Spurs stalemate shows Conte task as Villa sack Smith


London (AFP) – Antonio Conte had a taste of the scale of his task at new club Tottenham as they laboured to a 0-0 draw at Everton on Sunday after struggling Aston Villa fired manager Dean Smith.

Elsewhere, Arsenal beat Watford 1-0 to climb to fifth in the table while Leeds and Leicester shared the points in a 1-1 draw.

Liverpool, bidding to set a new club record of 26 games unbeaten in all competitions, are in action at high-flying West Ham in the late kick-off.

Spurs sacked Nuno Espirito Santo last week after five defeats in seven Premier League matches and turned to Conte, who has won league titles with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan.

The Italian oversaw a 3-2 victory against Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League in midweek but Sunday’s match at Goodison Park gave him a more realistic glimpse of the challenge ahead.

A game short on clear-cut chances could easily have ended in another league defeat for the visitors but for an intervention from VAR to overturn the decision to award Everton a second-half penalty.

Rafael Benitez’s side thought they had won a spot-kick after Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dived at the feet of Richarlison and clipped the Brazilian.

But after a VAR review referee Chris Kavanagh overturned his original decision on the basis that Lloris got enough of a touch on the ball.

Everton’s Demarai Gray was unable to turn in from Lucas Digne’s cross with eight minutes remaining and Spurs’ Giovani Lo Celso hit a post late on before Mason Holgate was sent off for the home side in stoppage time.

Conte can point to a first clean sheet in the league since August as the first sign of progress but Tottenham’s struggle to score goes on, with Harry Kane still stuck on one goal in the Premier League this season.

Mikel Arteta celebrated his 100th game as Arsenal manager with a 1-0 victory against 10-man Watford.

Emile Smith Rowe broke the deadlock in the second half after an inspired performance from goalkeeper Ben Foster had frustrated the hosts, with Juraj Kucka dismissed late on at the Emirates Stadium.

The three points mean Arsenal, unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions, leapfrog Brighton and Manchester United.

Leeds and Leicester shared the spoils after a stunner from Harvey Barnes cancelled out Raphinha’s opener.

Leicester thought they had taken the lead midway through the second half but Ademola Lookman’s close-range finish from Jamie Vardy’s flick was overturned for offside following a VAR review.

– Smith sacked –

Villa announced they had sacked manager Smith after five straight Premier League defeats — less than 24 hours after bottom club Norwich dismissed their boss, Daniel Farke.

Smith guided Villa back to the English top flight in 2019 but has paid the price for their disappointing form this season, with Friday’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton proving the last straw for club bosses.

The former European champions were 15th in the Premier League table ahead of Sunday’s matches after picking up just 10 points from their opening 11 games.

“This year we have not seen the continuous improvement in results, performances and league position which we have all been looking for,” Villa chief executive Christian Purslow said in a statement on the club’s website.

Smith is the fifth managerial casualty in the Premier League this season.

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