Despite suggestions Mauricio Pochettino was set for a grand return at Tottenham Hotspur, Antonio Conte is now the frontrunner to succeed José Mourinho at the club. Having guided Inter to their first Scudetto in 10 años, ending a period of Juventus dominance that he started, Conte has left the club due to their plans to sell €80m worth of players to balance the books.
A return to England looms for Conte. Having won five league titles in his last seven seasons as a club manager, he would be quite the coup for Spurs. Por supuesto, the path from Chelsea to Tottenham is a well trodden one; André Villas-Boas and Mourinho have both moves to north London in recent years after stints at Chelsea.
Daniel Levy will be hoping third time’s the charm with Conte, a proven winner who demands the most from his players. “When you finish training, you are dead. Not tired – dead,” said Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini of Conte back in 2018. After the “basic” training under Mourinho, Spurs players could be in for a wake-up call. “It is not only in the match with Conte. It is all day, every training session. He is like a police sergeant,” added Chiellini. So Spurs supporters would be looking forward to watching a fitter, more intense side – something more like the high-pressing machine they enjoyed during Pochettino’s peak at the club.
During Conte’s two years at Chelsea, only two teams won possession in the attacking third more times than the Blues (328) en el Liga Premier. similar, in his two-year stint with Inter, they ranked third in Serie A for possession won in the attacking third (371). Opponents know what is coming from Conte’s sides but, like an Arjen Robben break down the right and cut on to his left, it is difficult to stop.
Conte’s sides do not see as much of the ball as their close rivals, but they are very effective once they are in possession. Chelsea ranked sixth in the league for possession (54%) in his debut, title-winning campaign, but were second for goals scored (85). Inter also finished sixth for possession (52%) in Serie A this season and they too were second for goals scored (89). Conte is nothing if not consistent.
Spurs fans can also look forward to a change of system under Conte. Mourinho tended to play a 4-2-3-1 formación, using that approach 20 times in the league this season. Mourinho experimented with a back three to mixed effect before his dismissal and Conte is likely to continue that approach. Inter used a three-man defence in all 38 of their league matches this season, so expect to see the same at Spurs – though it will require investment from the club.
Scoring was not a problem for Spurs this season. Only Manchester City and Manchester United scored more goals in the league, and Spurs converted a higher percentage of their chances (14.9%) than any other side in the division. But their inability to hold on to leads ultimately cost them a spot in the Champions League. Spurs dropped 23 points from winning positions in the league this season – only Brighton let go of more.
Inter had no such problems. They shipped fewer goals than any other team in Serie A this season – just 35 en 38 juegos. sin embargo, Conte had three core centre-backs to call upon in Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij and one-time Tottenham target Milan Skriniar. At Spurs, he will not have that luxury, at least not straight away.
Eric Dier made more league appearances (28) than any other Spurs centre-back this season, followed by Toby Alderweireld (25) and Davinson Sánchez (17). Most supporters would be happy to see the back of Dier and Sánchez, and their potential exits leave just Alderweireld and Joe Rodon as the only senior centre-backs on the books. Levy needs to get the chequebook out to bolster a backline that is in dire need of improvement, with Skriniar and Joachim Andersen, who spent last season on loan at Fulham from Lyon, both linked with moves to north London this summer. The likely departures of Juan Foyth and Cameron Carter-Vickers will boost the coffers but, based on what we know of Conte, it would take more than these two sales to appease his transfer demands.
A few players in the squad would be particularly pleased about Conte joining. Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon, who spent last season on loan at Norwich and Hoffenheim, respectivamente, are perfect fits in Conte’s favoured 3-5-2 setup. Matt Doherty, who endured a difficult debut campaign at Spurs, would benefit from a return to a wing-back role. As we saw with Chelsea, Conte is not afraid to change a player’s role to suit the needs of the team – he used Victor Moses, traditionally a winger, at wing-back, a position in which he ultimately excelled.
With no need for wingers in Conte’s 3-5-2 system, Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela would need to re-develop as wing-backs, with Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane – if he stays – leading the line. On the whole, Conte is demanding – for both his players and his board – but he is one of the most successful managers in the game. If Spurs are to challenge for silverware, then there is no one better on the market than Conte.