Tottenham secured a 4-1 triumph over Southampton on the opening day of the Premier League season to top the table

Emerson Royal was one player who took his chance for Antonio Conte in Tottenham’s win over Southampton (Image: CHRIS RADBURN/AFP via Getty Images)

It was all too easy at times for Tottenham on Saturday afternoon as they started the 2022/23 Premier League season with three points. Falling behind to James Ward-Prowse’s opener for Southampton after 12 minutes, there was only ever going to be one winner once Ryan Sessegnon restored parity nine minutes later.

Running out 4-1 winners, Antonio Conte’s men could have won by more given the number of openings they created against the south coast club. Usual goalscorers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min weren’t even on the scoresheet but that didn’t matter at all for the Lilywhites due to the huge gulf between the sides.

Without £60million summer addition Richarlison through suspension, Conte opted against starting his other five new additions, with two of them still building up their fitness after recent injuries. Tottenham’s bench for Saturday’s game did highlight their new strength in depth, however.

Having to name a handful of youngsters on the bench in the run-in due to injuries, it was imperative for Spurs to add to their squad ahead of the new campaign as leaving themselves too short again could ultimately prove incredibly costly to their aspirations. The second-half introductions of Ivan Perisic, Lucas Moura, Yves Bissouma, Clement Lenglet and Matt Doherty only highlighted their new depth.

Tottenham’s increased numbers, which Conte was wishing for in his first season in charge, does mean more competition across the squad, thus leaving players in a big fight for a place in his XI. Speaking to the media after the game, the Italian opened up on the club’s transfer dealings and the importance of having options.

“I was really surprised to read that someone was astonished that we sign six players in early time,” explained the 53-year-old in his post-match press conference. “I think with the club, our first target was to try to improve the squad compared to last season because last season I think the squad we finished the season with maybe 13 players. We were lucky not to have no (more) injuries because we lost Skippy and Tanganga in January.

“Our first target was to improve the squad and the numerical aspect and quality aspect. To play for competition and if we want to try to be competitive and stronger than last season, we need to have a squad.

“I think we work with common sense to sign players with specific characteristics for our system, for our target and the club work well. Yeah, we work together for the best of the club. I always say I do everything for the best of the club, not myself.”

Spurs did have big problems in the wing-back positions last campaign but Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici quickly addressed the issue with Perisic and Djed Spence joining from Inter Milan and Middlesbrough respectively. Both missed out on the XI against Southampton, with Sessegnon and Emerson Royal the two to get the nod.

Knowing that a poor performance could quickly see them back on the bench, the duo stepped up and more than played their part in the victory. Sessegnon delivered one of his best performances in a Tottenham shirt and grabbed a goal his display deserved after heading home Dejan Kulusevski’s cross at the back post.

Seeing a lot of the ball and making some brilliant runs down the left flank, the ex-Fulham man had a goal ruled out for offside just after the restart and was then denied not long after following Kuluseveski’s cross to pick him out. It was perhaps a tad harsh on him to be substituted off after 66 minutes but it gave Perisic the opportunity to get his first Premier League minutes under his belt.

“I’m really pleased for Sess because we are working very well with him, especially on the physical aspect because in the past this player had many injuries and after one or two months, then again injury, muscular problems,” said Conte on the 22-year-old. “He’s working well and we are giving him stability in the physical aspect. I think it’s very important that we signed a player like Ivan Perisic because he (Sessegnon) can see the way to learn something about Ivan. We are talking about a very important player in Ivan, a top player.

“Sometimes it’s good to bring into your team players even if they are a bit over-age. If they are a good player with experience, they can bring this experience to improve young players in your squad. I think Sessegnon is doing this.

“I was really pleased because today he played a good game. Emerson played a good game. Now we have to continue in this way.”

On the opposite flank to Sessegnon, Emerson had an impact on proceedings and had a huge role in Tottenham’s third of the afternoon after Mohammed Salisu turned the Brazilian’s shot into his own net. The 2021 summer signing perhaps does have his limitations when it comes to his play in the final third but he did also get an assist to his name after teeing up Kulusevski.

On a day when he had to do something on the pitch with Doherty and Spence breathing down his neck, Emerson delivered with a very good attacking display, most notably in the second half. Quite whether it is enough for him to stay in the team vs Chelsea remains to be seen, but he has given Conte food for thought as he looks to make his right wing-back call.

Even in attack, Kulusevski has competition for his place in the side after Richarlison’s big-money move from Everton. The Swede was simply sublime after his January arrival and he carried on from where he left off last season against Southampton.

He was instrumental to the victory, causing problem after problem for Saints as he toyed with them in the final third. His crosses into the box always hit the right areas and more often than not find the intended target, with Sessegnon benefiting on Saturday afternoon.

As soon as he cuts inside onto his favoured left foot the other team is in danger, which was very much the case in the 63rd minute as he found the bottom corner with a curling finish. The Sweden international is a joy to watch and that added competition could spur him on to even greater heights.

Tottenham may have only played one game this season but Conte has already got exactly what he wanted in terms of the competition in his squad. Chelsea certainly won’t be looking forward to Tottenham’s visit to Stamford Bridge a week today.