Damaging Arsenal defeat gives chastening reminder of Spurs’ limitations under Antonio Conte

Damaging derby defeat gives chastening reminder of Spurs’ limitations… Antonio Conte’s style is not particularly attractive if his forwards are not clinical on the counter-attack

  • Spurs’ 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday was their first league defeat since April 
  • It showed some of the shortcomings in Antonio Conte’s side moving forward 
  • Captain Hugo Lloris said there were different ways the team could improve 

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The first setback when it came for Tottenham was severe. A sobering defeat at the hands of their nearest and fiercest rivals to cast doubt on the nature of their recent progress.

Antonio Conte had gone into Saturday’s derby at pains to stress that there was very little to separate the two teams last season, and that Arsenal had been buying quality players from champions Manchester City. Perhaps he feared a reality check and it came with little consolation.

‘The taste of the defeat we don’t want to feel again,’ said captain Hugo Lloris. ‘If we want to continue to grow as a team then we have to take this feeling and change it as soon as possible. You have to bounce back as a team and make a run of good results to change this feeling. We have to move forward. The best answer we can give is to win the next few games.’

Antonio Conte's side suffered their first defeat of the Premier League season away to Arsenal

Antonio Conte's side suffered their first defeat of the Premier League season away to Arsenal

Antonio Conte’s side suffered their first defeat of the Premier League season away to Arsenal

This was Tottenham’s first defeat of the Premier League campaign. Their first in the competition since mid-April.

They scored six in their previous match and are four points off the top, yet this seemed like a chastening reminder of their limitations.

Conte’s style is not particularly attractive if his attacking players are not clinical on the counter-attack and, at Arsenal, they were not.

Tottenham’s boss left the Emirates Stadium grumbling about openings wasted by poor passing on the break in the first half and the inconsistencies of English referees after Emerson Royal’s red card, in the 62nd minute.

Royal had been run ragged by Gabriel Martinelli from the first seconds and there was an element of frustration about the tackle on his fellow Brazilian.

Emerson Royal was run ragged by Arsenal's strikers, before being sent off with 30 minutes left

Emerson Royal was run ragged by Arsenal's strikers, before being sent off with 30 minutes left

Emerson Royal was run ragged by Arsenal’s strikers, before being sent off with 30 minutes left

It was the challenge of a defender tired of chasing. His lazy effort ended with his studs going into Martinelli’s ankle and it looked ugly. Even if light on force, as Conte claimed, it was a poor tackle.

Royal will be banned from Premier League fixtures against Brighton, Everton and Manchester United — and, although there are options at right wing back, injuries are biting elsewhere.

Lucas Moura suffered a setback and Dejan Kulusevski is expected to be out for at least two weeks after returning from international duty with a hamstring problem.

Lucas Moura has suffered a setback in his attempted return, adding to Spurs' wing-back woes

Lucas Moura has suffered a setback in his attempted return, adding to Spurs' wing-back woes

Lucas Moura has suffered a setback in his attempted return, adding to Spurs’ wing-back woes

As Conte has never shown much faith in Bryan Gil, he probably feels there is little room for manoeuvre in attack, which may go some way to explaining his indecision following the red card. After Royal was sent off Spurs played for nine minutes with Richarlison vaguely deployed at right wing-back but barely defending, during which time Granit Xhaka scored Arsenal’s third — created in that area of the pitch.

Even with two right wing-backs on the bench, Conte wanted to send on left-sided Ryan Sessegnon, before summoning midfielder Yves Bissouma for a double change.

By the time Xhaka made it 3-1, Sessegnon and Bissouma were still not on. When the substitution finally came, it was a quadruple change, involving Davinson Sanchez and Matt Doherty.

By then, it was too late. The game’s key phase had ended, there were 18 minutes from the errors leading to Arsenal’s second goal and the third in the 67th minute, with the red card in between.

Captain Hugo Lloris said there was always ways for Tottenham to improve across the season

Captain Hugo Lloris said there was always ways for Tottenham to improve across the season

Captain Hugo Lloris said there was always ways for Tottenham to improve across the season

It was most unlike Conte.

Some of these lesser-trusted Tottenham players have expressions of patience worn thin but the manager is going to need them, starting with the Champions League tie at Eintracht Frankfurt tomorrow.

Defeat would make it three losses in in four games and the summer optimism will be draining away.

‘Even when we were getting good results we said that there was a gap to improve,’ said Lloris. ‘We are still looking for improvements. The season is very long.’

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