Antonio Conte praises Harry Kane
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Antonio Conte can only shudder to think of where Tottenham would be this season without their talisman Harry Kane after his goal helped his side to a narrow 1-0 win over Fulham. The 29-year-old gave a timely reminder of why the club must do all they can to keep him for the long-term after he equalled the club’s all-time goalscoring record on 266 goals with Jimmy Greaves.
Spurs were far from convincing in the first half as the hosts dominated possession, pinging in crosses from all angles to test the resolve of Hugo Lloris. That was until Kane, on the swivel, struck a powerful low effort that nestled into the side netting just before half time to provide some much-needed relief for the Italian.
That proved to be enough for all three points but, while the back three held firm, the overall performance was far from impressive and would have done little to appease the Spurs fans who want their side to play attractive football while winning.
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No one has ever accused the South Korean of downing tools – his tireless work ethic is one admirable aspect of his character – but some may suggest he is trying to too hard to end his mysterious drought in front of goal. That was reflected when he was fortunate not to see red for a late challenge on Kenny Tete which was more overzealous than malicious.
Son has gone from winning the Golden Boot with 23 goals last season to just finding the net only once in his last 13 appearances. The pressure of playing every week and the mid-season World Cup may have taken its toll on his fitness, but there is something lacking in his play when it comes to the final third.
Of course, the 30-year-old can console himself that at least he is contributing in some way after laying on a simple pass to assist for Kane with the opening goal. But the fact he was brought off late on for Richarlison suggests that Conte knows he can no longer accept Son’s goal worries continuing while his side struggle to find the net.
The Swede is yet to hit the heights that he enjoyed after signing on loan from Juventus last January and there may be a simple explanation behind his dip in form.
The 22-year-old began his Spurs career with a real purple patch, with three goals and six assists in his first eight appearances. His contributions have dried up somewhat in 2022-23, with only two goals this season from 12 appearances. Injury problems have played their part in keeping him sidelined, but the winger has looked rusty of late.
There were some signs of a return to form after he scored in the 4-2 defeat to Manchester City last time out. But up against Robinson, he could not find a way past the American full-back even when trying his best trickery. With ineffectual displays like this, it is perhaps no surprise Conte is doing his best to sign Nicolo Zaniolo from Roma.
Conte knew what he was getting from the Croatian when he swooped in to sign the 33-year-old on a free transfer last summer and after an impressive few months, it looked a shrewd acquisition.
But Perisic has looked lost in being asked to play as a left wing-back, which has brought Ryan Sessegnon back in from the cold to rotate with the veteran winger. He was lucky to escape punishment for an incident in the second half when he raised his boot high in a 50-50 with Bobby De Cordova-Reid, with VAR unable to intervene as it took place outside the box.
Creatively, Spurs cannot have any complaints with his eight assists in all competitions this season. In recent weeks, however, Perisic has been less effective in carrying out his duties, leading to genuine doubts over his ability to command a place in the lineup every week.
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