Tottenham: Evidence the Antonio Conte effect is already taking hold of Spurs in comeback win against Leeds

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As Tottenham ran down the clock, Antonio Conte gestured wildly for more support from the home crowd and was met with a volley noise from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Conte – who spent his first home League games in charge patrolling the touchline, yelling instructions at his players – has immediately won over the Spurs fans and his late call for a twelfth man was rousing demonstration of his leadership qualities.

In the end, the Conte effect might well have been the difference for Spurs, as they came from behind to beat Leeds 2-1 in a game of two halves.

Tottenham’s opening 45 minutes would not been out of place under Conte’s predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo or in the death-throes of Jose Mourinho’s reign. Spurs were short of creativity and cohesion in the final third, and surprisingly defensive against a Leeds side who were missing a host of key players, including Rafinha, who was ill.

Leeds deservedly took the lead through Dan James’s goal and Spurs were booed off at the interval by a frustrated crowd after extending their run without a shot on target to a remarkable 272 minutes.

The hosts, though, were much improved after the break and Harry Kane set the tone for the second half by forcing a save from Ilan Meslier inside the opening 60 seconds, with the rebound trickling onto the post before being cleared.

Spurs pushed up, and stepped up their intensity and aggression, with Kane’s effort quickly followed by a deflected shot by Heung-min Son, which cannoned off the crossbar.

An increasingly ragged Leeds cracked when Lucas Moura’s cutback was turned home by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from 18 yards to level the scoreline.

Sergio Reguilon was the unlikely match-winner, turning home from close range after Eric Dier’s free-kick deflected off the wall and ricocheted on to the post.

While Spurs could take heart from a stirring comeback, their mixed performance was nonetheless another reminder of the scale of the task Conte has inherited.

This squad will not be transformed overnight, and for long periods of the game, Leeds looked like a well-oiled side who had been playing under their manager for years, while Spurs looked like a group of individuals still getting to grips with the head-coach’s demands.

Yet, for all their limitations, Conte clearly changed the approach and lifted his players at half-time, responding to adversity in a way that Nuno was never able to.

There is a still a long way to go for Conte’s Spurs but with Manchester United managerless and in crisis, Leicester in free-fall and surprise packages West Ham and Brighton both losing yesterday, along with Arsenal, Spurs may be looking with some optimism at fourth place.

Fitter Spurs outrun Leeds

Conte demands his players are in peak condition and he has already dramatically increased the intensity of Spurs’ training sessions and asked his players to cut down on sugary and fatty foods.

Spurs’ remaining players were put through a gruelling mini pre-season during the international break, while the likes of Kane and Son were reportedly sent away with bespoke training schedules while with their countries.

There was evidence of heavy legs in Tottenham’s display, particularly during a late counter-attack when Kane could looked totally spent and was unable to release Harry Winks.

But the statistics suggest Spurs are already fitter under Conte.

They outran Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds – themselves considered super fit – 117km to 115m, and collectively completely 181 sprints.

In ten matches under Nuno, Spurs averaged just 100km per game and the most sprints they managed in a game was 141 against Newcastle. It was a dramatic improvement. It is still early days but this was a clear indication that Spurs are set to return to being one of the fittest sides in the top flight under Conte.

Left wing-backs catch the eye

Reguilon’s winner owed more to desire and quick thinking than classic wing-back play but it was still an encouraging moment for the Spaniard.

Reguilon has acknowledged that to succeed under Conte as a wing-back, he will need to be more decisive in the final third, so his first Spurs goal was a good start.

There was also an encouraging moment for Ryan Sessegnon, widely tipped to be a potential winner from Conte’s appointment and the switch to a 3-4-3 system – particularly as he has much more of an eye for goal than Reguilon.

The 21-year-old came off the bench for the final ten minutes in his first League appearance since January 2020 and first outing for Spurs since the win over Pacos de Ferreira back in August.

Sessegnon will be eyeing a start in the Europa Conference League match at NS Mura on Thursday, which will be a chance to show Conte that he can challenge Reguilon for a place in the first team.

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