Sport

Premier League 2022-23 preview No 18: Tottenham

Guardian writers’ predicted position 3rd (NB: this is not necessarily David Hytner’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 4th

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 12-1

Prospects

Daniel Levy has broken the habit of a lifetime and, in the process, helped to send optimism among the Tottenham support through the roof. The chairman normally likes to wait during the transfer window, hoping for bargains, but he moved early this summer, getting the bulk of the incoming business done by the middle of July. One person was particularly delighted by that and, if Antonio Conte is happy, so is everybody else. The manager had wanted to hit the ground running during his first pre-season at the club, to build on the momentum generated by the surge to a Champions League finish last May and, with a host of new signings bedded in, there is the feeling of clarity and cohesion.

The previous summer seems a world away. That was when Nuno Espírito Santo was appointed as the manager – after a 72-day search, to an underwhelming reaction – and Harry Kane wanted to leave. Conte has transformed everything since taking over from Nuno last November, forcing his will on Levy and the rest of the club. Another gamechanger has been the £150m capital increase that Levy oversaw from the majority shareholder, Enic, at the end of last season.

The squad has quality – headlined by Kane and Son Heung-min – and impressive depth. Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea manager, believes Spurs have “maybe the strongest team they have ever built”, and he could find his club’s third-place spot from last season under threat. What would be even better for Spurs would be to win a trophy; they have claimed only one during Levy’s 21-year stewardship.

The manager

Everybody knows what Conte prizes in a squad – mentality, physical strength and fitness, plus a sprinkling of talent in the final third to make the difference. After two transfer windows and 28 league matches, he appears to have what he wants. Or, at least, be close to it – the Italian gives the impression he can never be truly satisfied. It was questionable last season whether he would make it this far, as he issued threats and got into world-class funks, but he bulldozed the club back into the Champions League and, at the start of pre-season, declared himself to be “totally involved in this project”. Everyone is behind him, not least the fans, and each of his players knows exactly what is required. History shows that Conte tends to depart sooner rather than later, having worn everyone out. Before he does, he usually wins.

Antonio Conte addresses his players during a pre-season training session at Goyang Stadium in South Korea.
Antonio Conte addresses his players during a pre-season training session at Goyang Stadium in South Korea. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

Transfer coup

Yves Bissouma could be an outlier in Conte’s best XI – a rare player to stand below six foot, even if it is only by an inch or so, although it is not as if he lacks the power that is a prerequisite for the manager. Bissouma, who joined for an initial £25m from Brighton, excels at recovering the ball, whether through tackles or interceptions. But what will quicken the pulses of the Spurs support and provide a new dimension in central midfield for Conte is his ability to run with it, breaking the lines and creating chances.

World Cup impact

Kane will carry England’s hopes and dreams but, in general, Conte might reflect that he is not hit too hard by the mid-season tournament. Eric Dier is not expected to travel with England while Clément Lenglet faces a fight to make the France squad. Watching from afar will be Colombia’s Davinson Sánchez, Mali’s Bissouma and Sweden’s Dejan Kulusevski, while English trio Djed Spence, Ryan Sessegnon and Oliver Skipp are outside Gareth Southgate’s plans, while Lucas Moura has not featured for Brazil since 2018.

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Alternative attractions during World Cup

The Dare Skywalk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is exclusively for adrenaline junkies. Reach the glass walkway at the summit – 46.8 metres above the pitch – and then choose the quickest way down, a controlled drop over the edge in a harness.

Leading the shirt sales

The club have a bona fide commercial phenomenon in Son, whose reach stems from his native South Korea, where 12 million of his 52 million compatriots cite Spurs as their favourite team, but it goes far beyond those borders. On a matchday in north London, the club sell up to 700 “Son 7” shirts and his Golden Boot win from last season has boosted his status even further. The forward has built a wholesome image on hard work and incredible focus, achieving the unusual feat of winning the respect of rival fans.

Social climber

Kane has close to 13 million followers on Instagram and seems to enjoy giving people a glimpse into his life away from the pitch, not to mention the odd behind-the-scenes clip with his Spurs teammates. Since the end of last season, Kane has shared pictures and footage of his appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and at the Icon Series golf event in New Jersey.

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If Spurs were a Netflix doc …

It would be a sequel to the 2019-20 Amazon edition, which starred José Mourinho, who had been specially recruited for the role. Could Conte possibly rival him for on-screen ease, especially in those player chats in the manager’s office? This version would be more gritty, featuring players vomiting and/or passing out after a Gian Piero Ventrone fitness drill and maybe a bust-up involving Richarlison. Ideally with Conte.

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