Improving Spurs

The bizarre win-loss-win-loss record continues but Antonio Conte is clear in his belief that Tottenham are improving and he appears to be right. There were moments when Brighton applied some pressure but ultimately Spurs were in control. They did not concede a single shot on target, had more of the possession and could have won by a much larger scoreline had they placed more of their 17 shots on goal into the net.

The Amex Stadium has been a painful place for the north London side to visit on occasions in the past but this time Tottenham were taking on a team that had lost their previous five matches and won just one in 11 games. Seagulls boss Graham Potter admitted after the final whistle: "You have to credit the opponent because they played well today. They've got some top players and the difference in quality was there to see."

Spurs still need to find the stability to climb the Premier League table but they did break one pattern of recent games. When Conte has named an unchanged starting line-up they have lost the match and played poorly, but that changed on Wednesday night.

READ MORE:Hugo Lloris discusses Antonio Conte's emotions and how he and his staff are improving Tottenham

The stable back three recorded its third clean sheet in four Premier League matches, the midfielders won their duels as the game wore on and it was another night when the team created plenty of chances at the other end.

The difference in the performance at Manchester United compared to the defeats at Middlesbrough and Burnley is that Spurs played well for long periods of the game and the Conte imprint is starting to be felt on the team and that rolled into this display at Brighton.

"The team put in a very good performance, the last period I am seeing great improvement," he said on Wednesday night. "I said before this game that in the last five games we scored a lot of goals, five against Everton, four against Leeds away, three at Manchester City, two goals against Manchester United and also two here.

"We created many chances to also improve the final result. It means we are improving and we are trying to go in another step to try to be very close to the top of the table."

He added: "Honestly to play against Brighton is not easy. I think tonight we played a better game than the game we played in the FA Cup [against them]. I remember very well in the FA Cup we won 3-1 but the result was a bit unfair because they shot a lot and were unlucky.

"Tonight I think we deserved much more to have a good result. They have a really good manager because you can see an idea of football, they like to play football, during the game they can change system. He is working well. To work with the same team for many years to improvement and the tactical aspect. For this reason I think great compliment to the manager because I think he is very, very good."

The test now for Spurs is to break their win-loss pattern and Sunday would be the perfect time to do it.

Another Harry Kane record

Harry Kane simply got better and better as the match on the south coast wore on.

He chased down Robert Sanchez early on in the encounter and blocked the Brighton goalkeeper's clearance only to roll his shot across the face of goal from the angle.

It was not an easy chance, particularly as he stumbled after blocking the clearance, but Kane will have been disappointed with the skewed finish because he normally makes opportunities like that look simple.

The 28-year-old striker continued to take his knocks from the Brighton defenders and eventually made them pay.

Kane made up for his early miss just before the hour mark. He timed his run perfectly to latch on to Rodrigo Bentancur's pass and then slipped the ball beyond the outstretched leg of Sanchez.

He ran over to celebrate in the corner and provided another fine kick, volleying a thrown, open bottle of Coca Cola in the process. VAR later checked his run for any offside call but could find no fault.

Then creator Kane came to the fore as he sent two pinpoint low sliced passes into the path of Sergio Reguilon, which deserved better than the Spaniard's saved finishes. Reguilon was the wide receiver to Kane's quarterback on the night but the wing-back fumbled the ball at the last moment on each occasion.

Kane would also have another chance of his own, a curling effort from outside the box which the Seagulls' stopper pushed aside, and a late shout for a penalty.

In the end, Kane's goal was his 14th in 19 games in all competitions and eighth in ten matches in the Premier League.

He also set a new record with the strike. With 95 goals on his travels, Kane has now scored more times away from home in the Premier League than any other player. The goal also took him above Frank Lampard into fifth spot, with 178 goals, on the all-time list of Premier League scorers.

Conte admitted that not only is Kane a player who raises the standard of others, but he feels the striker is also beginning to really enjoy his time under the Italian.

"We are very happy because Harry is scoring a lot. He started this season and he struggled a bit because he didn’t score a lot. Now we are very happy because as a manager I know that I have a world class striker that in every game he can score. To have Harry in your team makes you stronger," said the head coach.

"Harry is starting to understand with this team, with the way we are playing, he has every game many chances to improve his record and score and to enjoy. I am seeing that he is enjoying to play with us together and with his team-mates and with this way we are playing."

READ MORE:Every word Conte said on why Kane is enjoying playing for him plus Romero and Bentancur praise

He added in his interview with the BBC: "I think he deserves to win something in his career because we are talking about a fantastic player."

Kane believes Spurs are starting to click under Conte.

"I feel like we're improving as a team and understanding the manager's ideas more and more, especially with the ball and without it we're a bit more compact," the striker said in his interview for Spurs.

"The bottom line is we need to turn the defeats into wins. United was a good performance but we didn't win so it doesn't matter. That [consistency] is the aim. We've just got to work hard to do it."

On his new away goal record in the Premier League, he added: "That's a nice one to have. Away games in the Premier League are always tough.

"To be able to score that many goals and help the team win the match is really important. I'm really pleased with that one and my thanks to the team for helping me and we've just to keep them coming."

The records are falling every week it seems for Kane and he and Conte clearly enjoy each other's company and what they can both do for each other.

There's a mutual respect and the club needs to ensure that is to Tottenham's advantage not only this season but next.

The Juventus trio

This was another night when the new boys stepped up, in particular Rodrigo Bentancur.

It's hard to remember in recent memory Tottenham signing two players mid-season who have both had such an immediate impact and adapted so quickly to the England game as Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski have.

It helps that both players know each well from Juventus, they know Spurs' managing director of football Fabio Paratici from his time there and Conte is well aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

You can't help but feel Conte's involvement in the arrival of these signings, as they are so much of a better fit to the Premier League than those walking through the door at Tottenham in other recent transfer windows.

New Oliver Skipp contract, the obligation to sign Kulusevski and Conte's mysterious Romero words

Bentancur has already become undroppable from the midfield. Despite being just 24-years-old he looks like the elder statesman in the centre of the park for the north London outfit.

He's one of those players who seems to create time for himself on the ball when there appears to be none. The Spurs players are comfortable with passing him the ball in a tight spot knowing that he will deal with it.

That's not to say he does so every time. As he continues to adjust to the speed of the Premier League there will be the odd misplaced pass or turn into trouble, but on the whole he has adjusted quickly to the physical demands and the pace of the English game.

He can also move the ball quickly up the pitch, a trait that fits well with Spurs' desire to counter at breakneck speed.

The Uruguayan did that to devastating effect for Spurs' second goal. He's not afraid to run with the ball and one surge up the pitch ended with a weighted pass through that perfectly found the run of Kane, who ran on and stroked it home.

Bentancur is looking like a bargain signing at the moment for Spurs, who signed him for just £15.86m, payable over three financial years, a figure which may increase by an additional £5m if certain objectives are met during the term of his contract.

His fellow arrival from Juventus, Kulusevski is also looking like a bargain to be had. Tottenham will pay Juventus a £8.3m loan fee - £2.5m for the remainder of this season and £5.8m for the 2022/23 campaign - to take him on loan and there is an obligation to buy for £29.2m if sporting criteria are met, believed to be making 15 starts for the club - which could happen this season - or Champions League qualification.

Even if those objectives are not achieved, Spurs can sign him for that amount this summer or for what is understood to be an extra £4.2m next summer.

Kulusevski grabbed another assist to make it four assists and two goals in his six Premier League starts so far.

Even if this was a somewhat fortuitous assist at the Amex Stadium, a low central shot that deflected off Cristian Romero's leg, Kulusevski continues to be Spurs' main creative outlet alongside Kane, while Son looks to rediscover his form.

The South Korean could still point out that he has scored seven goals and provided five assists in his past 14 Premier League matches. That's 12 goal involvements in 14 league matches, which shows how even a tired, overplayed Son contributes to the team.

"For sure to see Rodrigo Bentancur and Deki Kulusevski go into the team so quickly in this idea of football is great for us," Conte "I said to you after these two signings now we are more complete, especially in midfield because we lost Skipp for two or three months in this moment.

"We needed to have a player like Rodrigo. Don’t forget Winksy because he is a reliable player and improved a lot and also Kulusevski is showing to be a fantastic prospect. We are talking about a player that is 21-years-old but you can see that he is strong physically, good technique, talent and they are helping us a lot."

While Oliver Skipp's absence through protracted problems with his pubic symphysis continues to frustrate Conte and the young player, there is at least one big boost for the midfielder and the club asfootball.londonunderstands that discussions over a bumper new deal for the talented 21-year-old are nearing a positive conclusion following his impressive breakthrough season.

Conte also spoke about another former Juventus player after the game in Cristian Romero, who bagged his first goal for the club and was mocked mercilessly by his team-mates on social media for not really knowing too much about it.

That the Argentine was in the box in the first place sums up his attacking intent and he is always pushing up the pitch in an attempt to get involved in the final third.

Romero is something of a paradox in the way he plays. On the ball he's incredibly calm, without it he's a raging bull. The latter leads to plenty of well-timed front foot tackles but also at least one shocker of a challenge in each match and it's now a case of Romero yellow card bingo, naming the minute in which he will get booked in each game.

This time it came in the 54th minute with another challenge that was so late it might as well have been in the next fixture.

It was his 10th yellow card this season for Spurs, his eighth in the Premier League, plus that red card against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League.

If he gets another two bookings before the end of the home match against Brighton on April 16 - four matches to go in total - he will be suspended for two matches. That's because accumulated yellow cards do not get wiped out until after the 32nd fixture in the Premier League.

Conte's words on Romero after the game were interesting, a challenge of sorts in calling for the centre-back to demand more from himself and suggesting that he also had to help the player "sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way".

"Cristian Romero is a good player, and he has to be focused in every moment of the game. If he is focused in every moment of the game, with the ball, without the ball, he is really good player with a lot of space for improvement. He played a really good game, like the other team-mates," he said.

"For sure we are talking about a player, a young player, with a lot of space for improvement. He has to have the desire, the will, to continue to improve, and to ask himself much more, because he has the possibility to become a top defender, but it depends on him, and on the manager to help him, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way, but the most important thing is he has to improve."

The top four race and a pleased Conte

For all of his grandstanding words about ambition, talks with the club and walking away if his vision is not shared by others, Conte does currently seem to be content with the direction his Tottenham team is heading in.

After a weekend in which the results went against Tottenham, so Wednesday brought a swing back in the other direction. Spurs winning 2-0 at Brighton and Arsenal going down by the same scoreline at home against Liverpool brought a four-goal swing in goal difference between the north London rivals - the Gunners now with plus three more than Tottenham - and narrowed the gap to three points again.

The race for the top four is there for whoever can put a run of positive results together. Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham, Spurs and Wolves all sit within five points of each other, with Spurs having one game in hand and Arsenal two.

That the Gunners must still face Chelsea away, United at home, West Ham away as well as that still to be rescheduled trip to Spurs means they will have to put together an incredible run of form to keep hold of fourth place.

United are still to play Liverpool and Arsenal away as well as Chelsea at home, while West Ham travel to Tottenham this weekend and Chelsea next month before hosting Arsenal and Manchester City in May.

Spurs' toughest games on paper are the visits of the Hammers and Gunners and the trip to Liverpool.

Ultimately, whoever handles the pressure the best will grab that fourth place spot and Conte believes his team are fired up for the challenge.

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"It is right to have ambition and I put ambition to my players because it is important to have a target, a difficult target for sure because to reach the fourth place is not simple, it will be very difficult," he said.

"At this moment we are ready to fight for every game, then sometimes it can happen that we lose the game like at United where we didn’t deserve to lose. We are showing great improvement and this is good for the present and the future.

"On Sunday we will have a crucial game against West Ham. They have the same target and we are talking about a team that in the last season they arrived before us, they are playing Europa League. To get three points on Sunday will be very important to continue to have a hope to reach fourth place."

Conte is benefiting from having Harry Kane in the groove again and the striker is looking forward to Sunday's derby clash.

"It's a big game. They're right in the top four hunt and we've got be up for it," he said.

"West Ham are showing some really good quality this season and they've going to be right up for it. We've got to be ready for it, recover now and look forward to it."

Conte will be hoping that Thursday night's Europa League clash against Sevilla takes something mentally and physically out of David Moyes' side, who will have a day less to prepare for Sunday's high energy derby date.

Spurs need to break their inconsistent pattern of 2022 and dig out what would be a crucial victory before the international break.

Fixtures against Newcastle, Aston Villa, Brighton and Brentford all come next when the players return and Spurs need some momentum and belief as they approach an all important run-in which could define what next season brings.