A night of release, and especially a moment of riveting brilliance, that was the consequence of a week’s work. The hope for Antonio Conte is that it now starts to reshape Tottenham Hotspur’s season. It may indicate a bit more trouble for Brentford’s.
That is one caveat, of course. It was only Brentford, but there was genuinely more to it than that. Conte is said to have been revelling in the manner he finally got to work with this squad for more than a few days, and the effects could be seen in a 2-0 victory over Brentford that was secured by a scintillating Son Heung-Min goal.
The fact it was the South Korean’s first goal since mid-October was just one of many encouraging little landmarks for Conte, that he will hope represent a watershed in the season. Just as impressive was the ball Harry Kane played for it, and the run that Sergio Reguilon made.
It would obviously be ridiculous and premature to say this was when it clicked, especially given the modesty of the opposition, but it was a clear sign of what Conte wants. Spurs can’t do what he wants for a full game, but they can do some of it.
It was also just a beautiful piece of play, as divinely clean as it was devastating. In that, it was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal against Arsenal in 2009, if admittedly not quite that good. It didn’t need to be, though. It was enough for Spurs, and for Conte, and quite the spark.
Son laid the ball off for Harry Kane on the halfway line before surging forward. With the Brentford half opening out, Sergio Reguilon matched Son for pace on the wing, giving Kane the angle for an exhilarating through ball. It was the type that just excites a crowd because it is loaded with possibility. Without breaking stride, Reguilon powered on, before laying it on for Son.
He finally had that goal, the first since the trip to Newcastle United, which also happened to be the last game in which Kane scored in the league.
Son had already looked much sharper before that, as his very work for the goal indicated. He had enlivened a relatively sedate first half with a coruscating run and long shot, and was generally shaping the game with his movement.
It was his run out to the left that also got the game going, as he sent in the cross from which Sergi Canos so unfortunately deflected in that opening strike. There was little the winger could do about the own goal given the situation, and how the quality of Son’s cross caused such chaos.
Kane didn’t get his goal, and a one-on-one in the second half reminded him that he isn’t yet at 100%, but he did look that bit closer to it.
The through ball for the Son goal was foreshadowed by a lot of fine passes and good build-up play. He did look much more productive in that playmaker role. We all know it’s about much more than that for Kane. He just needs that goal now, that momentum.
It was perhaps the relationship between Ben Davies and Reguilon on the left that was most encouraging for Conte. The Welsh international was rock-solid at left centre-half, winning so much, and generally letting little go by him. There was even a crucial header clear from a mishap in the box when the score was still 1-0 and the game in the balance.
It already feels obvious, however, that Reguilon is going to one of those Conte cornerstones. He just has that verve and drive that the Italian loves from his wing-backs, and give his teams an extra dimension.
There was no extra dimension to Brentford, though. They gave a respectable account of themselves, but it was one of those matches where their limitations were revealed, just as Spurs began to push theirs.
It might have been a relatively predictable night in that regard, but could well indicate much of what is to come – for both sides.
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