Antonio Conte knows Tottenham must shake their habit of falling behind when they host Aston Villa in their first Premier League game of 2023 on Sunday.
Remarkably, Tottenham have conceded the first goal in each of their last six Premier League games – and in each of their last nine in all competitions, forcing them to produce several unlikely comebacks.
While Spurs salvaged a point with their latest rescue job at Brentford on Monday, Conte is keen to see his team make a more positive start against Villa after losing ground in the race for a top-four finish.
“It’s a strange situation, to concede the first goal and go down for nine games in a row,” Conte said.
“And at the same time, it’s good, our reaction to try to get the result. Many times, we did well to win the games.
“But for sure, we have to try from the start of the game to be really focused, to go into the game quickly.
“Maybe when you have to play many games in a row, you don’t have the possibility to work on the tactical aspect.”
Villa suffered a 3-1 defeat against Liverpool last time out, and coach Unai Emery expects another difficult test at Tottenham.
“I know Antonio Conte’s teams, and he’s so, so competitive,” Emery said. “He’s a successful coach in Italy and in England.
“His teams are usually so competitive, they have very fast players, they like to play in transition and they have very good players.
“I think Tottenham are fighting a lot to be in the top four. We want to be one step ahead and to fight and compete. I will try to help my players to be capable of winning against them.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tottenham – Harry Kane
No player has scored more Premier League goals on New Year’s Day than Kane (five), while he also has three assists on January 1 in the competition, giving him more goal involvements (eight) than any other player in such fixtures.
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
Watkins has scored in both of his Premier League away games against Tottenham; only two English players have scored in three consecutive visits to Spurs in the competition – Daniel Sturridge (three from 2011-2012) and Dion Dublin (five from 1995-2000). After netting against Liverpool on Boxing Day, could the striker do the same in north London?
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Tottenham have won 12 of their last 14 Premier League games against Aston Villa (L2), as many as they had in their first 40 against them in the competition (D15 L13).
– Aston Villa have lost each of their last five Premier League games in London, conceding at least twice each time. Meanwhile, they’ve not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 13 league visits to the capital since beating Arsenal 3-0 in November 2020.
– Tottenham have won seven of their last eight Premier League games on New Year’s Day, with the exception being a 1-0 loss at Southampton in 2020.
– None of Aston Villa boss Unai Emery’s 54 Premier League games have finished 0-0, with no manager taking charge of more games without a goalless draw (Ossie Ardiles also 54). 70 per cent of the Spaniard’s games have seen both teams score (38/54), the highest ratio of any manager to take charge of 50 or more games.
– Tottenham striker Harry Kane has scored six headed goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other player. It’s his joint-most headers scored in a single campaign (also six in 2017-18), while his 36 headed goals overall is the joint sixth most in Premier League history.