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How Will Antonio Conte Change Tottenham Hotspur?

Antonio Conte’ and ‘Tottenham Hotspur’ are two entities one would not have expected to read in the same sentence, as there are hardly any similarities between the two. The former is an Italian tactician, who has made himself synonymous with winning trophies.

In his managerial career, Conte has won four Serie A titles, one Premier League, one FA Cup, two Supercoppa Italiana and also one Serie B title. It has taken Conte twelve years to accumulate these honours. While he was busy adding feathers to his cap, North London-based  Tottenham Hotspur fought for relevancy.

Spurs’ last trophy came in 2008 – a year before Conte got his first title as a manager. Hence, when the Italian was announced as the new manager of the Lilywhites, it caught many by surprise. It will be interesting to see what happens when these two polar opposites collide, but from what we have seen so far in Conte’s managerial career, his chapter with Spurs is likely to be a happy one.

There are many reasons to believe why he can fix the currently underwhelming Tottenham Hotspur team. Let us have an in-depth look at the radical changes he might be bringing in Spurs’ game-play:

Defence to form the core of the team

Antonio Conte is famous for plenty of things, but like a plethora of his Italian colleagues in the managerial field, he is most famously known for his concrete defensive set-up. In last season’s Serie A, his Inter Milan side conceded the least number of goals – 35 from 38 matches.

Even if we were to go back to his previous stint in England, his 2016/17 Chelsea side conceded only 33 goals and had the second-best defensive record. Spurs are in dire need of defensive stability, having conceded 16 goals already in this edition’s Premier League. Among the top ten sides, only Manchester United have let in more goals than Spurs. With Conte likely to set up a solid three-man defence, Spurs’ defensive records are almost certain to get better over the next few months.

Attackers can find their form again

The defensive solidity might be the forte of the 52-year-old tactical mastermind, but he also knows how to get the best out of his attackers. Let us consider his time in Inter Milan for example. Romelu Lukaku scored 30 goals in the last season and 34 goals in the season before that. The Belgian striker has never reached the 30-goal mark under any other manager.

Like Lukaku, his former Inter Milan teammate Lautaro Martinez also was at his lethal best under Conte, as he reached the 20-goal mark in a season for the first time in his career. The current Spurs roster has a lot of talented attackers, who in unison, have strangely forgotten how to score. The trio of Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn has scored one Premier League goal combined this season, but under Conte, they could find themselves rejuvenated.

A manager who is allergic to lethargic players

Spurs have been painful to watch this season, not solely because of their seemingly clueless style of play, but also because of their lethargic behaviour on the pitch. Zeal and passion are things they have been missing under the former manager, Nuno Espirito Santo.

report from last month revealed that they ran the least among Premier League clubs. The players will have to change their lackadaisical attitude under Conte’s tutelage, as if they fail to do so, the bench is where they will find themselves for the rest of the season.

Formational flexibility to kick-out rigidity

A major drawback of Nuno Espirito Santo’s style of play was his rigid formation. When things went wrong, the Portuguese manager was often found wanting and lacked a Plan B. That, however, is unlikely to be repeated in the Conte era.

The former Chelsea manager sets his team up with a fluid formation. While the three-man backline remains intact, he switches between 3-5-2 while defending, to 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3 in attack, with someone having a free role.

Counter-attack is the best way to counter attacks

Inter Milan had the best counter-attack record in last season’s Serie A, and it was not a one-off. Conte’s teams, be it Juventus, Inter Milan or Chelsea, have always been strong at counter-attacks, and there is a simple but clever reason behind this.

When the opponent’s centre-backs have the ball, Conte’s forwards tend the press them, to block the pathway for a long ball from the deep. The only option available is a pass to the midfielders, but before a defender could get the move done, Conte’s triple-pivot in midfield narrows the space down in the centre of the park, forcing the opposition players to commit a mistake and misplace a pass, thus making way for counter-attacks, which prove deadly more often than not.