Tottenham have made vast strides in the right direction since Antonio Conte took the helm, but most impressive is the individual improvement of Ben Davies and Eric Dier.
Conte’s intense, competitive aura has immediately rubbed off on the entire Spurs’ cast. More committed, dedicated and devoted, Tottenham’s players have, aside from a wretched loss to Mura, done the badge proud.
Before Conte arrived on the scene, Spurs, who allowed three goals on four separate occasions, conceded goals galore. That is no longer the case, with Dier and Davies the most influential part of Spurs defensive turnaround.
Much of Spurs recent defensive success is attributed to the high-intensity press Conte is adamant on consistently executing. Though members of the rearguard, in order to successfully press, must be reliable and individually sound.
Davies has come into his own on the left side of Conte’s back three, while Dier is taking on the increased responsibility of being the central marshal in stride. Both veterans have all but cut out individual errors that previously plagued them. And both have visibly grown in stature, thanks in large part to the faith their new manager has placed in them.
Counterintuitively at first though, Davies is getting forward and causing more of an attacking threat than he did as a left back when Spurs employed four in the rearguard. Because the wing backs are in such an advanced position, Davies has acres of space to exploit. Now he has the confidence, not only in himself but in his covering colleagues, to venture forward.
He is also mopping up expertly as a left-sided central defender. Today was a prime example of how effective the Welshman has been since his increasing influence in the side. Davies, in the manner you’d expect from even the most accomplished centre backs, dominated against a side reeling at the bottom of the table.
Dier has also substantially elevated his play. He is constantly barking orders at his defensive comrades, organizing and pulling the strings. Growing in confidence with every stable performance, Dier is starting to resemble the player who originally endeared himself to Spurs supporters all those years ago.
He still has a long way to go before Tottenham supporters once again truly trust him, but Dier is on a promising road to regain the faith he has lost.
Since Conte took the helm, Spurs have conceded just one Premier League goal in four matches. While the level of competition has favoured Spurs, you can only play the team in front of you. Keeping three clean sheets out of four, no matter the opponent, is not only a testament to the work Conte has done, but a reflection of how far Dier and Davies have come in a month under the Italian’s intoxicating influence.
The honeymoon period is going well under Conte’s stewardship. The challenge is sustaining, even improving, the overall standard on a consistent basis, and seeing whether Spurs have the endurance and stamina to fulfil Conte’s lofty physical and mental demands.
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If Davies and Dier continue to relish their increased influence on the team, Spurs have every chance, especially when Cristian Romero recovers from his current injury, of regaining their top-four stature.