Tottenham Hotspur’s inconsistency is becoming a problem for Antonio Conte, but it is far from a new problem for those who have followed the club over recent years.
Since the heights of the Pochettino era and that Champions League Final, Tottenham have repeatedly fallen short in matches they would be considered favourites to win.
In the past three years alone, the Lilywhites have fallen to Colchester United, Antwerp, Dinamo Zagreb, Pacos Ferreira, Vitesse Arnhem, NS Mura, and most recently, Middlesbrough to name just a few.
Just as it seemed as though Conte had turned a corner with Tottenham following a hard-fought and well-deserved win over Man City, it has very much been a case of one step forward and two steps back.
Beat the reigning champions, lose to Burnley. Put four past Leeds without reply, get knocked out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough.
Spurs seemed devoid of ideas, lacking creative spark, and missing a basic hunger to win on Tuesday night, a recipe for disaster against an impressive Championship outfit looking for a scalp.
While the scoreline made the game look like a smash and grab win in extra time from Boro, they created countless gilt-edged opportunities before the inevitable goal went in.
And for all of Harry Kane’s genius, which has been on show in recent weeks, it appears as though the striker rarely gets a sniff in front of goal unless he starts the move himself.
Yes, we have seen how effective he can be from deep, picking out that long-range assist for Son against Leeds, while also starting a move and then getting on the end of the eventual cross against Man City.
Surely Tottenham should be able to create him a couple of his own chances throughout a match without his help. Kane is one of those players who, no matter how well or poorly he is playing, no matter how involved or absent he appears in a game, if you make him a good chance, he will tuck it away.
Unfortunately, Spurs are simply not making the most of their most potent weapon at the moment. On Tuesday, and in countless other games of late, that seems to come from a lack of quality in wide areas and a lack of creativity and bravery in the centre of the pitch.
Too often, the ball is recycled sideways rather than players looking to pick balls between the lines or drive at players. What we would give for a trademark Mousa Dembele dribble or a Christian Eriksen pass to unlock a defence at the moment.
However, amongst all this doom, gloom and obvious shortcomings, I am beginning to see one thing that I really like… trademark wing-back play.
This happened against Leeds United and it happened again on Tuesday against Boro.
In the former, we saw Ryan Sessegnon assist Matt Doherty at the back post. We also saw the right-wing-back whip two crosses into Sess that he was merely inches away from. At the Riverside, once again Sessegnon came close to scoring from a Doherty ball in.
Conte is infamous for his three-at-the-back formations, using wing-backs on both sides as the main avenue of attack. Up until now, this has been hit and miss on the left with Sergio Reguilon, or miss and miss on the right with Emerson Royal.
But the one golden sign that a Conte system is working is when one wing-back finds the other in attack.
Of course, these are just the first steps and there is a whole lot more work to be done, but as time goes on, it appears Tottenham are at least getting to grips with a system that could prove fruitful if it gets the backing of the board this summer.
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