Antonio Conte said Tottenham have a “lot of space for improvement” after his first Premier League game in charge of the club ended in a drab 0-0 draw at Everton on Sunday.
A game short on clear-cut chances could easily have ended in Spurs’ sixth defeat in eight league games but for a controversial intervention from VAR to overturn the decision to award Everton a second-half penalty.
Giovani lo Celso nearly snatched all three points for Tottenham when his shot hit the post late on before Everton had to see out stoppage time a man down following Mason Holgate’s straight red card.
Conte can point to a first clean sheet in the league since August as the first sign of progress since replacing Nuno Espirito Santo earlier this week.
However, their struggle to score goals goes on as Harry Kane has still netted just once in the Premier League this season.
“For sure we can improve. We have a lot of space for improvement: tactically, physically and also mentally,” said Conte.
“But today I have seen the heart and passion of my players. The will to sacrifice, to fight, to understand there were moments of difficulty, and to see this type of reaction makes me more confident for the future.
“I think when you want to be competitive you must have a stable team, not (have) ups and downs. Today we didn’t concede a goal and I think that is a good start to improve.”
The sackings of Norwich boss Daniel Farke and Aston Villa manager Dean Smith over the weekend took the total in the English top flight to five this season.
Rafael Benitez is another manager under pressure as a bright start has given way to two points from the last 15 on offer in the league.
Benitez’s appointment was not warmly welcomed by a large proportion of the Everton support due to his Champions League-winning past at rivals Liverpool.
But the Spaniard has been hamstrung by injuries to key players and the presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin was badly missed by the home side as the lacked a focal point up front.
Tottenham had the better of a poor first 45 minutes from both sides. Sergio Reguilon blazed over the best chance from Kane’s pinpoint cross.
The game suddenly sparked into life on the hour mark when Everton thought they had a penalty after Hugo Lloris dived at the feet of Richarlison and clipped the Brazilian.
However, after a VAR review, referee Chris Kavanagh overturned his original decision on the basis that Lloris got enough of a touch on the ball.
A replay shown inside Goodison Park sparked outrage among the Everton fans and the blue-shirted players used the sense of injustice to fuel their best spell of the game.
“It doesn’t matter if he touches the ball or not,” said Benitez. “It has to be a foul.”
Demarai Gray had the best chance to win the game for the Toffees, but he steered Lucas Digne’s cross just wide of the far post.
Tottenham still retained a threat on the counter-attack despite an off day for Kane and Son Heung-min.
Substitute Lo Celso produced a rare moment of quality when his curling effort from 25 yards beat Jordan Pickford and came back off the post.
Holgate was then rightly shown red after another VAR review for a wild lunge on Pierre Emile Hojbjerg.