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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Tottenham Hotspur verdict: Gil isn't an A-Lister, Son must be axed, Sarr deserves Conte's faith

Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Aston Villa

By Alessandro Schiavone at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

What can we read into Tottenham Hotspurs’ performance as they shamelessly allowed Aston Villa to walk over them in a 2-0 home defeat?

Facing an Unai Emery side is always a stiff exercise with the former Villarreal manager knocking out both former side Arsenal and Man United in the Yellow Submarines’ run to Europa League success in 2021.

Sitting deep, frustrating the life out of his opposition by keeping the spaces tight and only safely opening up when spotting free spaces to exploit on the break are some of his sides’ famous trademarks.

And the Spaniard returned to London to haunt his former North London nemesis Spurs. And he remarkably did so without controversial Qatar 2022 World Cup hero Emiliano Martinez in goal, who was left out of the starting line-up having only had an couple of training sessions with Aston Villa since returning from his Buenos Aires festivities.

So what did we learn about Antonio Conte’s side who have failed to take the lead in 10 consecutive games?

Bryan Gil is not good enough

The Spaniard made only his first Premier League start since teaming up with Harry Kane et al in summer 2021. But he’s not seized a rare chance that Conte gave him, more out of necessity than choice, looking out of sorts and too predictable on the ball. Besides, he didn’t offer much without the ball as well. And if you don’t track your runners you can’t play for Conte.

Gil was not really involved in the game and looked as though he doesn’t have the trust of his teammates who preferred to pass the ball to other players or go for it themselves despite often seeing him unmarked and calling for the ball. With Kulusevski, Richarlison and Lucas Moura all out with injuries, yesterday represented the perfect opportunity to finally catch his manager’s eye and get his disappointing Premier League career going. But things didn’t go to plan. That said, Gil is only 21 and has talent, leading to think that eventually he’ll make his grade in the game. But the bottom line is that he needs a run of games under his belt to mature, which looks unlikely at Spurs. Yesterday he failed to prove his worth and is not the A-lister Conte craves to turn Spurs from also-rans to title challengers.

Where’s Conte’s blueprint?

After getting off to their best-ever Premier League start in history, Spurs have stagnated. The summer signings haven’t been a success, Son Heung-Min hast lost his way and even Harry Kane looks a shadow of his former self in every other game. His consistency looks to have deserted him. He may score six goals in a week before he goes off the boil again for a longer period of time. Spurs lack forward-thinking, their sideways passes lead nowhere and if they can’t beat opponents through the press they lack a Plan B. To be a threat in the final third, you need players with changes of pace and direction, as Son and Kane once used to do. Instead, the pair ran into dead ends while they failed to seriously test Robin Olsen. So, why not trying to go long at times and stop over passing the ball? Why insisting on Son even though his performances are clearly a head-scratcher? The free-kick he steered straight at Olsen in the 44th minute symbolises his crisis. And lastly, why is Pape Matar Sarr not central to Conte’s plans? He made an encouraging cameo after coming on, dispossessing two Villa players rampaging towards Llloris’ goal. Verdict: Son should play less, Sarr should get more game time and Daniel Levy should listen to offers for Kane next summer.

Romero hasn’t calmed down

The World Cup winner has lost none of his cantankerous, confrontational side despite winning the biggest prize in the game.

He simply loves a fight and a flare-up. If anything, his hunger levels haven’t dwindled, but increased despite going down as an Argentinian football legend already. There was not much he did wrong yesterday as Tottenham were let down by a common mistake from their legendary No 1 Lloris who fumbled a routine shot from Douglas Luiz in perfect Oliver Kahn-esque World Cup 2002 style before Watkins cut the ball back for Buendia to score. Romero is the only World Cup winning player in London and arguably the best centre-back in the capital despite his team’s struggles. But he deserves better.


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