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5 things Antonio Conte has learned during preseason

The Premier League campaign is only days away and Tottenham have one friendly left before the season opener against Southampton. Transfer news is still dominating headlines in North London, but manager Antonio Conte is more focused on the players already available to him.

The final scores of the club’s three preseason friendlies aren’t important. Conte and his staff are much more concerned about the team’s performance and how individual players are looking. There has been a lot for Conte to unpack.

Here are the five biggest lessons the Italian gaffer has gotten a chance to observe over the past several weeks. Most of it is good news, but no preseason is perfect and the same is true for this effort for Spurs. Conte can start with an issue with his backline.

Tottenham: Preseason takeaways for Antonio Conte

5. The depth at center back is unsettled

The starting trio of Eric Dier, Cristian Romero, and Ben Davies is largely set in stone. Davies is struggling with an injury at the moment which has his status for the Southampton match in question. New arrival Clement Lenglet seems like the most likely man to step in his place as the left-sided center back.

The question of who will back up Dier and Romero is more complicated. Joe Rodon came on against Rangers after Dier picked up a slight knock, but he’s struggled mightily for game time under Conte. Davinson Sanchez could be the man to fill that void but he has been forced to play on the left during the preseason.

The uncertainty over Japhet Tanganga’s future has clouded Conte’s depth chart. If he secures a strongly-rumored move to Serie A then Tottenham may need to bring in another defender to provide depth. Spurs fans shouldn’t be shocked if a big-money center-back arrives later in the transfer window.

4. Lucas Moura still has a role to play

Moura will always have a special place in the hearts of Spurs fans due to his Champions League heroics. That doesn’t change the fact that many fans believed his career in Tottenham was in serious jeopardy after the club’s decision to spend big money on Richarlison this summer.

5 things Antonio Conte has learned during preseason

Instead of sinking down the attacking depth chart, Lucas has opted to adapt to increase his value in Conte’s eyes. His move to the right wing-back spot during preseason makes it much more likely that he will enjoy another season playing for Tottenham.

The question is whether or not Lucas can really carve out meaningful time as a new fullback despite the intense competition at right-wing-back. Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal both return as imperfect solutions for Conte. Djed Spence was signed to give a big boost to the club’s present and future options. Moura will need to beat out two of the th

3. The midfield depth chart is jumbled

Conte needs a highly-effective midfield pairing to make his patented tactical system work. That’s why Tottenham made the shrewd move to pry Yves Bissouma away from Brighton early in the transfer window.

Contracting COVID-19 during the trip to Korea delayed Bissouma’s ability to assimilate into the first-team alignment. He did play meaningful minutes against Rangers and acquitted himself reasonably well.

 

If Bissouma wants to be one of Conte’s first choice pairing he needs to knock either Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg or Rodrigo Bentancur out of their place. That says nothing about Oliver Skipp’s ability to return from injury and reclaim his spot in the starting XI.

The upside for Tottenham is that they have four legitimate central midfielders they can comfortably start against any opponent. The challenge for Conte is to find the right combinations to really make his team play at a high level. It could be a storyline that extends well into the regular season for the club’s hierarchy. Options can be both a blessing and a curse.

1. Richarlison is the odd-man out upfront

Tottenham’s decision to spend big money on a player that wasn’t a clear member of their starting XI was a significant departure from the club’s prior operating procedure. That doesn’t mean the Richarlison purchase isn’t going to pay off handsomely for Spurs.

5 things Antonio Conte has learned during preseason

 

Some fans are going to be frustrated when the talented Brazilian starts the season on the bench. He’s worked hard during the preseason, but he hasn’t managed to gel alongside Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in the same way Dejan Kulusevski did early in his tenure with the club.

 

That’s why the Kane-Son-Kulusevski trio is still a strong bet to be the starting group up front against Southampton. Expect Richarlison to play a part of the bench in almost all of his early matches, but it might take him time to work his way into Conte’s first-choice starting XI.

Richarlison’s biggest impact early for Tottenham will be giving Conte the license to rest his top attackers against opponents that aren’t at the top of the club’s priority list. He’s going to play a lot of football this season for his new team. He’s just going to start the year as the odd-man out upfront for Conte in the club’s biggest matches.

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