It is an inversion of the old maxim “go long, to play short” – Spurs are playing short to go long. Intricate play in their own half creates the space to attack directly. Spurs fans will not like the parallel, but we saw Arsenal using similar, back-to-front, moves to create in the early days of Mikel Arteta’s reign.
This is when Conte’s teams are at their best, attacking on the run from a deep starting position. When Spurs are required to create from more static scenarios against a deep defence, they can toil as they did in periods of the first half on Sunday. Dropped points against 10-man Southampton, as well as Wolves and Burnley came when Spurs had the vast majority of possession.
Tottenham’s top four rivals will hope this offers a blueprint to frustrate them in the run-in, but dropping off early brings its own risks. Once a team is pushed back, Kane and Son are able to pepper them with shots, and the probability of surviving 90 minutes against such quality is low.
Spurs have a healthy habit of creating plenty of high-quality chances from minimal spells of domination. The contrast of styles with Arsenal – who exert longer periods of control but have to be more patient for chances to arrive – ought to make for an absorbing contest over the coming weeks.
Who wins out will dictate the immediate future of Spurs and Kane, with Champions League football likely to be a decisive factor when the transfer window opens. Playing like this, spending big on a player who turns 29 in July could be a luxury buyers are prepared to indulge. Kane’s stock has bounced back resoundingly.