In this article, we have explored the impact that Antonio Conte had on Tottenham Hotspur in his first two months at the North London club. The Italian was appointed on the 2nd of November 2021. So far it has been just over two months into his reign. He has certainly made a much-needed difference both on and off the pitch since taking over. Since Conte joined the club, there has been a return of optimism and hope to Tottenham, who still await their first major trophy since 2008 and their first league title since 1961. So, trophies are certainly overdue considering the size of the club and some of the world-class players Spurs have had at their disposal over the past few decades.
So, what has Conte done at Spurs so far?
Since taking over, Conte has gone 8 Premier League matches unbeaten, winning 5 matches so picking up 18 points out of a possible 24.
Conte’s positive start in the Premier League has meant they have picked up an average of 2.25 points per game. There is a huge difference to the 1.5 points per game that Nuno Espirito Santo managed in his short 10 Premier League tenure at the club.
In the Premier League, Spurs have also scored 1.75 goals and let in 0.5 per game under Conte. It again betters Nuno’s record of 0.9 goals scored and 1.6 conceded per game with Spurs keeping 5 clean sheets in 8 games under him.
The 6 shots on target per match under Conte beats the 4 per game from Nuno. This indeed shows the increased attacking threat that the Lilywhites have possessed since Conte’s arrival. Meanwhile, the shots on target against have fallen from 4.5 to 3 per game since Conte arrived. This shows that they have also been more assured defensively.
Change Of Formation
As expected, when he arrived, Conte brought his 3 at the back system straight into his plans at Tottenham. He has predominantly been playing a 3-4-3, with the odd game or two switching into more of a 3-5-2 to get an extra midfielder into the system like the game against Liverpool in December for example where Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son played as a front two rather than being part of a front three with one other.
The 3-4-3 system has seen Spurs utilize the width of their wing-backs, allowing their inside forwards like Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura to come into more narrow areas of the pitch to get into more goal scoring opportunities and also to provide closer support to Harry Kane who had been struggling for form under Nuno Espirito Santo. The go-to pair of fullbacks so far for Conte has been Spaniard Sergio Reguilón and Brazilian summer signing Emerson Royal who have both contributed with assists and pre assists with good delivery to the further forward attackers.
Despite the increased attacking contribution, there have been major question marks in recent weeks over the crossing ability of Emerson Royal down the right-hand side which has appeared to be a downfall of his game, and attacking delivery is key for a wing-back in this system so that will need to improve or spurs could look at other options in the transfer market.
Spurs have also been using two defensive-minded midfielders in Oliver Skipp and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg in the center of the park which protects the, at times, vulnerable back 3 very well and allows Spurs to win back possession quickly after losing it which is something Antonio Conte wants to do in his system. It does however limit the amount of creativity that comes from the middle of the pitch with neither of the two having the eye for defense splitting passes that Spurs fans had been so used to from Christian Eriksen in previous years.
The use of a back three has also allowed Eric Dier, who plays in the central role of the 3 defenders, to use his strong ball-playing ability to at times come out of the defensive line and play directly through balls to the forwards or diagonal cross-field switches out to the wing-backs to start attacks quickly rather than keeping possession with shorter and more patient passes in deeper positions.
Players Who Have Benefitted Under Conte
Under Nuno Espirito Santo, Ben Davies was only picked for selection just once in the Premier League which was Nuno’s final game in charge in that horrific 3-0 home defeat against Manchester United but before that game, Davies had spent the previous games in the shadow of Sergio Reguilón with the pair battling it out for the Left Back spot.
This all changed when Conte arrived and of course, started playing the 3-4-3 formation which has seen Ben Davies start 7 of the last 8 Premier League matches. He played in the left-sided center-back role which he is familiar with from his time on international duty where he plays that role so well for Wales. This role allows Davies to focus more on the defensive side of his game and allows him to use his reading of the game to cover spaces and mark players effectively when they get past the left wing-back or central center back.
In the latter stages of his recent time at left-back, Davies was struggling to match the opposing wingers for pace and this was a clear downfall of his game but now in this new left-sided center back role it isn’t the case and he has a role that is much more suited to his body’s ability and he has certainly been putting in a lot of strong performances.
We all know the world-class ability that Harry Kane carries so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that he has shown a return to form under Conte but it is no secret that the Italian has had a major impact on his mentality and that has translated into much more impactful performances from the England captain.
After only 1 goal in 8 starts under Nuno, Kane was certainly going through one of the toughest spells of his career after his huge summer transfer saga which was linking him with a move away from the club. However, since Conte has arrived, he has managed 3 goals in the last 4 Premier League matches and has definitely looked a lot more like himself. Conte kept Kane further up the pitch and kept him in the opponent’s penalty box rather than dropping deep in an attempt to create something himself. This has led to Kane getting himself into more promising goal-scoring positions and subsequently scoring more goals which are vital for Spurs if they are going to get themselves back in the top four this season.
Before talking about Lucas Moura, it is important to point out that he was one of the few players putting in strong performances under Nuno but his performance levels have got even better under Conte and that is why we have picked him out.
With the ability of the 3-4-3 allowing Lucas to get into more central positions, he has been able to get himself into more threatening positions to score and set up goals for his teammates. This has led to a very promising run of form for the Brazilian who has scored 3 goals and got 3 assists in League and Cup competitions under his new boss.
Another key benefit for Moura is that his freedom to come inside allows him to use his skill of being able to dribble around in tight spaces to create dangerous attacks for his side. Rather than collecting the ball near the touchline and having to work from out wide, Lucas can pick the ball up centrally and drive towards goal by beating defenders which is what we saw in his Premier League Goal of The Month Nominee against Norwich City back in early December as he beat 2 or 3 defenders before unleashing a superb strike into the top corner from outside the box.
Antonio Conte has called for Lucas to contribute more to goals in order to get himself to that next level so he will need to keep this positive form consistent which is something he has struggled to do in 4 years in a Spurs shirt.
So it’s been a positive start for Conte in his new job at White Hart Lane but with a big month coming up with 2 games against Chelsea, a North London Derby and an away match at the King Power Stadium against Leicester and a month of opportunity for transfers in and out of the club it’s sure to be a testing but opportunistic month for Tottenham to make big strides towards their goals for the end of the season.
Next up it’s Morecambe in the FA Cup 3rd round as they look to begin their campaign in another competition with the aim of going all the way to Cup glory at Wembley which as mentioned earlier hasn’t been a formality for many years down at No.17. It will be a chance for other players to stake their claim to get their chance in the first team, a chance for some youngsters to impress, and possibly a shop window moment for the club as they look to sell on some of the unwanted players at the club this January.
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