The managerial merry-go-round keeps spinning as Tottenham Hotspur sack Nuno Espirito Santo after just 17 games. This comes following Spurs’s harrowing 3-0 defeat to a resurgent Manchester United who adopted a three-at-the-back formation, drawing many parallels to Antonio Conte’s system.
The central theme to Spurs’ summer transfer window was who would be their next manager, and, after an exhausting process that saw the club linked with every available manager in world football, they settled on Nuno. Now that has failed, attention once again will return back on the question of who will be the next Tottenham manager?
The obvious answer, Antonio Conte. Linked heavily with Manchester United over that last few weeks, it seemed almost inevitable that the four-time Serie A Champion and Premier League-winning manager would be at the wheel of The Red Devils.
Following the news that Man United are planning on giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer more time, and that Spurs were looking likely to sack Espirito Santo, the links between the Italian manager and the North London club have skyrocketed. Seeing another outstanding former Chelsea manager roost in the Spurs dugout leaves a terrible taste in the mouth of Chelsea fans.
Antonio Conte’s potential move to Tottenham should worry Chelsea fans. Unlike at Manchester United where the team is filled with celebrity players with huge personalities that prefer to operate in a system alien to Conte, Spurs are almost perfectly built for his system and style.
In recent years, particularly during his time at Inter, Antonio Conte has continued to operate with a three-back system. Opting for one of a 3-1-4-2 or a 3-5-2. Encouraging defensive solidity in combination with fast-paced counterattacks, Conte’s Inter Milan and Chelsea teams were devastatingly successful domestically, something Spurs have certainly not been.
Tomorrow will mark 5,000 days since Spurs last won a trophy. I’m sure they would prefer to not think about that.
In terms of personnel, Spurs have plenty of the tools Conte would be looking for in a team. A world-class workhorse of a striker in Harry Kane, a devastating partner in Son Heung-Min, a technically astute and physical 10 in Dele Alli and a solid midfield with the ability to find passes and break the lines with Tanguy Ndombele, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso, Oliver Skipp, and Harry Winks.
Add to this a seasoned goalkeeper and World Cup winner, last season’s Serie A Defender of the Year in Cristian Romero, Sergio Reguilón to run the left-hand side, and a host of useful players to occupy defensive positions and you have the makings of an almost ideal Antonio Conte team.
You can’t help but imagine Lucas Moura being transformed from a technical dribbler to a right-wing-back extraordinaire.
What does this mean for Chelsea? Well, firstly Spurs will almost certainly become a series threat once again. This historically has not bothered Chelsea fans as Chelsea tend to always get the better of Spurs, it’s Spurs after all. Yet, Conte creates winners. Spurs have been crying out for a manager that will transform not just the tactics on the pitch, but the mentality off it.
Unlike Jose Mourinho who ventured to the Lily Whites after past his peak, which arguably was at Chelsea, Antonio Conte is coming off the back of a series of title wins in Italy and England over the past decade. Nonetheless, the jibe will always be there that Chelsea did it first and did it better.
Antonio Conte got the best out of a floundering Chelsea side. It is likely he will get the best out of a Spurs side who find themselves in a similar position. Currently, Spurs sit ten points behind Chelsea, a lead that looks unlikely to be usurped. However, if they give Conte this season to work things out and next season Spurs could legitimately be a serious contender for major silverware once again.
Conte will have to change the psyche of Spurs. The famous quote from former Conte player and current Juventus and Italy Captain Giorgio Chiellini:
“It’s the history of Tottenham, they always create many chances and score so much but, in the end, they miss always something to arrive at the end.”
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If Conte were to follow in the footsteps of Jose Mourinho and end up managing Spurs, expect fireworks. As he does at every club he manages, conflict with the board is on the menu. However, if Conte can provide Spurs with the silverware both players and fans have been craving for so long, expect the fans to be right behind him.
Conte is not a long term project manager. Thomas Tuchel, if ever a manager could, is looking like he could remain at Chelsea longer than any manager since 2003. What Chelsea have and will continue to have under Tuchel is far greater than what Spurs will have under Conte. Chelsea has a long term recruitment strategy, a litany of exceptional young talent and a collection of players who want to stay at the club long term.
Oh, and Chelsea is the reigning European Champions, although this hardly gets mentioned…
Nonetheless, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte will always have been Chelsea first. Whilst Conte would certainly improve Spurs, it is hard to see him reaching the same heights he achieved at Chelsea. So, whilst this move may concern or anger Chelsea fans, the likelihood is, Spurs will still be half a step off, for this season.
He will not be welcomed back at the Bridge warmly if he arrives in a Spurs suit, a poor sartorial choice for any person. As always with Antonio Conte, expect fireworks. However, will the firework display be beautiful or a disaster? Only time will tell. For now, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea is focused on one thing, becoming Premier League Champions once again.
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