Unbeaten in four and winning their third straight in the league under new coach Antonio Conte, there is one change in Tottenham Hotspur that is undeniable.
Tottenham is again scoring goals, with seven in their last three games. Just as important, Spurs are again playing defence, with three clean sheets and only one goal conceded in four league matches under Conte. The Lilywhites are even seeing a renaissance in long thought surplus players, as our Gary Pearson wrote. However, without a doubt, the biggest change in Tottenham Hotspur is the fitness of the players, which shows up in places like player ratings.
It has been a while since Tottenham has been fit
It has been more than two seasons since Tottenham has really been the fittest team on the pitch. Mauricio Pochettino had lost the drive to demand the work and Jose Mourinho was never going to do it. Mourinho’s old-school, you keep yourself fit approach, clearly did not work for everyone at Spurs.
Prior to the start of this season, it looked as if Mourinho’s successor, Nuno Espirito Santo was going to get that level of physicality back to what Spurs needed. However, as the season went from good to bad – quickly – Santo and the team went into more and more of a shell so if there was fitness it could not be seen.
Enter Antonio Conte as the new coach in November and immediately the talk from the coach was about getting players up to the level of physicality and fitness necessary to play his scheme.
Now a month after Conte took over, that adherence to fitness, whether the work on the pitch or off where diets have been adjusted, is starting to pay off on the pitch as was visible in the 3-0 win over Norwich.
Fitness impacts every aspect of Spurs’ game
Whether it was Oliver Skipp getting to the ball first, Lucas Moura being able to control all his touches, or Ben Davies looking a proper international footballer these improvements all start with fitness.
When a player has more stamina they can go for more balls and get to them first. Yellow cards are down as have been questionable tackles because Spurs are fresher on the pitch. The same is true for better touches and control, if you are physically in control of yourself, it is much easier to control the ball.
Even players thinking and decision-making are improved if more oxygen is getting to the brain more easily, that is just science and we are starting to see it on the pitch.
Look at how active, alert, and successful Hugo Lloris was coming off his lines multiple times like he did when he was in his mid-twenties. That is the confidence that proper fitness brings.
Yes, the tactics are very, very sound and clearly, Tottenham players are getting more and more comfortable in what is being asked of them. Nonetheless, it is improving fitness that makes all of those other elements stick as Norwich found out on Sunday.
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