Conte’s fourth cup game for Spurs was looking like it could be the worst yet, which after the midweek debacle and the ECL loss, is saying something.
Like managers before him, and no doubt managers that’ll follow, Antonio Conte is finding out that resting your top talent and playing the understudies – giving them a a chance to show their worth – against lower league opposition in cup competitions, just doesn’t work well at Spurs.
Nine times out of ten you end up with a game like this. A team in the third division, 21st in the third division, with the worst defensive record in the third division – having conceded over 2 goals per game, so far – rock up with a flat back ten and Spurs second XI haven’t a clue how to break them down. Saying that, we’ve seen the first XI struggle enough times.
Conte’s line up – again – didn’t help. a 3-1-4-2 formation was OK, though do you really need three centre-backs against Morecambe? Two wingbacks OK, two attackers in the midfield, in Ndombele and Lo Celso but behind them Winks and in front of them Dele and Gil.
Neither of them being strikers, was there any point in having wingbacks putting in crosses. Dele, when he was a regular used to ghost into the box not lead the line, while Gil is pretty much a midget, something exacerbated by the useless lobs into the box from Winks, all of which were far too high for the intended target, just leading to them weakly heading the ball up – and more on those later.
But nothing was coming from those two attacking midfielders, Lo Celso’s free-kicks were beyond awful, while they just couldn’t find a ball to break the lines.
Someone the other day Tweeted while lauding Winks that the game is about possession and Winks is all about possession. No, the game is about doing something, there’s no point having the ball if you do nothing with it bar pass it sideways and backwards, to pad you passing stats and keep the ball for keeping the ball sake. While Spurs went in at the break with 77% possession, Morecambe went in one nil up.
Half an hour in and more inept defending from a set piece. Tanganga too busy looking at his man and trying to manhandle his man to notice he as the one the ball was falling to and going to score.
The only change Conte made at the break was to switch the wingbacks. Yup, that’s right, after watching Doherty not work at left wingback, Conte tried it again. And again it didn’t work, but it meant there was more cutting inside, so more congestion inside and less space to try and find space for a ball through the crammed middle of the Morecambe area.
It took until nearly the 70th minute before Conte made a real change and itw as a sad indictment that they had to bring on Kane, Moura and Skipp to get past the team 21st in the third division. Departing were Gil, Dele and Ndombele, the latter taking the longest time to depart, after another chance he hasn’t taken.
The equaliser came from another one of those over hit balls from Winks – as someone said on Twitter “the classic yearly accidental winks goal”. Some clowns claiming he meant it, and they meant it, while he at least had the good grace not to act as if it was anything but a badly hit fluke.
The winner came from Moura chasing down and pressing, winning the ball and then just setting off. Round the keeper and into the back of the net. Simply down, direct play, no fannying about. It was over by then, before Kane added an 88th minute third, with an excellent turn and shot.
Maybe in future in cup games like this the manager should start with his best players and then bring them off when the lead is well established.
Brighton in the fourth round… will there be new faces… or will Conte be stuck playing the same lot again… will Conte even be here after what looks like being a disappointing January transfer window…