Tottenham Hotspur’s biggest problem has been their lack of creativity in midfield but new manager Antonio Conte may have already repeated one of Nuno Santo’s most fatal mistakes at the club.
The Portuguese was axed just four months into his reign in north London as his side looked fruitless and uninspiring in attack, and whilst that’s something that won’t be solved overnight, the Italian is doing himself no favours.
In his first Premier League game in charge of the club, Spurs failed to register a shot on target, making it nearly four hours since they achieved such a feat.
Their last goal in the English top-flight came five hours ago – Heung-min Son’s strike right on half-time in the 3-2 victory over Newcastle United at St James’ Park. Yes, it really was that long ago.
The Lilywhites still rank bottom for average number of shots per game (10.1) across the entire division. Even the bottom three are managing more attempts, whilst their expected goals ratio of 11.43 xG is amongst the five worst teams.
Ultimately, it is these gross returns that cost Nuno his job so soon.
Conte has clearly changed the system, utilising a three-man defence and two attacking wing-backs but the problem seemingly still lies in the final third, as evident with their lack of returns against the Toffees.
It could well boil down to the engine room, where the 52-year-old is selecting the same pivot as Nuno, a defensively-minded duo of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp, leaving two inside-forwards or a solitary no.10 to make up the difference.
Both players are arguably two of their best, certainly the former, who currently ranks first in the squad for average WhoScored rating – proving his consistency.
But both are most definitely defensive players, having averaged at least 2.3 tackles and no more than 0.5 key passes each per game.
It’s going to be hard for Spurs to create much going forward with both playing alongside each other, especially if the opposition nullifies either of Sergio Reguilon or Emerson Royal.
Conte would be better off deploying one of the two and then handing the other two spots to any of Tanguy Ndombele, Dele Alli, Giovani Lo Celso or even Lucas Moura in an advanced position.
It’s a scenario that the Italian tactician will be able to test out this weekend when Spurs return to action, hosting Leeds United on Sunday, as the England U21 international is suspended.
Conte will have a hard task at changing the team’s fortunes up top if he persists with both Hojbjerg and Skipp in the same side.