Chelsea v Tottenham: Match in pictures
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If Tottenham ever needed an uncomfortable reminder of just how lucky they are to have Antonio Conte and that he won’t stick around if things do not go his way, it was quite fitting that a sobering reality check arrived at Stamford Bridge. This was of course the very patch Conte walked away from – suing Chelsea for £9million in the process – just one year after winning the Premier League title in 2018, following the breakdown of his relationship with the board over signings – amongst other factors.
And now as manager of their London rivals Spurs, Conte is armed with ammunition, concrete evidence that he needs new recruits. And fast.
After all, there is simply no way Conte has taken this job without assurances of spending just months after being driven out of Inter Milan because of the lack of finances.
Yet five days into the transfer window, there has been little sign of movement at Tottenham despite an evidently underwhelming, uninspiring squad.
Spurs’ calamitous first-half showing here in the Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg would suggest Tottenham need at least six new players. Perhaps more.
Unpolished gem Japhet Tanganga looked out of his depth while Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies do not look capable of playing 90 minutes without making a mistake. Not even a back-three can provide them with enough protection.
Matt Doherty, playing on the wrong flank and predominately turning in unorthodox fashion to receive and pass the ball with his strong right foot, was a lost cause at left-wing-back while Emerson Royal paraded the right channel like a headless chicken.
His £20million arrival from Barcelona this summer – a deal backed and brokered by Paratici – will hardly fill Conte with confidence. In fact, it’s arguably made the task at hand more challenging.
A year prior to the Brazilian’s arrival, Levy was lauded for offloading academy graduate Kyle Walker-Peters to Southampton in part-exchange for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg but after a man-of-the-match display against Spurs last week, the Englishman would comfortably walk into Conte’s side.
That’s a damning indictment of the club’s failings in recent transfer windows and their failure to evolve post-Mauricio Pochettino.
Levy too, was keen to push Kieran Trippier towards the exit door after defeat in the 2019 Champions League final to Liverpool after a turbulent individual campaign.
Newcastle have now secured themselves a bargain at just £12m and ironically, the 31-year-old La Liga champion is yet another player that looks perfect for Conte’s Spurs, who are continuing to operate with wing-backs.
To his credit, Oliver Skipp has been bright, Hojbjerg looks in desperate need of a prolonged period of rest and while Harry Winks has undeniably improved, Tottenham’s options in central midfield are bleak all the while Tanguy Ndombele remains unmotivated and out of favour.
Whisper it quietly but even Harry Kane does not have the same level of impact on football matches that he once did. He now ghosts through games.
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He was virtually non-existent here – albeit starved of service – but this is a semi-final and a chance to win a first trophy with Tottenham. A game where you cannot afford to hide or go quietly.
Spurs will weigh up a blockbuster summer swoop for Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic and should the money be there to spend, it could be just what Tottenham need to spark their attack into life.
However, given the prolific Serbian is likely to cost upwards of £60million, Conte will question whether that kind of cash is better spent on other departments in greater need of improvement.
Either way, besides a last-minute defeat to Slovenian minnows Mura, this was the game that will push Conte to his limits.
This was the game that will truly test Levy and Paratici commitment to backing their manager.
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