If Tottenham’s first manager of 2021 was the ‘Special One’, a few days under the latest have been enough to convince Sergio Reguilon that he is distinctly special.
Spurs have gone from Jose Mourinho via the caretaker Ryan Mason and Nuno Espirito Santo to Antonio Conte and while his Premier League bow was an underwhelming stalemate with Everton, the Spain left-back believes the Italian has already made a considerable impact.
“The gaffer is special,” he said. Conte can be relentlessly demanding, with a mantra based on industry and Reguilon explained his message. “He told me I will have to work really, really hard but I will improve a lot,” he said. “In one week, I can already see that.” In-depth video analysis forms part of Conte’s rigorous preparation and Reguilon added: “He loves training hard but now we don’t have a lot of time to train the things he wants on the pitch. We did a lot of meetings with videos this week.”
While Spurs failed to register a shot on target at Goodison Park, they limited Everton to just two, neither particularly threatening. It earned Tottenham a first clean sheet in eight Premier League games and Reguilon detected signs of a resilience they lost under Nuno.
“I think the team was really, really strong,” he said. “We’re going in a good way. This draw, I think in another moment of the season, was a game we would have lost. But the team was really good and competitive. I think you can see on the pitch the team is more aggressive and more competitive and believe in the things we’re working on in training. That’s the way. We have to learn too much under him. For me, it’s unbelievable.”
Reguilon came as close as anyone to fashioning a breakthrough on Sunday. Emerson Royal headed over from his cross while, when the Spaniard met a centre from Harry Kane, he could not keep his shot on target. It came from a new role as a wing-back.
As a naturally attacking full-back, Reguilon seems ideally suited for Conte’s tactics, but said: “I’ve never played five at the back before. I have to learn quickly. I have to see many videos with the staff to do on the pitch what they want. I’m enjoying the position a lot because I can attack more but I have to run double.”
Conte's Tottenham draw at Everton
Conte’s instructions mean he could be overworked. “He wants me to be solid in defence but at the same moment I have to arrive in the box, help the strikers,” he said. “Now I have more of a chance to score goals and give assists, so let’s work.”
Reguilon once scored four goals in a game for Logrones and is yet to open his account for Tottenham, but Conte’s wide men tend to chip in. His transformation of Chelsea came after a tactical overhaul, installing Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses as wing-backs as previously unheralded figures became pivotal in a title-winning team. He used a trio of centre-backs again as Inter won Serie A last season.
As Reguilon adjusts himself to his new duties in a role where he has to contribute in both penalty boxes, he consulted a former Real Madrid teammate. Achraf Hakimi, now of Paris Saint-Germain, got seven goals and eight assists as Inter’s right wing-back last season.
“I’ve watched a lot of videos of Chelsea and Inter Milan,” Reguilon added. “I have a friend, Achraf Hakimi, and I spoke to him about the gaffer. He told me I will improve a lot under him and I want to do that as soon as possible.”