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Football London
Football London
Emma de Duve

Antonio Conte handed tough Tottenham selection decision as partnership shine in victory

Antonio Conte will have been impressed with a number of the players in his Tottenham side's 6-3 victory over Team K League. This was the first chance for the Italian to see his players in-action, since the final game of the 2021/22 season.

A number of his squad had returned from loan spells, with youngsters also being involved and one new arrival trying to make an impact. One area which Conte now has plenty of options in is midfield.

Last season, Oliver Skipp's injury in January kept him out for the rest of the campaign. Harry Winks was on the bench most weeks, but the 26-year-old wasn't doing enough to earn a place in the starting XI. He now seems likely to leave this summer, with the Englishman staying behind at Hotspur Way during Spurs' trip to South Korea.

READ MORE: What Kulusevski did before the game, Vio impact - 5 things spotted in Tottenham vs Team K League

This left Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and January arrival Rodrigo Bentancur as the most-used midfield pairing in the second half of last season. The duo built a strong bond in the middle and were making an impact at both ends of the field.

Now, Conte not only has Hojbjerg and the Uruguayan as options, but he also has the returning Skipp. As well as this, the 52-year-old effectively has a new arrival in Pape Matar Sarr, with the Senegal international returning from his loan spell at Metz after signing for Tottenham last year, and Yves Bissouma becoming Spurs' third summer signing. revealed just before the match that the former Brighton player wouldn't be available for the first pre-season friendly, which Conte confirmed after the match was because he and Fraser Forster have tested positive for Covid, meaning Spurs fans have to wait a bit longer to see him in action. This meant Conte had a quartet to choose from and opted for Skipp and Bentancur for the first 45 minutes.

It was the first time the duo had been in action together due to the timing of the 21-year-old's injury and Bentancur's arrival, and something Tottenham fans had been eagerly anticipating. The first few seconds of the game showed a shaky start for the pair, with a pass between them leading to loss of possession.

However, as the half went on, there were glimpses of a good midfield partnership. Skipp was full of energy on his return, remaining calm on the ball and getting in good positions.

Bentancur made a couple of crunching tackles and tried to help get the ball forward. What was also nice to see is the duo forging a good understanding on and off the ball, getting in good positions to cover the middle of the field.

After the game, Skipp admitted to SpursPlay: "It's been a long time so it's just great to be back out there with the team. The support we've got from everyone since we've been here has just been amazing. The whole team has felt the love from everyone in Korea, so we're really grateful for the fans here, back at home as well.

"Obviously seeing the academy boys coming on, that was nice for me. Charlie [Sayers] making his debut, Harvey [White], Troy [Parrott]. It's always nice for me to see, coming from the academy myself.

"They've been really good in training and they got their chance today and I think they took it. It's really nice. If they need any advice, we're all here for them but they're good players in their own right, so really exciting to see."

The second half saw the experienced Hojbjerg partner up with debutant Sarr. The Dane was as vocal as ever on the pitch and dropped slightly deeper, whilst the former Metz man often moved further up the pitch.

Sarr is a versatile player and he often drifted out wide. There were glimpses of the 21-year-old's potential seen, although some of his decisions were rushed.

It wasn't a bad debut from the youngster, and Hojbjerg continued to be a leadership figure in the middle. Skipp and Bentancur were arguably the brighter pairing, although it is only the first game back and the first game either partnership have played together.

There are going to be some big decisions for Conte to make regarding his midfield pairing. Having plenty of options will only work in his favour and mean all of the midfielders will have to battle for game time next season.


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