Conte's biggest tactical problem is the right-wing dilemma
ENFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal of Tottenham Hotspur during the Tottenham Hotspur training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on September 15, 2021 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images).

Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur side visit runaway leaders Manchester City on Sunday. Spurs face the prospect of losing four Premier League games in a row for the first time since 2004.

Whilst this is a worrying statistic for Spurs fans, the reality is not as bleak. With three games in hand on West Ham United who currently sit in fourth place, Spurs are only five points behind.

The real issue of concern is Conte's clear lack of trust in his wing-back options, a position in which he places tremendous responsibility due to his preference for a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation. 

  • Emerson and Doherty fall short

Left-wing back Ryan Sessegnon was hooked just after the half-hour mark after a lacklustre display against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.

Conte opted to use new signing Dejan Kulusevski in his place, leaving Sergio Reguilon as an unused substitute in the defeat. 

Perhaps more pressing, however, is the state of play on the right-hand side of Spurs' midfield.

Both Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal have produced shocking performances  in recent weeks. 

Former Barcelona man Emerson has struggled to adapt to the pace of the English game.

His poor positional awareness and perceived inability to deliver accurate crosses have left Spurs missing an attacking string to their bow when he has found himself starting games.

Republic of Ireland international Doherty's incapacity to dribble past a man, as well as his poor recovery pace, make him a less than ideal alternative for Royal. 

Considering an unproven Japhet Tanganga is Spurs' only other option in this troublesome position, Conte's admittance of his frustration at the lack of incomings in the January transfer window can be understood.

The question now is whether Conte decides to stick with a formation that relies on wing-backs, or if he can find a way of improving his team's performances by utilising a traditional four at the back.

This is not a completely foreign concept to the Italian manager. During his early days as Juventus boss, he set up the Old Lady in both a 4-2-4 and 4-3-3 formation. 

Employing Royal as a right-back would likely get the best out of the Brazilian. He excelled in this position whilst on loan at Real Betis. When given less to worry about in terms of bombing forward, Royal is able to showcase his impressive tackling, aggression and anticipation. 

However, the 23-year-old is highly unlikely to get the chance to prove his worth in his preferred position. Countless hours at Hotspur Way working on a wing-back structure would be rendered pointless if Conte was to switch his philosophy of play now.

The more likely outcome is that Spurs target a new right-wing back in the summer transfer window. GiveMeSport report that an upgrade is of high priority for Conte if he is to build a team he feels is able to compete on all fronts.

  • Looking elsewhere

One name being touted to fill the vacancy is Brighton's Tariq Lamptey. The Sun claim that the 21-year-old is top of Fabio Paratici's wishlist and Spurs are ready to battle for his signature this summer.

Lamptey's pace, skill and ability to deliver an accurate final ball would provide Spurs with a dangerous attacking outlet down the right flank.

Another player Spurs have been keeping a close eye on is Middlesbrough's Djed Spence, who is currently on loan at fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest.

Spence, 21, has exceptional physicality and stamina, as well as impressive technical ability.

These assets make him an interesting option for the future. However, according to the Express, Boro have taken up an option to extend Spence's contract by a further year. So, Spurs may have to pay over the odds to sign the player this summer.

Before Spurs have a chance to improve their wing-back options this summer, they must first negotiate a strong second half of the season.

To make the club an attractive place to play football, as well as keeping Conte satisfied, a return to the Champions League is imperative next campaign. 

Thus, performances from wing-backs must improve or solutions must be found to play these players in positions in which they can give more to the team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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