With a Heung-Min Son hat trick on Saturday, Tottenham blew Leicester away with a stupendous second-half display ending 6-2 to the hosts. However, with the South Korean taking all the plaudits, let’s look at the system and unsung hero that allowed Son’s return to form before the international break.
Should 3-5-2 be the new go to for Antonio Conte?
With 20 minutes remaining against Leicester, Antonio Conte brought on Yves Bissouma for Dejan Kulusevski, shifting Spurs into a 3-5-2 formation. The Lilywhites were in desperate need of a goal to prevent a nervy ending, reminiscent of the previous league fixture against Fulham.
The substitution appeared to work wonders immediately as the Foxes were completely overrun in the middle of the park. As a result, two of the three goals scored by Son were assisted by central midfielders (Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg respectively).
The previous games in which this formation has been implemented were away to Leicester and Liverpool at home, both last season. The first involved a late comeback with a brace from Steven Bergwijn, the latter in a 2-2 draw where both sides were weakened.
Tottenham’s midfield when playing Liverpool in December included three players who are now surplus to requirements in the eyes of Conte. Harry Winks, Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli proved enough for a point against Jurgen Klopp’s men, but midfield options at present are widely regarded as superior.
With two of the leading defensive midfielders in the Premier League in Bissouma and Højbjerg, breaking down Spurs’ compact back-line would prove challenging for many teams. The pair went into this season with impressive stats and fans will hope they continue their form throughout the remainder of this campaign.
Defensive solidarity, ball-playing centre-backs, progressive wing-backs and world-class forwards; a formidable force could be created when Conte utilises this formation from the off.
Greater squad depth compared to previous seasons provides further options for the North London side, with Cristian Romero, Heung-Min Son, and Yves Bissouma coming on last Saturday. This calibre of player was previously required in the starting line-up, however, the summer window succeeded in giving the squad a much needed revamp.
All of the midfield three performed admirably when the tactical switch was made against Leicester, Yves Bissouma with his best performance in a Spurs shirt.
There was yet another impressive display from the Danish Viking, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who has been one of the most consistent performers in the league this season. He has been an essential part of multiple managers’ plans since joining and this doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
In addition to Højbjerg, Bentancur will prove to be vital for Tottenham going forward, especially if 3-5-2 is to become a more regular feature under Antonio Conte. His performance last-time out proves his worth to the Italian’s system.
Eric Dier sings Rodrigo Bentancur’s praises
As we go into the international break, Eric Dier finds himself back with the England squad after an elongated period away from Southgate’s side. Dier was interviewed by Tottenham following their latest game and couldn’t help but compliment the performance of fellow goalscorer Rodrigo Bentancur.
When talking to SPURSPLAY, Dier commented, “Rodri [Bentancur] is amazing, what a fantastic player. I think we play well when he plays well, that’s the biggest compliment I can give him.”
The England defender often relies on the Uruguayan midfield maestro and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to get the team out of danger on the half-turn. It is Bentancur’s undoubted ability to fulfil this role that Dier commended.
“When he [Bentancur] plays like he did in the second half, we’re such a good team. He offers so much defensively, and then with the ball he has so much quality.
“What a personality as well, to play in tight spaces… I’m really happy for him, Sonny comes on and steals it because he scores three goals, but Rodri was fantastic.”
This kind of emphatic performance is something Conte will demand more frequently from Bentancur. If the former Juventus midfielder can become as consistent as Højbjerg has been this season, the North London side will go from strength to strength.
Undefeated in the league going into the international break, the Lilywhites are in a much better place than this time last season. Bentancur may be the reason Spurs are playing on Wednesday this season, but can he become the driving force to terminate Tottenham’s trophy drought?