Antonio Conte tackles another derby as Tottenham enjoy their renewed energy
Italy managers on a relentless diet clash London as they chase the top prize
For a manager with two seasons and two months of exposure to the top tier of English football, Antonio Conte has accumulated vast experience from the derby. Last Wednesday’s League Cup win over West Ham United was his 25th all-London contest on the touchline.
Conte could have guessed what the win would bring. His Tottenham Hotspur, playing with renewed vigor since he took over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November, will face former employers Chelsea in the semi-finals of the competition. The two legs, as Conte complained, had to be squeezed into a busy schedule in early January.
In the month ahead, Spurs face a relentless derby diet. They played fellow London club five times, and you can almost extend that to six if you measure the relatively short trip – 24km – to Watford, their opponents on January 1. Amid all the pressure imposed on English clubs, with the Covid-19 outbreak preventing a number of games from taking place in a concentrated period when many European leagues have winter holidays, Spurs at least won’t have to travel too far.
But the concentration of the derby, with the increased atmosphere, can feel stifling, especially when so many clubs are around each other chasing the same prize, a top four finish and maybe a trophy. London’s position in the Premier League hierarchy may have noticeably diminished over the past five years – Conte, alongside Chelsea, was the last manager to bring a Premier League title to the capital, in 2017 – but nowhere has the competition been more intense going into the new season. year.
Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham United are third, fourth and fifth in the table, and although the gap between Chelsea and Arsenal is six points, recent form has pushed Mikel Arteta, Arsenal manager, ahead of Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea. Since losing at Everton on 6 December, Arsenal have won four in a row in various competitions; since losing the game against West Ham in London on December 4, Chelsea have dropped six points from three league games.
Tottenham v West Ham – player ranking
Since dropping his captain and top scorer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for a disciplinary offence, Arteta has seen his youth team score 14 goals in four games. Ahead of next month’s Africa Cup of Nations, which will take up to four weeks of 40 internationals from Premier League clubs, losing Aubameyang, the Gabon captain, didn’t look too bad that Chelsea said a temporary goodbye to Eduoard Mendy, their Senegal goalkeeper.
Today’s game had a better display for Arsenal, away at Norwich City than Chelsea, who travel to Aston Villa.
West Ham, meanwhile, have taken a new bruise from the derby to the momentum that saw them become one of the best players of 2021. The defeat to Arsenal 11 days ago loosened their grip on the top four in the table; The defeat to Tottenham saw them knocked out of the League Cup, a competition in which Liverpool, who faced Arsenal in the semi-finals, are the only non-London club remaining.
In Conte’s view it is his first direct experience of the city’s most filled derby, the North London rivalry, Spurs versus Arsenal on January 16. The gap between the two is six points and three places in the table, but Tottenham, due to a series of game delays caused by Covid-19, have three games in hand. By the time they host Arsenal they have also played three league games, and may be on their way to the League Cup final, possibly against Arsenal, in February.
And Conte’s last league game next month? Against Chelsea, which is to say, Cup and league combined, he will face a club he has won three times in 18 days.
First, take a trip to Crystal Palace, south of the Thames, in this derby medley. He is currently 11th in the Premier League and has been under manager Patrick Viera since 1998-2004. He later joined Juventus, filling the vacant seats in the militant midfielder created by Conte’s departure from Jube.
The Italians nevertheless believed that Vieira had a promising future career as a coach. “He was convinced that Patrick would be a really good manager,” Conte said. “I’m not surprised because he’s doing really well and he was a great midfielder. Usually when you’re a midfielder you’re more likely to be a manager. Offensive and defensive I understand the situation. “
“I’m glad to see him,” said Vieira of Conté, praising the Spurs manager’s “Italian passion and love for the game.” He is successful wherever he is. Especially in London.