is exactly the position Tottenham can now find themselves in.
Conte needs to help his side work on their weaknesses during training this week, in preparation for the Leicester clash on Sunday. Spurs then need to focus on their fixture to try and get three points, moving the pressure onto Arsenal, who take on West Ham next up.