In just two seasons at Chelsea we saw all the good and bad things that come with hiring Antonio Conte as manager, so what can Tottenham expect as this deal apparently moves ever closer?
Conte has been keen on returning to the Premier League ever since leaving Inter Milan in the summer, CaughtOffside understands, and there’d be no shortage of fans of several top English clubs who’d welcome him back with open arms.
Even today there were many Manchester United fans complaining that their club wasn’t moving for Conte, who would surely be an ideal upgrade on the struggling Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford.
It’s easy to see why Conte’s track record would appeal to Man Utd, but could everything that comes with that possibly make him and Spurs an explosive combination – and not in a good way?
Conte’s biggest challenge
Much is quite rightly made of the fact that Conte took Chelsea from 10th to 1st in the space of one year. It’s a heck of an achievement, of course, but it would be foolish to treat it as some kind of Leicester City-esque miracle.
This was a Chelsea squad that had been totally demoralised by Jose Mourinho the year before, but also largely the same group of players that also won the 2014/15 title, so it’s not like Conte was inheriting a mid-table side and working on a shoestring. His task was taking the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa to the next level, whilst being instantly delivered the signing of N’Golo Kante. Hardly rags to riches.
No disrespect to Tottenham, but he’s inheriting a far worse squad here. Sure, they’re not as bad as Nuno Espirito Santo was making them look, but aside from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, this will be one of the weakest squads Conte has had to work with.
Not only is the calibre of the players an issue, but there have been murmurings about their mentality as well. Back in the summer when Conte was also in contention for the job, The Athletic reported that some of the club’s players were worried about working under him due to his demanding training methods.
Can Spurs keep Conte happy?
Even when Conte has worked with world class players, he’s tended to be quite demanding of his employers when it comes to transfer funds.
BBC Sport have noted that he quit Juventus due to a row over transfers, and despite early success at Chelsea, his second season was damaged by the Blues’ failure to land his top targets Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk, as he later revealed in an interview with the Telegraph.
One imagines it’s not a huge coincidence that Conte’s departure from Inter this summer also came when it was clear that the Serie A club’s poor finances meant that Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi would be leaving.
The issue for Tottenham is that, not only do they not currently have that great a squad, but they also don’t have the kind of funds that Conte is used to working with, so how long will the Italian’s patience last?
Good news for Harry Kane
On a more positive note, Conte is clearly being targeted because of his exceptional pedigree, and it could be that he’ll rise to this challenge and make Spurs a surprise force in the way Mauricio Pochettino was able to.
One of Conte’s best traits seems to be that he knows how to get the best out of centre-forwards; both Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku found new levels to their game under Conte’s guidance, and that could be very exciting indeed for Harry Kane.
Even if building a generally more coherent team will be more of a long-term project, sorting out Kane’s form would go a long way to improving the club’s fortunes this season, with the usually-prolific England international managing just one Premier League goal so far this season. Nuno’s failure to play to his strengths undoubtedly proved one of his biggest failings at Spurs.
For the longer term, working under an elite manager like Conte might also be what’s needed to persuade Kane that his long-term future really could be in north London. After an entire career without winning a trophy, Kane is finally working under someone who picks up silverware everywhere he goes.