Dubbed ‘El Sackico’, both Nuno Espírito Santo’s and Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s jobs were on the line when Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United clashed in North London on Saturday evening. The Portuguese manager was on the wrong end of the result — suffering an embarrassing 3-0 defeat — and he has since been given his marching orders by Spurs’ chairman, Daniel Levy.
Antonio Conte, who won the Premier League and the FA Cup with the club’s London rivals Chelsea during a two-year stint at Stamford Bridge, is expected to take the reins after turning down Spurs’ initial advances in the summer and everyone involved with the club will be hoping that the Italian can get them back on track after a lacklustre start to the season.
Given the 52-year-old’s impressive coaching CV, which includes five first division titles, he will certainly help bolster Spurs’ chances in the bet exchange. But, as he has to make do with what he has at his disposal, how will Conte’s tactics and style of play differ from Nuno’s? Read on as we take a look.
Three at the back
Arguably the man who introduced a back three with wing backs to the English game during his time at Chelsea, it is almost certain that Conte will revert back to the same shape which has served him so well throughout his career at Spurs. The North London side have conceded 16 goals already in the league this season, so Conte will be hoping that a back three of Eric Dier, Davinson Sánchez and Cristian Romero will bring some kind of solidarity at the back. Romero developed into the defender he is today through stints with Juventus, Genoa and Atalanta in the Serie A — a dream for Conte. Emerson and Ben Davies will have more freedom to get forward down the flanks and create more chances, another area in which Spurs have struggled, while Japhet Tanganga could be used as a rotational option on the right side of the back three.
Two in attack
While Conte preferred a 3-4-3 at Chelsea, utilising a rough and ready target man like Diego Costa to spearhead the attack, he could opt to play Harry Kane and Hueng-min Son together as a front two in a 3-5-2 — a formation he preferred at Inter Milan, where he played Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez upfront together. Spurs have struggled on the goalscoring front this season, finding the back of the net just nine times in their 10 league games thus far. With Kane out-of-sorts, playing Son alongside him might just kick a new lease of life into the 28-year-old as he becomes less isolated compared to Nuno’s 4-2-3-1 and is allowed more freedom. Kane also has the ability to hold up possession creating room and time for the wing-backs to get into advantaged positions or flick balls through to Son — who has shown a real knack for scoring in recent seasons.
A midfield three
Another reason why Conte could opt for a 3-5-2 over the 3-4-3 that made him so successful at Chelsea is because he doesn’t have reliable figures like N’Golo Kante or Nemanja Matić to play in a midfield pivot and protect his defence when they lose possession. Playing a midfield three of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovanni Lo Celso in similar fashion to having Marcelo Brozović, Nicolò Barella and Christian Eriksen at Inter seems the best way to get the most out of the squad.
Højbjerg can sit in front of the back three, dropping in when needed defensively while also playing the ball out from the back when in possession. Ndombele can go around the opposition using his strength and fancy footwork to create openings. Lo Celso can play in behind Kane and Son giving the opposition issues in the final third, while he also has the work rate to get back and break up counter attacks. With Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks and Dele Alli, there are good options to fill in the three positions from the bench.
Also know about – Lainya Shearer