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Talking Tactics

Why Kulusevski is key to Spurs' top-four ambitions

Adrian Clarke 20 Dec 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses the Swede's creativity and his flourishing relationship with Harry Kane

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 17.

Dejan Kulusevski (TOT)

Tottenham Hotspur’s push for a top-four finish resumes at Brentford on Boxing Day, and they will hope Kulusevski picks up where he left off before the FIFA World Cup 2022 break.

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The Swede provided assists in each of his last three Premier League appearances and is Spurs’ leader in that department, creating five goals in total so far.

Considering Kulusevski has made just seven starts in an injury-disrupted campaign, that is a terrific return.

Averaging an assist every 122.8 minutes, the 22-year-old is supplying goals at the fastest rate in the league.

Minutes per assist 2022/23*
Player Ave.
Dejan Kulusevski 122.8
Kevin De Bruyne 126.1
Bukayo Saka 196.0

*minimum three assists

Kulusevski has developed a tremendous rapport with Harry Kane. Whenever Kane drifts inside from the right with the ball on his left foot, he comes alive in search of a goal.

The Swede has already provided three assists for Kane, two from well-weighted passes and the other from a superb far-post cross at a short corner.

Spurs will be eager for Kulusevski and Kane’s reunion to bring about an instant impact as they look to improve on their 0-0 draw on their last visit to Brentford.

Eight of the 17 chances Kulusevski has made this season have been for Kane.

Who Kulusevski creates chances for
Player Total
Kane 8
Son 3
Emerson 2
Hojbjerg, Richarlison, Bentancur, Sessegnon 1

Within Antonio Conte’s structured 3-4-3 system of play, it is important for Kulusevski to offer up moments of individual spontaneity.

He is a player who likes to carry the ball, attempting 4.98 dribbles per 90 minutes.

Last time out, a thrilling 4-3 win against Leeds United, Kulusevski set up the winning goal for Rodrigo Bentancur by beating his man brilliantly before cutting the ball back from the byline.

He consistently took on his markers, making 11 dribbles during the course of that match.

If he does not get tight enough to stop Kulusevski running with the ball, Brentford left-back Rico Henry will need to ready himself for a stern examination on Boxing Day.

Staying injury free

It will have been a source of frustration for Conte that Kulusevski  has missed six matches through injury. Minutes-wise he has featured for only 45.5 per cent of the campaign until this point.

Chances created from open play*
Player Chances created/90
Kulusevski 2.35
Richarlison 1.85
Kane 1.75
Perisic 1.41
Son 1.22

*min 300 minutes

Statistically Kulusevski has been Spurs' most creative player in open play, producing 2.35 chances per 90 minutes.

It is crucial he stays fit in the coming weeks and months.

In the absence of Richarlison and Bentancur, who are both injured, Conte needs Kulusevski to hit the ground running.

Also in this series

Part 2: Gibbs-White can make the difference against Man Utd
Part 3: Revitalised Salah offers Liverpool a dual threat
Part 4: Rodri can bring calm to chaos at Leeds

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