Tottenham are 14 points adrift of their north London rivals in the Premier League.
There appears to be a cloud of uncertainty surrounding Antonio Conte at Tottenham for next season, with the Italian only prepared to commit himself to the job at hand until the end of the season. But in looking to the future after spending £40m on a new wing-back in Pedro Porro and welcoming Destiny Udogie next season, Conte has every reason to stick around.
Conte has more pressing matters to handle in his personal life at the moment after undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder, which may keep the head coach sidelined for at least two weeks.
But the unavoidable fact is that his current deal expires in the summer and murmurs of discontent – both from the stands and the manager himself – have shrouded his future in mystery.
As it stands, he would leave Tottenham on June 30 when his contract runs out unless chairman Daniel Levy can negotiate a renewal. That could depend on whether Spurs finish in the top four after spending over £250million on transfers since Conte’s arrival or his own feelings about staying at the club.
But if he does stay put, the 53-year-old will surely relish starting with a clean slate as he continues to assemble a squad that is beginning to look more and more like Conte’s team.
Porro was Conte’s top target in the winter transfer window and Levy fought tooth and nail to capture the Spaniard from Sporting Lisbon. And the 23-year-old will surely prove to be a sound addition to the squad if his impressive displays against Spurs earlier this season in the Champions League are anything to go by, having assisted six goals in 14 appearances in the Portuguese Liga.
On the opposite side, exciting youngster Udogie will join up with the squad hoping to stake his claim for a first-team spot next season. The 20-year-old is currently on loan with his previous club Udinese after Spurs agreed to send him back to for the season as part of the £16m deal, but he will be available for selection in 2023-24.
The key to Conte winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2016-17 was the use of his wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses in his favoured 3-4-3 shape. It is fair to say his experience with those at his disposal at Tottenham has been mixed so far, for which Conte can be attributed part of the blame.
Emerson Royal, Djed Spence and Ivan Perisic were signed under his watch, while Matt Doherty, Ryan Sessegnon and Sergio Reguilon were not and half of them have been offloaded on loan or sold, highlighting Conte’s doubts over their ability to carry out his instructions.
But with Porro and Udogie, two talents picked out by Conte, Spurs can look forward to the duo racing up and down the flanks, using their blistering pace and impressive energy to provide attacking and defensive assistance.
That will prove to be crucial for Conte in ensuring his formation does not go stale and the fans do not become disillusioned.
If his football is structured and regimented, the players he fields need to bring excitement – and that is precisely what Porro and Udogie will deliver on the wings.
The north London side have shown glimpses of how they can mount a proper challenge when they are firing on all cylinders, but they are a far way behind rivals Arsenal in the table both in the table and with their respective projects. Porro and Udogie can go some way to helping them bridge the gap for next season.