Tottenham have only won one of their last 35 away games to Chelsea, but rejuvenation under former Blues manager Antonio Conte shows Wednesday’s trip may be different.
The 13-year-old itch with no trophy: could it finally end for the Spurs? Live Sky Sports Wednesday night, Tottenham will visit Stamford Bridge, a stadium where they have an unfortunate record: only one win in their last 35 visits.
But if someone can change it, Antonio Conte can do it. The Italian led Chelsea to the Premier League and FA Cup titles in his two seasons there, and boasts a 72% win record at Stamford Bridge (38 wins in 53 games).
Spurs going far
Conte was named Tottenham manager on 3 November and since then only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City – who have won all 11 games – have surpassed the Spurs’ score of 2.3. His transformation of the Tottenham team was truly remarkable given how lacking creativity and energy they appeared in the opening matches of the season under former manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
The biggest difference came in the distance Spurs players walk, jog and run per game. Since covering the lowest average distance in the league under Nuno (100km), they are now registering the largest number (114km). The Spurs have covered more than the Premier League average of 102km in just two games under Nuno, and their best record under him was 103km. In addition, the 94.5km traveled during the match against Crystal Palace in September is the lowest of any Premier League team this season.
In Conte’s first match at the wheel, the Spurs traveled 10km more than Nuno’s championship average, and in the second they added another 7km (117km in total). From covering the shortest distance in a Premier League match this season, they’ve covered the most in their match against Norwich, a staggering 121.6km.
The 14km change in the average distance covered by different managers is a collective effort of all players – they are everything moving at least 1 km more. Japhet Tanganga, Davinson Sanchez, and Oliver Skipp provided the biggest improvements. Their distances traveled increased by 1.9 km, 1.7 km and 1.5 km respectively for 90 minutes.
Less “restricted” mentality?
The average positions of the Spurs players under both coaches paint an interesting picture. Under Nuno, Heung-Min Son (LW) and Harry Kane (FW) played in very similar positions, and thus gave few other options to their teammates. Width was provided only by the two full backs, and the rest of their game felt extremely tight. Under Conte, there is a much wider gap between the positions of Son (LAM) and Kane (FW), resulting in a more even formation.
The change of form has led the Spurs to create more chances, but also through different paths. They don’t just depend on their front men. Per game, full-backs Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal collectively had five more touches in the opposition area, placed three more and created 1.5 more chances.
A forward-looking approach …
A change of manager has increased the performance of the two Spurs frontmen, Kane and Son. What is immediately evident from Kane’s heat map under the different trainers is that he is getting more touches in and around the area under Conte, and this is confirmed by his improved offensive stats for 90.
He more than doubled his shots from inside the box (2.7 under Conte vs 1.2 under Nuno) and tripled his xG (0.6 under Conte vs 0.2 under Nuno). This has resulted in Kane quadruple his Premier League tally from one to four since the Italian took the lead, with three in eight games under Conte.
Son’s offensive ability has also increased, and he has scored four goals and two more assists since the Italian took over. The biggest difference in Son’s game can be seen in his number of forward passes. Under Nuno, most of his passages have returned to his own door. Under Conte the majority is played forward or sideways, trying to widen the game on the right wing.
Defensive solidity has always been a cornerstone of Conte’s sides – his Chelsea racked up 43 goalless goals in 106 games – so the big question at Tottenham was whether he would be able to turn their fortunes on offense.
At first glance, they appear to pass the test. Tonight’s match against Spurs’ fierce London rivals Chelsea, coupled with an effort to win their first trophy in 13 years, will surely be a more severe test of their credentials.