Chelsea setback highlights work ahead for Conte
Although his team selection for the League Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea bordered on a cry for help or indeed a political push for transfer funds, Antonio Conte has had a predictably positive effect on Tottenham. The Italian has delivered 18 points from eight league games, despite this not being the group of players that he ultimately wants.
Although some fans seem nervous that the former Inter, Chelsea and Juventus boss will walk if chairman Daniel Levy keeps a tight grip on the purse strings, Conte has not publicly rattled his sabre on that issue.
January may bring some movement in that regard, but Conte is at least delivering consistent home form, and the team has more structure and a greater goal threat than it had under his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo.
According to Infogol, Tottenham have posted an Expected Goals For figure of at least 2.0 in seven of Conte’s eight top-flight matches. They didn’t do it once under Nuno which shows that despite his reputation as a taskmaster and an organiser, Conte can coach a team to attack.
Centre-backs Eric Dier and Cristian Romero are out injured, and have been joined on the sidelines by Heung-Min Son. Steven Bergwijn and Sergio Reguilon are both doubts.
Anfield draw showcased Gunners’ new-found belief
Arsenal have often collapsed in games at Liverpool in recent years, and indeed earlier this season they were swept aside 4-0. However, despite the first-half sending-off of Granit Xhaka (a man magnetically attracted to misfortune and misadventure), the Gunners dug in for a goalless draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
They were well organised, determined and they posed a threat in attack at times. Yes, Liverpool were shorn of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but Arsenal managed to make a very good side with a numerical advantage look ordinary.
Such performances must be produced in volume if Arteta is to secure the Champions League spot he and the club so crave. It appears only fourth spot is realistically up for grabs, and if that is true, then Arsenal will have to see off Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham.
Arsenal are, at time of writing, priced at 3.052/1 in the Top 4 Finish market, which interestingly makes them favourites to finish above Spurs 3.211/5, Man Utd 3.7511/4 and West Ham (trading at a chunky 6.05/1).
Arsenal have lost players to injury and suspension, but despite only losing one player to COVID-19 (Martin Odegaard), they have applied to have this game postponed. Given the opaque nature of Premier League decision-making, you can understand why they would chance their arm, but it seems a little cheeky given that Folarin Balogun and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were recently loaned out and that there isn’t exactly a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp.
Spurs are fair favourites
If we assume that the game goes ahead, then Spurs are attractively priced at 2.245/4 to take three points here, and that price has collapsed due to Arsenal’s personnel issues.
Tottenham have won four of their five PL home games under Conte, and the other saw them give Liverpool an almighty scare in a 2-2 draw. Despite the somewhat limp surrender in the Carabao Cup, Conte has taken the league far more seriously, as he knows a Champions League spot is the main priority.
Arsenal are improving under Arteta, but they are stretched thin here, and they have lost three of their last five top-flight away matches.
A tight tussle is on the cards
Arsenal could be without Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard, so creativity could be in short supply. Don’t be surprised if Arteta reverts to type and tries to grind out a result, a tactic he has often attempted in big games.
Tottenham might have to work hard to break Arsenal down here, and Under 2.5 Goals looks a decent play at 1.910/11. It has landed in four of Conte’s eight PL games, but you could also consider backing No in the BTTS market at 2.1211/10. That wager has been successful in 12 of Spurs’ 18 league matches, and 12 of Arsenal’s 20 PL outings.
Kane always an option at odds-against
Any time that Harry Kane is above evens in the To Score market, he is an option worth considering. Yes, the England skipper has been out of sorts for much of the campaign, but he has scored in four of his last eight games. He has 11 goals in 12 meetings with the Gunners, and is 2.226/5 to find the net here.