Conte says Tottenham 'motivated' by defeat for Arsenal
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Antonio Conte understandably described Tottenham’s January transfer window as difficult but it ended with a deadline day gem. Spurs may have missed out on top targets in Luis Diaz and Adama Traore but in Dejan Kulusevski they have a serious talent to complement their mercurial duo Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son, and the Swedish winger is on the verge of breaking an incredible Premier League record.
No player has as many league assists (six) since February but Kulusevski could create history of his own by becoming the first player to make seven Premier League assists in just 10 starts. The unselfish star has the chance to achieve the impressive feat in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at home to Brighton.
Boss Conte continues to prove he can be trusted in the transfer market and Spurs fans can only speculate about the inroads the serial-winning coach could make with his squad should he be afforded the budgets from his previous roles at Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Speaking after the January window closed, Conte said: “Four players left in January – four important players for Tottenham. Two have arrived, so even numerically, instead of reinforcing yourself you may have, on paper, weakened. Then precise choices were made for many reasons, but I certainly never expected that in January four players who I still considered important would change their shirts for a thousand reasons. This shows the difficulty.”
The Italian boss cut a visibly frustrated figure in north London during the winter months due to lamentable transfer window failings that could have derailed a Champions League charge. Tottenham’s two most expensive players Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso left on loan, while Dele Alli joined Everton and Bryan Gil departed for Valencia.
The additions of Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur were not seen as enough and serious questions were asked whether Spurs supremo Daniel Levy’s failure to match Conte’s mid-season ambition could prove terminal. But the duo who both signed from Juventus have both had fine impacts and Spurs have capitalised on the struggles of Arsenal and Manchester United to propel themselves as top four favourites.
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Liverpool’s capture of Diaz from Porto was a body blow in north London but Conte had long been an admirer of Swede Kulusevski and an initial €10m 18-month loan deal is already proving astute business for the 21-year-old. Kulusevski’s clinical goal and assist in Saturday’s 4-0 romp away to Aston Villa only further eased fears that the inability to sign Diaz could affect European hopes.
He has slotted straight into the front three with Kane and Son and is proving a more than handy partner for the duo. And the fact that the young forward could already break a Premier League record highlights the magnitude of his impact since arriving from Turin.
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