Antonio Conte has hailed the killer instincts of his bloodthirsty Tottenham leading trio after a clinical 4-0 win at Aston Villa revived hopes for Champions League football next season.
Son Heung-min scored a hat-trick, taking him to 17 Premier League goals for the season, and winger Dejan Kulusevski was also on target at Villa Park.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane had two assists, as Tottenham’s front three sent Villa running to shreds in the second half.
Son has the most Premier League goals this season when penalties are removed from the tally, given that none of his strikes have been kicks. Mohamed Salah’s 20-goal run, leading the league, includes five penalties.
Villa finished the game with a higher expected goals figure than Tottenham, 1.71 to Spurs’ 1.02. It reflected the golden chances Villa spurned, particularly in the first half when Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho all threatened.
The stat also spoke of Tottenham’s ability to sniff out half a chance and snatch a goal, which Conte delighted.
Previous defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United meant Tottenham had a great opportunity to tighten their grip on fourth place, and Conte said: “We have to look each other in the face. I said this to our players: a team strong, a great team, don?t depend on others.
“We have to understand the moment when you have to kill your opponent. Today was an important moment, especially because of other results. It was good for us, but it was good because we won. If you don’t not win, the result of the other teams is not useful.
“The players know very well what I said. The winner has to smell when there is blood, your opponent’s blood, and then you have to kill your opponent.
“I think we are working very hard in many aspects. I’m lucky because I have a group of players who deserve the best because they show me great commitment, good behavior every day.
“They want to improve, and to get these kinds of results in a short time makes me very happy because I know they are very happy.”
Tottenham have won six of their last seven Premier League games, following a previous run of poor results.
They have seven games left, including a big derby against Arsenal next month and a trip to title hopefuls Liverpool.
Tottenham seem to be growing all the time, and to be able to put aside a sketchy 45-minute opener, when Son’s first goal gave them a lead they barely deserved at the break, showed a particular quality that pleased in Conte.
Son, Kane and Kulusevski were unaffected by the knocks Tottenham had suffered and came out for the second half determined to put a bigger mark on the game.
“I think the job of the coach is to try to exploit the characteristic of the players, to put the players in the best situation,” Conte told Sky Sports.
“I think this formation is soft on the characteristics of these players, and it works very well. We are starting to work on the details. It is very important because remember that I arrived in November, not in pre- I think we have grown in a big way, and now we are showing that it is difficult to play against us.”
Son also spoke about the dynamic between the front three. Since Kulusevski’s Premier League debut on February 9, only Kane (13) and Son (12) have been involved in more goals in the competition than the former Juventus winger (nine) across all teams.
“It’s about understanding,” Son said. “The first time we played together it wasn’t perfect. We’re still not perfect, but we’re getting better every day and love playing together.”