Tottenham’s top-four hopes took another blow with a disappointing 2-0 defeat by Wolves at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Antonio Conte’s side went two down inside 18 minutes due to some comical defending, with Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker being gifted goals. Spurs struggled to find a way back into the game and the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were kept quiet by an impressive Wolves side.
Here are four things Express Sport learned as Conte tries to find a consistent formula in North London.
Spurs need to follow rivals’ lead by buying a dominant centre-back
Virgil van Dijk’s 2018 arrival lifted Liverpool to a new level and the Dutchman was key to Premier League and Champions League triumphs.
Ruben Diaz signed for Man City at the start of 2020-21 and he ended up playing an important part in a comfortable league title win.
Even Man Utd have improved defensively since Harry Maguire and, latterly, Raphael Varane have joined the Old Trafford outfit.
Spurs, meanwhile, just do not have that type of leader in their back line. Davinson Sanchez has not developed into the defender many thought he would when he was signed for £40m in 2017.
Ben Davies started on the left of a back three before moving to left-back when Conte changed to a 4-2-3-1 midway through the first half. The Welshman is a far better left-back than he is a centre-back.
Cristian Romero has done well since his summer loan switch from Atalanta but has hardly been exceptional. It therefore remains baffling that the North Londoners did not try harder for a new defender in January.
Conte shows ruthless streak with Sessegnon sub
There is no denying that Conte has already proved he will be ruthless in his quest to reinvent this Spurs team.
Fans’ favourite Dele Alli and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele were allowed to leave in January.
And Conte’s latest brutal move was to withdraw Ryan Sessegnon before the half-hour mark.
The former Fulham starlet was handed a rare start by the Italian but he did not feature for long. Spurs had been disastrous and were 2-0 down inside 18 minutes.
Sessegnon had not necessarily been bad but was the man who made way nine minutes later when Conte opted for a change in formation.
The 21-year-old, whose Spurs career is yet to take off, was replaced by January signing Dejan Kulusevski.
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Is a back four the way forward?
After brutally subbing Sessegnon midway through the first half, Conte seemed to switch to a back four.
The 52-year-old has enjoyed success at several clubs by adopting a back three with wing-backs.
At Chelsea, he initially started with a back four before a change to a 3-4-3 sparked a title-winning 2016-17 campaign.
And Conte might be about to reverse that scenario by switching from a back three to a back four at Spurs.
His side were far better and far more fluid after the change in system.
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