Antonio Conte has delivered a much-needed surprise for Tottenham – ullasports

Antonio Conte has delivered a much-needed surprise for Tottenham, Antonio Conte leads the Christmas Eve training session. Spurs have run 15km more under Conte than their previous manager, COVID-19, Dele Alli has stepped up his game under Antonio Conte, Nuno Espírito Santo., Premier League, Since the arrival of the manager, sports, suddenly look like footballers again., Tottenham, who looked shot

Antonio Conte has delivered a much-needed surprise for Tottenham

Since the arrival of the manager, players like Dele Alli and Harry Winks, who looked shot, suddenly look like footballers again.

Antonio Conte leads the Christmas Eve training session. Spurs have run 15km more under Conte than their previous manager, Nuno Espírito Santo. Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC

At which point, before anyone gets too excited, it might be worth remembering where the Spurs were at Christmas last year. Then too, Tottenham have just reached the League Cup semi-finals and although they are sixth in the league, a better place than this season, they are just six points behind leaders, Liverpool, and two points behind in second, rather than 18 points behind. leaders, Manchester City, and 15 points in second as they are now (although they have three games in hand in as many teams above them).

Just two league games before a win at Anfield would take them to the top, and there is even a thought that in a Covid-affected season, with empty stadiums, truncated pre-season and a congested calendar, José Mourinho’s vision of football might work again, the ancient king returned to the ravaged world.

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As it turned out, his negativity at Anfield after Spurs’ equaliser summoned the pressure that led to Liverpool’s win, accelerating a disastrous cycle of seven wins from 19 league games. So, while Tottenham’s position may look similar to that seen last Christmas, the direction of travel looks very different. This is, statistics tell us, no new managers have been bounced off. Our brains, accustomed to the pattern of blotches, spy on the regression of the mean and associate it with the arrival of a new manager. And maybe in the long run that’s mostly true. But it seems that ignoring the way one manager substitutes for another can cause players to reorganize and refocus; a stale project can, at least temporarily, be refreshed. It also ignores Antonio Conte.

The five Premier League games since he took charge at Tottenham have yielded 11 points and, while beating Leeds (narrowly), Brentford and Norwich may not seem like much, the performance in last week’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool showed clear improvement. There’s an energy and intensity that hasn’t been seen since the Mauricio Pochettino era – and hasn’t even been seen in recent months.

Dele Alli has stepped up his game under Antonio Conte

Taking over mid-season will make it difficult for a coach who specializes in pressing. Really, he needs a full pre-season to get the players fit enough and instill those patterns. At Tottenham, there was a feeling, under Mourinho and then Nuno Espírito Santo, that fitness levels had dropped from where they were under Pochettino: the pressure demanded that; their more reactive approach is not. But Tottenham have gone from running 100km per game under Nuno, the lowest figure in the Premier League, to 115km per game under Conte, the highest.

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While being without a number of players would have complicated things, perhaps the three postponed games have helped, giving Conte a little time to work with his squad without the immediate pressure for results. But still, the improvement is amazing. Football is an increasingly complicated game, but maybe all they need is to get out of ketchup. The spice ban is easy to mock, but it is important for what it represents: Conte cares about the details, he demands self-sacrifice and he changes the wider culture of the club.

Whether the improvement is sustainable is another matter. Jürgen Klopp took charge at Liverpool in October 2015 and, after an early improvement, the results were uneven towards the end of that season as injuries and fatigue took their toll. But the likelihood of fatigue even being a problem is a marked increase; just a month ago this was a squad that looked in need of a wholesale replacement.

And it depends on Conte. There is a danger that a focus on his personality and energy overlooks the detailed work he does in terms of putting together pressing programmes – and this is a coach, not to be forgotten, who when in charge of Italy refused to allow anything but the bulk of his abilities. -a trusted assistant to attend his sessions in pressing so details can’t leak to opponents – but the biggest change so far is one of tone.

When Daniel Levy appointed Mourinho, he was looking for someone who could give an electric shock to a team that was on the verge of death. Maybe a decade earlier he could have done it. But this was a tired, cynical, late Mourinho and he immediately showed the limitations of his players to fend off the blame himself. The squad is even more battered now, but Conte has given them new life: Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Steven Bergwijn and Davinson Sánchez, who all looked shot, suddenly look like footballers again. Ryan Sessegnon has been rediscovered.

Suddenly it’s not just about Son Heung-min and Harry Kane. (Though Kane is another matter; he may not have been lethal in front of goal because he’s been at his best, but at least he’s looked to be back involved recently.) The monster, this clumsy hybrid squad put together from his previous vision of the club, has awakened again.

Conte, famously, always wanted more players and always ended up falling out with his board because of that. He would definitely demand investment in personnel and probably wouldn’t take the job without certain guarantees, no matter what the club might say publicly.

But he’s good with imperfect ingredients: when he took over at Juventus in 2011, they weren’t the super club they were, but in transition after the Internazionale treble. When he led Chelsea to the title in 2016-17, they were recovering from what he described as a “Mourinho season”. He made Inter title winners despite Juve’s apparent dominance (helped, it is true, by Juve’s bizarre self-destructive leadership) against a backdrop of the financial crisis. Among the elite level coaches, Conte is probably the best manager of less elite level players.

Which should give Tottenham hope. This is a squad that requires hard work, but the arrival of Conte, his intensity and energy was enough to withstand a year of decline, which in itself followed 18 months or so of lapses. It may be true that the average manager makes only a limited difference, but Conte is not the average manager.

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