Tottenham are travelling to Stamford Bridge on Sunday to play Chelsea, who they struggled to beat in four attempts last season. Their upcoming clash may not only be a turning point in Spurs’ fortune against the Blues, but a defining moment in Antonio Conte’s revolutionary epoch as manager.
Last season, Spurs failed to score against Chelsea in any of the four games they played. Fast forward to the present day and Tottenham have scored the most goals in the Premier League in 2022 and have recently added Richarlison to their ranks, making for a frightening frontline.
Considering Conte’s 4-4-2 set up of the previous fixture between these two sides, featuring six defenders and Steven Bergwijn filling in for Heung-Min Son, it is safe to say things have changed.
The well drilled 3-4-3 system tailored to the Italian’s requirements is the same formation used by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side, who have experienced great success as a result. Their most notable feat being their UEFA Champions League success in May 2021 with a very solid defensive display against Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
Chelsea have not taken their foot off the pedal either, ensuring they keep up with the squad depth of Liverpool and Man City. Despite losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, they have added the experience of Kalidou Koulibaly and Premier League proven Marc Cucurella to the squad.
With the introduction of the five substitutes rule, it is crucial for teams to have several players with the ability to come off the bench and impact the game. Both Tottenham and Chelsea have ensured that is the case with their summer signings.
The bench for the opening fixture against Southampton was the strongest a Tottenham bench has been in the Premier League for a long time, even without a £60 million Brazilian. Richarlison is still to come into the equation and will likely make his first appearance for the club at Stamford Bridge.
It will also be interesting to see if Antonio Conte will utilise Ivan Perišić in the game for longer than 20 minutes after Ryan Sessegnon impressed with his performance last week. The experience of the Croatian was something I believed would be utilised from the start of the season, especially considering Perišić’s previous knowledge of Conte’s set up.
However, it is promising to see Antonio Conte sticking with youthful options and seemingly developing very promising youngsters to fit his system, hinting at a long term project for the Italian.
Yves Bissouma also has a question mark over his head as to when he could potentially break into the first team. It will unlikely be in this game but within the next five games I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a start under Conte, especially considering how well he would theoretically suit the Italian’s system.
A largely unchanged line-up is expected with both wing-back positions currently experiencing fierce competition for a place in the team. Matt Doherty in particular will be hoping he can rekindle the form he was in before injury (still haven’t forgiven Matty Cash for that tackle).
This is a crucial moment for both teams so early on in the season and if Tottenham can come out on top it will be a momentous occasion for the team and fanbase. It would indicate a seismic shift within the club and lead Antonio Conte to believe this could be a very special season for Spurs.