but also some usual failings.
A first start brought some life to Spurs, in their victory over Fulham that should have been more comfortable than the final scoreline of 2-1 but for missed chances and letting them back into it.
With a game last midweek and the Champions League kicking off this midweek, Conte made more changes than he has before to the starting XI.
Bentancur returned after missing the West Ham game. Romero was back after a three game absence, Sessegnon was back at left wingback, while Lenget and Richarlison made their first starts of the season.
The Frenchman replaced Conte favourite and so far ever present Davies in defence, while the Brazilian forward, in a surprise to many, was in for Kulusevski. Now many had been calling for Richarlison to start but most were seeing him replace the under performing Son rather than the Swede.
You can see it both ways. Conte knows Son is class but going through a slump. One goal for the Korean and he’ll be back. While others have seen Son slump and maybe not give his all in situations so far this season. Would he be better coming off the bench, say if Spurs are well ahead and getting what might be considered an easy late goal, to get him going?
Son did look brighter, maybe having Richarlison running riot, opened up the space required and occupied defenders that have so far this season blocked Sonny’s path to goal. He didn’t though get that goal needed. He had the chances, he had the shots. It just wouldn’t come good for him.
Spurs were up for it from the start, a faster more determined approach than we’ve seen of late. maybe having Richarlison there, just adding that go forward and bite. On thing was Bentancur providing a bit more composure and stability in the middle, helped quite a bit.
The only thing missing was the width. Emerson was repeatedly left in acres of space wide right and repeatedly buggered up every move when he got the ball. While Sessegnon started the season on a flyer, looking like the being kept, while Perisic coming in had given him that kick on. A few games dropped for the Croat and he looks lost again. Blind panic and clueless when getting into good positions. Two decent wingbacks, Perisic on the left and why not Kulusevski on the right. And this game could have been over before Hojbjerg opened the scoring.
It was 40 minutes in when a combination of Emerson and Richarlison won the ball, a bit of pinball around the box and when Hojbjerg played the ball into Richy, got it back and hit in the far corner.
It took another half hour after the break for the second and eventual winner. This was quality stuff from Spurs, one touch, going forward. Them at their best. Before Kane tapped in another. VAR checked and actually got something right, on a weekend of howlers.
Richy nearly got his goal with a volley from Son’s cross, after some more nice build play between the pair, but the ball hit the post. It was all happening about the Fulham area, until just after this miss, when Hojbjerg was tackled in that area – was that checked by VAR? Looked dodgy – from their Fulham broke quickly. A long ball to Mitrovic, he cut inside past a weak and lazy attempt at a challenge by Romero and then curled the ball into the top corner, giving Hugo no chance.
It went from being very comfortable to being nervy, just like that. After turning Romero easily again, and getting by an equally weak attempt at a challenge by Emerson, Mitorovic’s shot was deflected and it took a hell of a save from Hugo to stop points being dropped.
It looked like Richy had saved the day as he ran away stripping off his shirt, after sliding in to put away Sessegnon’s cross. But VAR ruled that the former Fulham man had been offside in the buildup.
So a better performance, more life, a victory and getting some new boys in and old boys back. As said Bentancur brought some composure, his languid style reminiscent of Spurs stars of old. It moves Hojbjerg up and gets the best out of the Viking. Lenget had a quietly comfortable afternoon but looks the part. While Richarlison could have got off the mark, after an impressive first start. Apart from the goal conceded and the nerves that entailed, it was the only real downside on the afternoon, Richy and Son not scoring.
Be interesting to see who Conte starts against Marseille on Wednesday. If he was resting players with teh changes to the starting XI, he didn’t use his 5 subs again, in fact he’s only used them twice so far and one of those times was in the first game when they were 4-1 up and cruising.