Spurs v Leeds – An Opportunity for Conte’s Counter Attack

In his latest Twitter thread FPL Sonaldo has been writing about his name sake Son Heung-Min and the Conte effect at Spurs.

You can find the Tweet here.

SPURS VS LEEDS – An Opportunity for Conte’s Build Up/Counter Attack

Why I’m excited for Kane, but especially Son.

(In Theory of Course)

First, welcome back to FPL. GW 11 now feels like a lifetime ago, and a lot has happened over the international break, which makes GW 12 even more exciting.

@pras_fpl and I have started a new weekly video series on FFSCOUT youtube, where we will be covering 1-2 hot topics for the week. Please feel free to check it out!

Conte

When Conte first arrived at Spurs, he was thrown into the fire, playing two games in a short amount of time and had barely any time to train with the team. With two weeks off, I’m sure the players who stayed behind has had plenty of time to work with Conte and this will be a key to how Spurs perform this weekend against Leeds. I’m sure those fringe Spurs players have done everything to grab the attention of their new world class gaffer, Antonio Conte. 

The prediction I present is simple: I believe Spurs have a great opportunity here to expose Leed’s high press and as a result, I see Kane/Son getting some returns this game week.  I will try to explain why. 

Tactics

  • First, it is important to understand what Conte brings to the table. Conte is known for his 3 back system, a 3-4-3, 3-4-1-2, but is most effective with his 3-5-2. However, it will take time and at least one transfer window to get his desired 3-5-2 due to the lack of players that fits his color in his current squad. Conte is known to be adaptable and usually will work with what he has initially and will try to obtain results. Hence, we saw quite a defensive team play against Everton.
  • Unlike Pep, Conte is not so worried about ball possession. This is evident in the fact that his winning teams usually do not possess high ball possession for a winning team.
    • Chelsea (16/17) – 54% ball possession (#6 in the league)
    • Intermilan (20/21) – 52% ball possession (#6 in the league)
  • However, he does love to build up from the back with short passes. This is not because of possession, but rather to bring the opposition higher up the pitch and try to quickly counter while the opposition is pressing. This is evident in the fact that his winning teams had the most goals on the counter in the league.
    • Chelsea (16/17) – 7 goals on the counter
    • Intermilan (20/21) – 9 goals on the counter
  • Leeds is known to be an extremely high pressing team and have incredible intensity. They are still one of the highest pressing teams this season regardless of their results. 
  • Last season, Bielsa was able to form solid offensive structure that allowed them to cover key open spaces when exposed during the high press, but with the amount of key players missing, it has been a difficult start for Leeds. As a result, oppositions have found a lot of free space to expose Bielsa thus far. 

CB/Wingbacks

  • Although there are many ways that Conte utilized his winning teams to counter while the opposition pressed, the CB’s ability to pass the ball is crucial. At Intermilan, Bastoni & Skriniar were excellent passers. Often, as the left center back, Bastoni would keep the ball, bring the opposition closer to the left side of the pitch, and play a long diagonal ball to Hakimi (right wingback) and Hakimi would expose this open space. When Bastoni was injured, Kolarov would play this role, noting the importance of Conte’s CB ability to pass. 
  • This is why Royal & Reguilon have suddenly seen a resurgence in their form. We also saw Ben Davies and Romero start on the left/right CB role with Dier in the middle, because of their ability to pass. I also noticed in the first two games, Romero was playing a few long balls as well. *Romero just limped off with a possible hamstring injury, which is quite unfortunate. 
  • Hence, we all know by now the importance of the wingbacks in Conte’s system. They must be fast and direct.
    • Chelsea: Alonso & Moses
    • Intermilan: Perisic & Hakimi

Midfielders

  • Another way, Conte counters while the opposition presses, is by utilizing his midfielders who must be great on the ball and off the ball. He lacks this currently as a player like Barella is needed at Tottenham. When Barella would slot deeper to receive the ball from the keeper or CB, two things happened
    • Barella receives the ball and uses his ability to get past the opposition mid following him
    • Barella was a dummy and the keeper would play a long ball to Lukaku. Then Barella would make the direct run and receive the ball back from Lukaku. 
  • Lo Celso/Ndombele are currently not seen so far in this role because of their inability to defend. Hence, we saw them as like-for-like subsitutions for Son & Lucas. In Conte’s system, the midfielders (all three) must be good defensively to prevent counters as their wingbacks are always exposed. 

BIG & SMALL Fowards 

  • As mentioned above, the CB/Wingbacks/Mid will be a work in progress. But what Conte already has at his disposal is the deadly Son & Kane. 
    • Italy: Eder & Pele
    • Chelsea: Costa/Giroud & Hazard
    • Intermilan: Laotaro & Lukaku
  • Conte always makes the best out of his two forward combination and against Leed’s high press this could become the primary weapon. 
  • I believe Kane is one of the best strikers in posting up and if a long ball is played to him, we could see a lot of what we saw last year with, Son making those lethal runs behind. 
  • I think we will see a 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 implemented this game, which could bode great for the Spurs duo. 
  • However, if we do see a 3-4-3, as Leeds presses, we can see the 3-4-3 morph into a 2-3-5 with Reggy and Royal bombing down and exposing the half spaces behind. 
  • In a 3-4-3, Son can also flourish making the third man run. Kane drops, lucas pins the CB in place, and son makes the run behind that CB. It’s very difficult to spot and there is no statistic to back this up, but pure eye test. It’s rare to spot the third man run. It’s a very quick transition tactic if you have good team chemistry. 

Final Thoughts

  • Football is a game of time and space and we’re about to see two master tacticians go at each other (Conte and Bielsa). 
  • Of course, this is a lot of theory and could be proven to be too optimistic as Spurs are certainly not a winning team yet. Also, Skipp is injured which means Winks will most likely start as the holding mid and Romero may be injured as well.
  • On the flip side, Leeds have several injuries as well, plus their defensive line is not so fast, which means Son can thrive with those super speedy runs.
  • Regardless, I’m optimistic to see my boy Sonny get on the scoresheet and could not be more excited for this game! Welcome back FPL!

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