Antonio Conte's tasks: get Tottenham attacking, Kane firing and deal with Levy

The Italian taskmaster has his work cutout to turn Spurs into top-four contenders

Antonio Conte took training at Tottenham on Wednesday for the first time since being appointed manager, promising to “do everything” to earn the backing of the fans.

The Italian was appointed as Nuno Espirito Santo’s successor on Tuesday, signing an 18-month contract, with the option of an extra year.

“I want Tottenham to become an important part of my career as a manager,” Conte said. But as his reign begins, there is much to do:

Attack more

Daniel Levy’s infamous declaration that Spurs would hire a manager who played “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining football” was followed by the appointment of one whose team averaged under a goal a game and only outscored Norwich City. Tottenham did not have a shot on target in their last 136 minutes of league football under Nuno Espirito Santo. Given the talents in their squad, that was hideous underachievement. “My coaching philosophy is to play attractive football,” said Conte. Many may argue he is essentially pragmatic, but he is not as defensive as Nuno. Instead, he uses his tactical nous to find a way to create.

Get Kane firing

Harry Kane got 23 league goals and 14 assists last season. In 10 games under Nuno, he mustered one and one respectively. The last three months have seen the poorest form of his Spurs career; after the summer saga of the transfer that wasn’t, Kane has looked uninterested at times and off the pace at others. Nuno even played him on the left against Chelsea. After his summer and autumn of discontent, Kane should respond better to a superior manager.

Get them working harder

Tottenham have run the least distance in the Premier League. If it reflects Nuno’s passive style of play, it also made them the opposite of Mauricio Pochettino’s side, whose intensity and high-pressing game endeared them to fans. Conte’s football is based on a work ethic; he got Chelsea running much further than they did under Jose Mourinho.

Tottenham v Man United ratings

Find a formation

Conte can be tactically brilliant; the most decisive change of system in the Premier League’s recent historic was his catalytic move to 3-4-3 in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign of 2016/17. While he has been flexible over the years, his titles with both Chelsea and Inter came with a back three. Spurs could have the players to adopt the shape; Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon look natural wing-backs while Cristian Romero excelled at the heart of a back three for Atalanta. He has often fielded a strike partnership, potentially Kane and Son Heung-min. But after Nuno’s incoherent and unambitious tactics, they need the clarity of thought Conte brought to Chelsea.

Get the enigmas to deliver

In Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, Tottenham have two players who cost a combined £100 million ($136m) and who have flattered to deceive. In Dele Alli, they have one who used to look a £100 million footballer but who has lost his way. Tottenham need to turn potential into performances.

Gatecrash the Champions League

Neither Spurs nor Conte want another season in the Europa Conference League. Under Nuno, Tottenham were playing so badly it was implausible to suggest they could finish in the top four. Under Conte, it is not. Manchester United should beware.

Deal with Levy

Conte said the “contagious enthusiasm and determination of Daniel” helped persuade him to join Tottenham. But Levy’s managers can testify that they rarely get all the players they want in the transfer market; it was a frustration to both Mourinho and Pochettino. Meanwhile, Conte has been outspoken in his complaints when denied his preferred buys at both Inter and Chelsea. At times, he seems to want an absurd number of expensive footballers. Tottenham’s budget, meanwhile, should be limited – they have a £1 billion stadium to repay and took out a £175 million bank loan to cope with the impact of Covid – so neither the circumstances nor the characters involved suggest this will be a long, conflict-free relationship. The January transfer window will be interesting.

Updated: November 4th 2021, 6:35 AM
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