Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has been given plenty of food for thought ahead of this weekend’s north London derby against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Italian coach will be desperate to give Tottenham fans something to celebrate by inspiring his players to victory over the early Premier League leaders, who have managed to win all but one of their domestic matches since the beginning of the campaign.
Tottenham have also enjoyed a decent start to the season and currently sit third in the table, but will undoubtedly go into Saturday’s fixture at the Emirates Stadium as the underdogs due to the impressive league form of their rivals. Conte will now be tasked with mulling over his approach to the game over the coming days as he prepares to lead Tottenham into battle against Arsenal, a team he has only beaten twice in nine attempts as a manager.
Conte might be inclined to hand Tottenham’s free-kick duties over to Son Heung-min on Saturday, with the 30-year-old scoring a brilliant set-piece goal for South Korea against Costa Rica last week. He stepped up with five minutes remaining to lash a curling effort into the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper rooted to his mark and rescuing a welcome draw for his country.
Harry Kane has been taking free-kicks for Tottenham over the last few years but has only managed to convert on a single occasion, with his solitary goal against Aston Villa needing a deflection to take it over the line. It remains to be seen whether Conte will consider handing the burden to Son against Arsenal on the weekend, with last year’s Golden Boot winner currently in a rich vein of form after finding the back of the net for South Korea during the international break.
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Conte may also be tempted to start Dejan Kulusevski at the Emirates Stadium after the former Juventus man impressed for Sweden in their Nations League match against Serbia in spite of the result, which saw his side fall to a 4-1 defeat. He managed to pick out Viktor Claesson with an inch-perfect cross to set up Sweden’s only goal of the game and has already chipped in with four goal contributions for Tottenham over the course of this season.
Kulusevski was named as a substitute against Fulham earlier this month before failing to play in Tottenham’s next outing against Manchester City but returned to the side for the 6-2 win over Leicester City in their most recent fixture. He will surely be pushing to start on Saturday as a result of his international exploits, but whether or not he will eventually be given the nod by Conte is another question.
Djed Spence also stood out during the international break after a magnificent week with England’s under-21 side and will be hoping to be involved in some capacity against Arsenal this weekend. He has played just one minute of Premier League football since joining Tottenham from Middlesbrough over the summer but may be rewarded with at least a spot on the bench if Conte decides to acknowledge his form for the Young Lions in his team selection on Saturday.
The former Nottingham Forest loanee was picked to start against Italy last week and produced an impressive showing as England cruised to a two-goal victory after Rhian Brewster’s quick-fire brace. However, it would not be a surprise to see Spence miss out against Arsenal due to his lack of senior minutes, with Conte having already insisted that he sees the right-back as one for the future rather than the present.
“To play in the Championship with Nottingham Forest and then with Tottenham, he needs time to adapt himself in many aspects, in the physical aspect and the tactical aspect because now he is working with another coach,” said Conte when quizzed on Spence earlier this month.
“I’m seeing a lot of desire, a lot of will, from this player to try to reduce this gap and to be ready. With a young player, it’s important to have patience, to work and then to improve. I’m sure Djed for the future will be an important player for Tottenham.”
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