LONDON (Reuters) – Antonio Conte described his Tottenham Hotspur side’s dominant 4-1 opening win against Southampton as the ‘perfect start’ to their Premier League season on Saturday.
Conte took over as manager last November and transformed the north London club’s form to seal a top-four finish.
Some impressive business in the transfer market has raised expectations ahead of the new campaign and Tottenham responded with a vibrant performance.
Ryan Sessegnon, Eric Dier and Dejan Kulusevski were all on target as Tottenham responded in emphatic style after James Ward-Prowse handed Southampton an early lead against the run of play.
In the end it could have been a much bigger margin of victory but Conte was clearly more than satisfied with the intensity of his side’s play.
“It was a perfect start for us, despite going behind,” Conte told the BBC. “We conceded a goal but after this we continued to play and we continued to believe in what we are working on in the training sessions.
“I liked the game a lot for the result but especially the way in which the result was achieved — creating many chances to score, good possession, good high and medium pressure and we were good when we lost the ball and the intensity to try and get it back. I saw a lot of positive things.”
Former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan coach Conte has had a full summer to work with his squad and that clearly showed as his players hit their stride from the first minute.
“We are only in the first game. But today we have seen the summer work with my players,” he said.
“The characteristics were to play intense football and this type of modern football. You need quality but also strength, good energy and stamina because this league is very difficult and totally different to other leagues.”
Tottenham’s starting 11 were all part of last season’s squad that finished fourth while Conte brought on new signings Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma during the second half.
But it was young Swedish forward Kulusevski, a key figure in Tottenham’s storming finish to last season after joining in January from Juventus, who again caught the eye of Conte with his all-action style.
“Dejan made a big impact but also last season. He and Rodrigo (Bentaceur) integrated really good with the squad,” Conte said. “Dejan has continued in this way but he has to continue to work in this way with his behaviour and ambition.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)