'I’m really happy for Sess' – Antonio Conte hails Ryan Sessegnon and defends team selection after Spurs' 4-1 victory
Antonio Conte could not stop raving about his team after they defeated Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton 4-1. Spurs initially fell behind in the 12th minute after a goal from James Ward-Prowse, but they were able to dig deep and collect all three points. Conte had full praise for Spurs' first goal scorer, Ryan Sessegnon, while also explaining his rationale for not starting his new signings.
Conte: "The owner would sign up for the top four finish"
Antonio Conte said that he saw lots of positives in Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 victory against Southampton, including Ryan Sessegnon's performance, in their opening game of the new Premier League season.
“It was a perfect start for us, despite going behind," he told the press afterwards. "We started well because we were leading the game, but we conceded a goal but after this, we continue to play, and we continued to believe in what we are working on in the training sessions.”
Spurs initially fell behind in the 12th minute due to a goal from James Ward-Prowse, but goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Eric Dier in the first half meant that the hosts were in the driving seat.
They continued their dominance after half-time after forcing Mohammed Salisu into an own-goal and rounding off the win with a Dejan Kulusevski goal in the 63rd minute.
"I liked the game a lot for the result but especially the way in which the result was created - 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,” said Conte in a post-match interview.
"I saw a lot of positive things, but we are only in the first game. Today we have seen summer work with my players… We are working to implement our football knowledge and we have seen today a team with seven months of work at its back. I can now go in another step on that.”
“Dejan [Kulusevski] made a big impact but [he] also [did] last season. He and Rodrigo [Bentaceur] integrated really good with the squad. Dejan has continued in this way but he has to continue to work in this way with his behaviour and ambition. He has a lot of ambition - he wants to become one of the best players in his role. I think this ambition is good, if he is humble and works to continue to work he can do that."
Sessegnon was the catalyst behind Tottenham getting back into the game. He looked quite confident from the get-go, playing on the front foot while also defending well.
“I am really pleased for Sess because Sess, first of all, we are working very well with him, especially on the physical aspect because in the past this player had many injuries,” said Conte, in his post-match press conference.
“After one month, two months and again – injury or muscular problem. He is working well, and we are giving him stability in the physical aspect. It is very important we sign a player like Ivan Perisic because he can see the way to try to learn something from Ivan.”
Ryan Sessegnon of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring their side's first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 06, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty
Image credit: Getty Images
It came as a shock to many that Perisic came on for Sessegnon in the 66th minute, with many expecting the new signing to start. However, Conte was quite assured that not starting his new players was the right decision.
“I'm not surprised because I think I used common sense. In this moment we are starting the new season, and the old players reached a big achievement last season to get a place in the Champions League. My message was very clear. I trust a lot in the old players and in this moment they are more reliable than the new players because they need to work with us and implement their football knowledge.
“With the old players, I am a step forward than the new players. I think it was right after this game and the final sense. I am really happy, though, because we have new signings who will go into our process, and they will learn fast to improve and at the same time, they have to know that they have to fight and give me the possibility to rotate. Right now, we are playing once a week, but in September, it will be three games a week, and it's important to rotate without dropping the quality, and the club agreed with me.”
The 4-1 victory is Spurs’ biggest win on opening day since 1986 when they defeated Aston Villa 3-0. The side currently sit top of the table and will head to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea next week.