To get the most impact from Conte’s approach to football, Spurs need strong play from the wings. Unfortunately, for much of Conte’s tenure at Tottenham, the play from the wide areas has been inconsistent at best and non-existent at worst. Maybe the most frustrating piece has been the lack of consistent availability of the players slated to play at wing-back, which is where Spurs are again now.
Doherty was an answer for Tottenham
The only player who has genuinely looked comfortable playing wing-back for Tottenham has been Matt Doherty. Whether the Irishman has lined up on the left or the right in the formation, his understanding of how to play the role made him an integral part of Spurs’ most recent purple patch of play.
Unfortunately, for Doherty and Spurs, Matt was injured and is now out for the season. His injury, along with Japhet Tanganga already being out, leaves Spurs shorthanded. Directly ahead of their critical showdown with Leicester City on Sunday, Conte has reported that Reguilon has picked up a groin injury and will be out for the match.
The injuries on both sides of the pitch leave Conte with few choices on Sunday.
Likely Conte plays conservatively
The Italian manager has shown he is more conservative than not in most of his decisions, meaning we likely know who will play at wing-back on Sunday.
Ryan Sessegnon and Emerson Royal have both had up-and-down seasons. After Doherty, Sessegnon may be the closest thing to a natural wing-back on Spurs roster; however, the young Englishman has struggled to stay healthy and available, stunting his progress at the top level.
Royal was brought in to play fullback for Tottenham and showed early promise as a wing-back under Conte. However, a lack of confidence and clear struggles in understanding the role and requirements have left more questions than answers for the young Brazilian.
Neither Royal nor Sessegnon is likely to provide many scoring opportunities, although both have had moments this season. Neither has consistently done enough to instill confidence coming down the stretch, not that Reguilon has performed any better.
Time for alternative wing-backs at Tottenham?
Spurs will be addressing wing-back in the summer. Until then, given Sessegnon’s fragility and Royal’s overall performances, Conte needs a backup plan. Some might favour looking at Lucas Moura or Steven Bergwijn on either side. Alternatively, Dejan Kulusevski could play there as well.
The problem with those three solutions is the lack of depth it leaves Spurs with. If something were to happen to Son, there would be no backup. Likewise, if both Deki and Moura were to start on the right, the options behind either would again be slim, although Kulusevski did end the last week at wing-back.
The other and most likely possibility is Ben Davies playing at left wing-back. As good as Davies has been at level centre-back, with Davinson Sanchez and Joe Rodon available, Spurs could easily field a potent back three and push Davies up the left. Last weekend it was Sanchez to back and Davies pushing out wide that Conte ultimately chose to try and shake things up.
No matter what Conte decides, the options are not great, but it is what it is. At least until the summer.