MANCHESTER – The Antonio Conte effect is truly taking hold at Tottenham.
A 2-0 win against Everton on Saturday secured Tottenham's best start in the English Premier League era after 10 games.
Their 23 points moved Spurs level with second-placed Manchester City and represented their highest tally at this stage since 1963.
Spurs keep looking more like a genuine title contender, supported by their recent good record against City. Their first scheduled league meeting last month was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and Conte wasn't disappointed. Spurs are warming up nicely.
Pep Guardiola has led City's dominance of England and assembled arguably the most powerful squad in Europe but counterpart Conte is a proven winner himself at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
That was always the fascinating aspect of his decision to accept the post at Tottenham, a team that hasn’t won the English title since 1961 and counts the 2008 League Cup as its last trophy.
Mauricio Pochettino came close to ending that search for major silverware – reaching the Champions League final in 2018 – but the club’s fortunes have unravelled since then.
Now Conte has provided new energy and new hope. And as long as Harry Kane is fit . . .
Kane opened the scoring for Tottenham about an hour in after being brought down by Jordan Pickford in the box. It was the England international’s 14th goal in his last 11 games against Everton.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg sealed the win late.
These are early days in the campaign, but Tottenham’s consistency is already seeing it stand out as one of the teams that look most capable of threatening City, with the Conte factor pivotal.
Elsewhere, Leicester drew with Crystal Palace 0-0 at home and moved off the bottom of the table, Nottingham Forest fell to last after losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0, and Fulham and Bournemouth drew 2-2.
Leicester was no longer last in the league but the pressure was still on manager Brendan Rodgers to craft a recovery.
Television cameras focused on Leicester owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, who looked unimpressed after the final while.
Fans inside King Power Stadium called for Rodgers to be fired, with one sign reading: “Time for action."
Rodgers revealed he held talks with Aiyawatt on Friday.
“They understand the difficulties there is going to be this year, in terms of us not being able to improve but he wants to win,” he said.
“I have had no indication of anything, but I understand football. It will never change — my feeling for him — if he had to make a change. That is the reality.”
WOLVES LICKING LIPS
Wolverhampton was quick to gloat after winning its relegation scrap with Midlands rival Nottingham Forest.
Shortly after fulltime at Molineux, which saw the manager-less home team triumph 1-0 courtesy of Ruben Neves’ second-half penalty, the club’s official Twitter account posted a picture of a tree stump with an ax embedded in it. The caption read, “Playtime’s over.”
Victory lifted Wolves out of the relegation zone after only its second win.
Forest, sitting lost on goal difference, wasted a golden opportunity to share the points when Brennan Johnson’s second-half penalty kick was saved by Jose Sa.
Remarkably, the Wolves goalkeeper has been playing with a broken wrist since the second round.
“Fair play to Jose for playing through that pain and showing courage to do that,” Wolves interim manager Steve Davis said. “They all need to be that big person if we’re going to turn our form around. I thought we took a big step towards that.”
Fulham twice came from behind to draw with Bournemouth but manager Marco Silva still bemoaned his team’s failure to win.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 52nd-minute penalty helped Fulham equalize for a second time. They pushed for the winner and ended with 19 shots and 69% possession.
“It was something that our players definitely deserved with the fight, with the character that they showed, but it is one point,” Silva said.
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That remains to be seen – particularly considering the dominance of City over the past five years – but his team looks like a genuine contender.
It is also worth remembering that Conte has already bettered Guardiola in English soccer – winning the title with Chelsea in his Catalan rival’s first year at City.