From Portuguese to Italian: What Conte Can Bring to Spurs

Antonio Conte kicked off life in North London with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Vitesse on Thursday evening in a match that saw three red cards. Tottenham were three goals up inside 30 minutes at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but the visitors fought back to score two goals before half time.

From the outset, Conte has already made changes to Spurs and he lined up in a 3-4-3 formation in their Europa Conference League tie. The former Chelsea boss only made one change from the 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United – Nuno Santo Espirito’s final game in charge – as Sergio Reguilon came in for Giovanni Lo Celso.

He continued with the same line up on Sunday afternoon as he picked up his first point in the Premier League as Tottenham head coach in a 0-0 draw against Everton at Goodison Park.

Here, we take a look at the differences between Nuno and Conte and what Tottenham could expect from the former Premier League winner.

Nuno’s Troubles

Nuno Espirito Santo lasted four months in charge as he oversaw just 10 Premier League games and the ex-Wolves man was not the ideal candidate from the start. Chairman Daniel Levy had already approached at least five others before hiring Nuno but failed to appoint any one of Antonio Conte, Paulo Fonesca, Hansi Flick, Mauricio Pochettino or Gennaro Gattuso.

The fact that the appointment of Nuno came after failing to secure their higher-rated candidates, coupled with the fact he was also only offered a two-year contract, highlighted the lack of faith in which Spurs had in him and put him at a disadvantage from the off. The players knew and that has been representative in the results and performances this season.

Under Jose Mourinho, Spurs lacked attacking intent to their play and they relied too heavily on the individual brilliance of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son to get their goals and the thought was that Nuno would try and change this. However, his Spurs side had scored the fewest goals in the Premier League, bar bottom placed Norwich, and they were also joint-bottom, alongside the Canaries, in terms of shots with just 103. They were also ranked second-bottom in terms of expected goals, once again above only Norwich.

The talk from Levy over the summer was that he wanted Spurs to return to their ‘free-flowing, attacking and entertaining football’, hence why they approached people such as Flick and Pochettino. Nuno has never been an attacking manager and his appointment was clearly a stop-gap due to his Premier League experience.

His confidence had clearly dwindled and at Spurs, Nuno lacked communication, was quiet and withdrawn. Players were not given any sense of belief or had any ideas to the direction he was trying to take the club. The lack of authority made a big imprint on the squad, especially after his predecessors had such big personalities – the charisma of Pochettino and the arrogance of Mourinho.

Conte Control

This is where the big difference comes in now with the appointment of Conte. The big name here resembles a similar appointment to that of Mourinho. So too, in terms of personality, with Conte showing the abrasiveness and arrogance like that of Jose. However, the Italian has had far more recent success than the Portuguese and the thought is his personality can help provide the spark that this Spurs side need.

However, there are also differences between Conte and Mourinho and, actually, the appointment of Nuno carried a similar weight to Jose, in the sense they both played structured and defensive football. Now, the thought is that Conte will deliver the attacking football that Levy promised the fans over the summer.

It is strange that the appointment has come now and not four months ago, especially due to Conte’s emphasis on a full pre-season. Nonetheless, the Tottenham players will now have to adapt quickly to match the demands and work rate of the Italian. If the players can embrace his philosophy and work ethic then it could be a great success. Of course, the squad certainly does not lack talent and by marrying the said talent, with the intensity and large physical work, it could work wonders.

Conte truly is a control freak and he has previously instilled strict diet and exercise requirements on his players as he looks to get them up to top physical condition. This was one of the issues under Nuno. Spurs had a real lack of fitness, unlike under Pochettino, whose Spurs side constantly utilised a high press. Prior to the Everton match, Tottenham had covered the least ground in the Premier League this season.

Tactically, Conte will look to aggressively instill his philosophy into his players through putting them through intense training drills until they are able to demonstrate what he desires, as well as running through hours of game film.

One of the main things about Conte is his fire and abrasiveness. His former players such as Andrea Pirlo and Giorgio Chiellini have previously remarked how aggressive he is, especially when things do not go his way. However, this can be too much and if the Tottenham players do not get on board, then things could go sour. It is also important that Conte does not overstep the mark and at times he has become too aggressive, demanding too much of his players.

Spurs Premier League Debut

From the first few minutes at Goodison Park, Conte was on the sideline, shouting at the same eleven he named from the 3-2 victory over Vitesse.

Against Everton, the intensity certainly seemed higher and Conte used his regular three at the back system but there seemed to be a lack of creativity still. Of course, it’s only the Italian’s first week in charge but the notable lack of a No. 10 and true creator in midfield is pertinent.

Tottenham still looked a little sloppy in possession and time is still needed to implement the tactical requirements of Conte. However, the match largely saw Spurs sit deep and look to hit on the counter. Spurs will still have to make the adjust as well to the system, moving from a four at the back system under Nuno. However, the creative and attacking issues still remained as they labored to the 0-0 draw without managing a shot on target.

Naturally, more time is needed for the players to build up the level of fitness that Conte requires and perhaps after the international break we may see more of what is to come from Spurs under the Italian.