Tottenham have won only one of their last 35 visits to Chelsea, but their rejuvenation under former Blues boss Antonio Conte shows Wednesday’s trip could be different.
The 13-year itch without a trophy – could it finally be ending for Spurs? Live on Sky Sports on Wednesday night, Tottenham visit Stamford Bridge, a ground where they have a hapless record – just one win in their last 35 visits.
Wednesday 5th January 7:00pm
Kick off 7:45pm
But if anyone can change that, Antonio Conte can. The Italian led Chelsea to the Premier League and FA Cup titles in his two seasons there, and he boasts a 72 per cent win record at Stamford Bridge (38 wins in 53 games).
Spurs going the distance
Conte was appointed Tottenham manager on November 3, and since then, only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City – who have won all 11 games – have bettered Spurs’ points per game tally of 2.3. His transformation of the Tottenham side has been truly remarkable given how devoid of creativity and energy they appeared in the opening games of the season under previous head coach Nuno Espirito Santo.
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The biggest difference has come in the distance the Spurs players walk, jog and run per game. From covering the lowest average distance in the league under Nuno (100km), they are now registering the most (114km). Spurs covered more than the Premier League average of 102km in only two matches under Nuno, and their best record under him was 103km. Furthermore, the 94.5km they moved during their game against Crystal Palace in September is the lowest by any Premier League team this season.
In Conte’s first match in charge, Spurs covered 10km more than Nuno’s league average, and in his second they added an additional 7km (117km in total). From covering the lowest distance in a Premier League game this season, they covered the most in their game against Norwich, a staggering 121.6km.
The change of 14km in the average distance covered under the different managers is a collective effort by all the players – they are all moving at least 1km more. Japhet Tanganga, Davinson Sanchez and Oliver Skipp have provided the biggest improvements. Their distances run have increased by 1.9km, 1.7km and 1.5km per 90 minutes respectively.
Less ‘narrow’ minded?
The average positions of the Spurs players under both the managers paint an interesting picture. Under Nuno, Heung-Min Son (LW) and Harry Kane (FW) played in very similar positions, and hence gave few other options to their teammates. Width was only provided by the two full-backs, and the rest of their play seemed extremely narrow. Under Conte, there is a much wider gap between the positions of Son (LAM) and Kane (FW) – resulting in a more evenly spread formation.
The change in shape has resulted in Spurs creating more chances, but also through different avenues. They are not just reliant on their front men. Per game, wing-backs Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal have collectively had five more touches in the opposition box, put in three more crosses, and created 1.5 more chances.
A forward-thinking approach…
A change in manager has increased the performance levels of the two Spurs front men, Kane and Son. What is immediately evident from Kane’s heat map under the different managers is that he is getting more touches inside and around the box under Conte, and this is borne out by the improvement in his attacking stats per 90.
He has more than doubled his shots from inside the box (2.7 under Conte v 1.2 under Nuno) and tripled his xG (0.6 under Conte v 0.2 under Nuno). This has resulted in Kane quadrupling his Premier League goals tally from one to four since the Italian took charge, with three in eight games under Conte.
Son’s attacking output has also increased, and he has scored four goals and another two assists since the Italian took over. The greatest difference in Son’s play can be seen in his number of forward passes. Under Nuno, most of his passes were back towards his own goal. Under Conte, the majority are played forward or laterally, attempting to spread play to the right wing.
Defensive solidity has always been a cornerstone of Conte’s teams – his Chelsea side racked up 43 clean sheets in 106 games – so the big question at Tottenham was whether he would be able to transform their attacking fortunes.
On first glance, they seem to be passing the test. Tonight’s match against Spurs’ fierce London rivals Chelsea coupled with the strain of winning their first silverware in 13 years will surely be a sterner examination of their credentials.