The Spurs-Conte union: What should worry Arsenal fans and what shouldn’t

The Spurs-Conte union: What should worry us and what shouldn’t… by Rafi

It is that time of the year again. On the eve of the 5000th day since they last won a trophy (yes that is a real stat), Tottenham Hotspur have decided that it is worth calling quits on their latest managerial appointment after only 10 Premier League games of having him in-charge. Nuno Espirito Santo would consider this a spell to forget. Despite winning Premier League Manager of the Month in August, he could only inspire his side to collect 15 points in 10 games. Although that may not be the worst way to start off a season on paper, it is important to consider some key context (Conte-xt if you will). Having created less goal scoring chances than every other team in the division bar Norwich, there was no substance to Tottenham’s build-up play and the struggle to pick up points against inferior teams in the league as well as the UEFA Conference League was no coincidence.

Their appointment of Antonio Conte, in my eyes, mirrors the appointment of Jose Mourinho by Spurs 2 years ago. Two world class managers who have a CV of working miracles by establishing systems that, although different tactically, are renowned to be defensively resilient and disciplined while also being quick and efficient in transition. They have proven themselves in the biggest of leagues, including and most importantly in the Premier League. The latter took up the job of replacing the artefacts in the Tottenham trophy cabinet with something worth looking at, but it is safe to say that he failed to do so, while also jeopardising his track record of winning silverware everywhere he’s gone. The former is yet to write his own fate.

It would be delusional of me to conclude that Conte’s time at Spurs would not be any different to Jose’s, and I am indeed not going to do so. In fact, I strongly believe that Conte would make Spurs a very difficult team to beat. Being the unofficial pioneer of the 3-4-3 system in England and having used 3 at the back with 2 strikers in his remarkable Scudetto winning campaign with Inter last season, it would be fair to assume that Conte will be seen transforming Spurs using a somewhat similar approach. 5 defenders means he’s here to stink up the league with park the bus football, right? Contrary to popular belief, the answer is no. Often perceived as a defensive manager, Conte revolves his game plan around well-coached, robotic yet attractive patterns of play, and setting up an extremely high work rate defensive unit. Chelsea’s Charly Musonda will tell you how brutal the sprinting drills are under Conte, having collapsed out of exhaustion in one himself.

It is not just his tactical nous that puts Conte in the ‘Pep-Klopp-Tuchel’ bracket of managers, but also his man management. His ability to make above average players into world class contributors, and give out of form players a renaissance of sorts is remarkable, and will be encouraging for the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, etc. There are few better examples than Romelu Lukaku and his revival under Conte at Inter Milan. From being labelled ‘overrated’ and a ‘technically poor’ striker at Manchester United, Lukaku under Conte became an unreal physical specimen who could hold-up the ball, beat his man, score consistently, and create chances. His 60 g/a in 72 league games across 2 seasons and being awarded Serie A MVP as well as golden boot earned him a £100 Million back to the same league where he was told he could not make it.

What does this mean for Arsenal? I can only speak for myself when I say that I am not fazed by the recent developments at Tottenham. That does not imply that I do not consider them as added competition for the European spots. I feel that although the two clubs do not have much to separate them in the league table, Arsenal are not in quite the same predicament as Spurs. Arsenal have a unique approach to reach the top of the pyramid that simply does not need to change any time soon. Assembling a young core and establishing a dominant style of play seems to be our way forward and the best of this project is still yet to come. Meanwhile Spurs are trying to have an immediate shot at glory, which to be fair, is very much possible under a serial winner like Conte. But at the same time, no Spurs fan would expect a project to guarantee longevity under Conte, who has never lasted longer than 3 seasons in any of the 9 managerial positions that he has held.

As Arsenal fans, we can only hope that a manager like Conte, who tends to demand unconditional backing in the transfer window to assemble his squad, eventually runs out of time at a club like Tottenham who are often considered to be conservative spenders. He will surely be looking to improve his poor managerial record against Arsenal, having beaten us only once in 8 attempts (3D 4L). Do you think Spurs can (God forbid) finally break their trophy drought? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.



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