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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Antonio Conte and Tottenham Hotspur: A match made in heaven?



By Alessandro Schiavone


Antonio Conte has his work cut out to deliver a first trophy in more than 13 years to Tottenham Hotspur. The Italian tactician is conscious of the magnitude of the task he faces but he has so far always excelled when the odds were stacked against him.


The respected Italian manager is no stranger to lifting silverware against all odds. He ended Juventus’ run of six years without a Serie A title in 2012/2013 (In reality nine, as Juventus had been stripped off two league titles in 2005 and 2006] after controversially dethroning champions-elect AC Milan. At the first time of asking he upset the odds to propel Chelsea to unlikely Premier League glory in 2017 and then brought the Scudetto to Inter Milan after 11 years last term.

Sandwiched between the successes in Turin and London, was a quarter-finals finish with Italy at Euro 2016 where he only succumbed to Germany’s supremacy in the shootout, paying the price for Simone Zaza and Graziano Pelle's antics from 12 yards out.

So, what makes Antonio Conte so Antonio Conte and why should he fare any different to his predecessors Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo, who both flattered to deceive?

Here we look at what Spurs supporters can expect with the serial winner in charge.


Results-driven

As a player, Conte won five Serie A titles and the Champions League with Juventus. And a further four as a manager. Five, if we take the Premier League with the Blues into the equation. This is no mean feat. Despite managing and firing Inter Milan to glory, Conte has Juve DNA flowing through its veins. And the Old Lady’s famous motto of ‘Winning isn’t important, it’s the only thing that matters’ is echoed by the new Tottenham manager himself.

He has a plan, a vision and the confidence to end Daniel Levy’s quest for silverware but he has to be backed in the transfer window.

Levy has made a lot of funds available over the years but most of that money got wasted on the wrong players. But Conte rarely gets his signings wrong as was typified by the impressive arrivals at Appiano Gentile of Romelu Lukalu and Achraf Hakimi when in charge of Inter.

Both players, who now ply their trade for Chelsea and PSG respectively, looked unplayable last season. Some people may point to Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko but are we sure that they were Conte's priorities rather than a Plan B or C? That said, wherever he managed, he won something.

Whoever wants to play for him has to punch above his weight and put a shift in, both in training and in games. Because you train like you play. And if you go through the motions in training you won't get anywhere near the pitch on match-day.


Kane will stay

Harry Kane is understood to be excited at the prospect of working with a world-class manager. And so is Conte to link up with one of the finest centre-forwards in recent history. After an underwhelming two-year spell at Manchester United, Conte got the best out of Lukaku at Inter.

He restored his confidence after a roller-coaster time at Old Trafford, worked on his mind, told him every day that he’s the best in the world, improved him tactically and physically and then reaped the rewards as the Belgian first spearheaded Inter Milan’s revival, capped with a second-place finish, before playing a central role in helping the Nerazzurri to a first title win in over a decade thanks to a staggering tally of 64 goals in 95 games across all competitions. It’s well-documented that Kane tried to push through a move to Man City last summer and he is presumably still suffering a summer hangover. But while the fans were disappointed with Kane’s willingness to move on, they cut him some slack. But after another lacklustre display against Manchester United, the boo birds were finally out in full force at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Since bursting onto the scene in 2014, Kane has looked every inch the best striker in the Premier League, scoring goals for fun and carrying the team on his shoulders in difficult moments.

Kane is still mourning the death of his collapsed dream move to Manchester City but Conte won’t be in awe of him, such is his big ego. At Chelsea he took no prisoners and ditched Cesc Fabregas, one of the finest midfielders the Premier League has ever seen. At Juventus he froze club legend Alessandro Del Piero out of his best XI, forcing his former teammate and world champion to consider his options and move to Australia at the end of the 2011/2012 season. Diego Godin looked out of his depth in a three-man defence and Conte ditched the Uruguayan, despite his pedigree, record and stature. He is aware that Kane holds the keys to a potential Tottenham revival but if he keeps sulking and fluffing his lines, he will have no issues in dropping him. That said, with Conte in charge the England captain will sooner rather than later rediscover his finishing touch and even commit to a new Spurs deal to end his career in north London.


Direction

Conte will become every Spurs player’s most trusted ally as they will all follow him blindly. They know that he is a born winner and that nine times out of 10 his tactics work wonders. The former Italy manager will now use the international break to start to instil tactical discipline and mental toughness to a side in dire need of it.

Spurs had been lacking direction under Mourinho and Espirito Santo but that won’t be the case now. Spurs will be loaded in attack, resolute at the back and have a clear philosophy and game plan. His favoured 3-5-2 system may be old school and predictable but just like Arjen Robben’s perennial cutting inside on to his left foot, it impressively does the job. Even with one of the world's finest managers in charge, Spurs fans won't expect to win every game but at least their team won't go down without a fight. Before long, Tottenham will become a different proposition and very hard to beat because Conte will drill the same training sessions, tactical instructions and methods into the players' heads until they become second nature. And once they do, success can be expected.


Players will adapt to him, he won’t adapt to them

Just like Achraf Hakimi, Matteo Darmian and Ivan Perisic at Inter, Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon will be converted into wing-backs. If they can’t adapt, Conte won’t mind knocking on Daniel Levy’s door and demand them to be moved on to raise funds for more suitable players.

But one thing is sure, each and every player will fight tooth and nail to win their new manager over. Even those who don’t play week-in, week-out are prepared to run through a brick wall for him. Christian Eriksen found regular first-team football hard to come by because of a lack of defensive work, pressing and an unwillingness to track his runners. Once he began to do just that for the cause, Eriksen came in from the cold and never looked back. Dele Alli could do worse than giving his former Danish teammate a call to ask for information about his new manager.










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