Antonio Conte will be looking for his opening Premier League victory in charge of Spurs when he takes the dugout for the very first time at home this afternoon.
Spurs welcome Leeds United to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for Sunday’s late kick-off for their return to action following the international break.
The Italian narrowly defeated Vitesse in the Europa Conference League but could only seal a point against Everton at Goodison Park before several members of his first-team squad departed for national team duty.
He now faces an out-of-sorts Yorkshire outfit but there will be a number of dilemmas ringing around his head heading into the encounter.
The Lilywhites’ creative problems are no secret – despite sitting in tenth place before the game, they are amongst the very worst in the division in the final third.
Only Norwich City (10) have averaged fewer shots per game than Spurs (10.1) and similarly, the Canaries (9.32) are the one team to have managed a lower expected goals ratio than the north Londoners (11.43).
Furthermore, under Conte, Spurs’ worrying run without a goal or shot on target continued. It’s now five hours since they last found the net – when Heung-min Son bagged the third at Newcastle United – and it’s nearly four hours since Harry Kane’s header was on target against West Ham.
On that evidence, something has got to change.
It has been quietly mooted that the 52-year-old could alter his system at the club, going from a 3-4-3 of sorts, which utilises Son and Lucas Moura as inside-forwards behind Kane, to a 3-4-1-2, which would deploy a no.10 in the hole.
If this turns out to be the case, then it’s time for Conte to turn to Tanguy Ndombele as the Frenchman is arguably the club’s most technically gifted talent, on his day.
Indeed, ex-goalkeeper Joe Hart once waxed lyrical about his ability to BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand.
“This kid is a world-beater, he can do anything.’ He just turned around during the game and said ‘this kid is unplayable’,” claimed the former shot-stopper during Spurs’ FA Cup clash with Wycombe Wanderers (via football.london).
The 24-year-old dynamo, who is valued at £34m by CIES Football Observatory, was always meant to be the creative heartbeat of Spurs’ midfield following the departure of Christian Eriksen but he has not quite lived up to expectations.
Perhaps it will be Conte who gets the best out of him but he’ll have to start him for the very first time against Leeds to find out.
Back in 2018, French football journalist Julien Laurens lauded Ndombele for his attributes in the final third, telling the BBC:
“Everything he does is forward – there aren’t many sideways passes. The first thing on his mind is going forward, with a pass that can break a line or beat two or three players with a dribble because he’s so good carrying the ball.”
At Lyon, the 5 foot 11 midfielder averaged at least 1.5 key passes per 90 minutes in every top-flight campaign prior to his move to Spurs. That would see him rank third in the current squad and season.
With Oliver Skipp also out through suspension, it would be wise for Conte to unleash Ndombele against Leeds this afternoon. It could be a game-changing decision come full-time.