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Opinion: Why Spurs can be genuine title challengers this season

Tottenham Hotspur have had an incredibly active summer transfer window. Six summer signings, as well as a slew of impending outgoings, has indicated the club’s willingness to be moulded within Antonio Conte’s vision for short-term success. With his track record of league success at Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, the question for Spurs approaching the new season is can they mount a serious title challenge?

There are certain factors in their favour. After Conte arrived in November, only Manchester City and Liverpool amassed more points than Tottenham last season. They also achieved the highest non-penalty goals per shot, indicating they created the highest quality chances across any team in the division. With the benefit of a pre-season and the arrival of several players suited to Conte’s specific demands, it’s reasonable to assume that such performance can be at least sustained if not built-upon, and that a full season of such quality could bring them on the precipice of a title challenge.

 

With the World Cup occurring in the winter, there will also be significant fixture congestion this year. Conte drills his players intensely and requires them to have peak fitness, but it’s arguable that his style of play is less physically taxing than Guardiola or Klopp’s, especially out of possession. His aversion to a high press and willingness to allow his team to drop deeper into a mid-block and compact space means that, as the season goes longer, Spurs may be fresher.

He has also ensured his summer business has added depth to most areas of the squad, especially the most physically taxing positions: wingback and central midfield. Ryan Sessegnon is more than a competent understudy to Ivan Perisic, while Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal are imperfect yet serviceable alternatives to Djed Spence. Pierre Emile Hojberg and Rodrigo Bentacur will likely remain the first-choice midfield duo, but Yves Bissouma and Oliver Skipp are high-quality backups who can rotate effectively with each other. Contrast that to Liverpool, for instance, who have no clear backup for Trent Alexander-Arnold and rely upon an ageing player such as James Milner to contribute to their limited depth in midfield.

Of their two rivals, Spurs also have had the least disruptive transfer window. All their signings fit seamlessly into specific roles and positions within the squad rather than upending any existing order in the team or Conte’s tactics. The same cannot be said of City and Liverpool. Guardiola will need to make some type of adaptation to having Erling Haaland as a central forward given his lack of contribution to build-up, while the void of Sadio Mane and the integration of the talented yet unorthodox Darwin Nunez also poses certain problems for Klopp. Spurs have a more settled lineup by comparison and could benefit from the total cohesion of a system and squad heading into the new season.

Finally, Spurs showed last season that they were capable of competing with City and Liverpool head-on in their matches against each other. Staggering points tallies are now the norm for Premier League winners, so the title may ultimately be determined by the fixtures between title contenders. Conte’s ability to drill his teams superbly, both in possession to play through high presses and remain in a compact defensive block, is a formula that can frustrate City and Liverpool’s approach.

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If Spurs fail to win the title, it will likely be because they failed to be as consistent as City and Liverpool against opposition who sit deep and are harder to break down. These are the sides they have struggled to beat under Conte’s tenure thus far. While Spurs fans will hope added time on the training pitch and summer arrivals will alleviate this issue, City and Liverpool are unprecedented in their ability to create chances when facing low-blocks. It is here that Spurs will have to outperform their title rivals to have any chance of lifting their first league title since 1961.

Spurs are certainly not favourites for the title. An injury to Harry Kane, which never seems too far away, would seriously hamper their title hopes, even with the signing of Richarlison. Unless both City and Liverpool experience significant drop-offs this year, they would need to achieve their highest ever points total and display a level of dominance that Conte has arguably never attained with a team before. They also need to balance the demands of European football, an obstacle they largely benefitted from not having last year after an early exit.

Tottenham Hotspur are better placed to win the Premier League title than they have been since the height of Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure. Their summer activity and faith in a proven elite manager gives them an edge over their top-flight rivals and makes them best placed to challenge the City-Liverpool duopoly. Whether they can usurp Guardiola and Klopp’s dominance remains to be seen.

Read – Five far-fetched predictions for 2022/23 that might just happen

Read Also – Five summer signings we can’t wait to see in action

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