Antonio Conte was pleased with Tottenham’s style during the opening day’s 4-1 win over Southampton and warned his new signings that they will have to fight for a place in his starting line-up.
A busy summer for Spurs in which they brought in six players added to the optimism and excitement around N17 before kick-off, but James Ward-Prowse’s 12th-minute opener for the visitors threatened to spoil the mood.
Instead, it kicked the hosts into gear with Dejan Kulusevski in imperial form and it was his cross that allowed Ryan Sessegnon to head home the equaliser. Eric Dier made it 2-1 before the break and Kulusevski rounded off the scoring with a brilliant fourth two minutes after Mohammed Salisu’s own goal.
Spurs boss Conte said: “The reaction was very good because we stayed calm, we continued to play the way we know, to believe in what we tried before this week before we played Southampton.
“We won three important points, but the most important thing was the way we got three points, with really good football, with the ball, without the ball, with important pressure, also the way we decided to win the ball after we lost it was another important aspect.
“We are working on implementing football knowledge in the last season. Today we have clearly seen that this team has seven months of work behind them.”
Sessegnon finished the 2021-22 campaign strongly but has competition for his place in the form of Ivan Perisic, and yet met the challenge head on with a fine effort in the 21st minute, just his second goal for Spurs since a big-money move from Fulham’s three . summer ago.
Injuries have plagued the England Under-21 international in recent seasons, but Conte believes he is ready to kick on and was pleased with his goal after failing in a similar situation minutes before.
“Maybe five minutes before there was a cross and he was behind the opponent. On the bench we were very upset with him,” joked the Italian.
“After three minutes he scored and we were happy and celebrated a lot because five minutes before he was not in the same place to score.
“Today he scored another goal, he was always in our offensive position and that was good. I am happy for him because he has great potential, but he has to show this potential.
“We give him stability in the physical aspect. I think it is very important that we signed a player like Ivan, because he can see the way to learn something about Ivan.
Perisic was one of five new additions to settle for a place on the bench, and while the Croatian made his debut as a substitute alongside Clement Lenglet and Yves Bissouma, Conte warned the summer recruits that they have work to do to dislodge the old guard. .
He added: “I think that I am using common sense because at this moment we are starting the new season and the old players are achieving a great performance last season to get a place in the Champions League.
“In the last 10 games I think we played very well and we had fantastic results. My message was very clear that I trust a lot in the old players and at this moment they are more reliable than the new players because they have to keep working with us and continue to implement soccer knowledge.
“With the old players, I am on a step forward. For this reason, I prefer to count on the older players at the start, but I think it was right after this match and the final result.
“At the same time, I’m very happy because we have new signings coming into our process and they will certainly help us improve, but they have to know that they have to fight.”
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was left to reflect on a frustrating afternoon in the capital despite a strong start.
“It felt a bit like the opponent switched to the next gear and we can’t keep up,” he said.
– This was frustrating to see how big the gap is between the two teams. After the first goal we had the feeling that they were absolutely in the game and they crushed us with their crosses and we couldn’t defend.