Heung-Min Son's hat-trick helped Tottenham to defeat Aston Villa by four goals as Antonio Conte's side moved three points clear of Arsenal to strengthen their grip on fourth place
Sunday 10 April 2022 07:18, UK
Antonio Conte says his Tottenham team could "feel the blood" of their rivals and took advantage of their slips as they thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park.
With Arsenal's loss at home to Brighton adding to earlier defeats for Wolves and Manchester United, Spurs had the chance to strengthen their grip on fourth and did so in emphatic style.
Heung-Min Son's hat-trick helped to open up a three-point lead over the Gunners and Conte was thrilled by the mentality shown by his team as they withstood heavy pressure in the first half.
"A strong team needs character and personality to be strong mentally, because during a game you can have a period when you suffer because the opponent is pushing you a lot.
"Today, the first half was difficult but we knew this because when play at Aston Villa away in this stadium with this fantastic atmosphere I don't think there is one team that wins easy.
"For this reason, I was pleased with attitude of the players, the composure. They decided to stay strong. And then in the second half, I think we won the game in an important way.
"For sure, we have to be more good when there is this type of pressure and try to continue to play. Because every time we had the ball we had chances to score.
"If you have an opposition who plays with high pressure, the space will open to attack. In the second half, we were much better I think because the intensity of Aston Villa was slower.
"It was a great win for us. Especially when you play a game after your rivals for a place in the Champions League - Wolverhampton, Manchester United and Arsenal - have lost.
"In this moment you start to feel the blood. It is important in this moment not to fail. We are working a lot on the mentality and the players are giving me satisfaction.
"For sure, to see this improvement makes me proud. It gives me great satisfaction. At the same time, I know we have to work on this improvement.
"Because there is not only the tactical, technical and physical aspects but there is the mentality. There is a lot of space for improvement. But today they showed me they have improved this aspect."
Heung-Min Son now has 17 Premier League goals this season and in this form might yet rival Mohamed Salah for the golden boot. That connection with Harry Kane looks as lethal as ever, with the England captain's assist for the third goal highlighting his extraordinary vision.
But perhaps it is time we talked about this being a magical trio at Tottenham as well as a perfect partnership. Dejan Kulusevski raced through to score from another Kane assist and then turned provider for Son for the fourth goal. The Swede has been a revelation since his arrival.
There is not much that Kane and Son lacked but he has added it. A natural left-footer, he knows when to slow the game down as well as speed it up, and that calmness in the final third sets him apart from the other contenders for that third position in the Tottenham attack.
Gareth Bale's return to the club on loan from Real Madrid last season had briefly hinted at a dream team of a forward line - and the Welshman did deliver goals. But Kulusevski has been better. This time, it looks like it might be enough to carry Spurs into the Champions League places.
Asked if Tottenham had the best front three in the Premier League, Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard was complimentary but stopped short of agreeing.
"They are certainly high-level players. I'd say two of them are world-class and I think the young kid from Juventus, Kulusevski, is potentially a top player.
"That's my opinion on it, but I think you have to remember that there's City and Liverpool and Chelsea who've all got world-class players as well.
"So I'm not sure where Tottenham sit in the league, but normally the team that wins the league has the best forward line."