Antonio Conte to discover the major Tottenham challenge Chelsea and Roman Abramovich never posed


Glenn Hoddle, Andre Villas Boas, Jose Mourinho and now, Antonio Conte.

The select group of people to manage both Chelsea and Tottenham, with all four sitting in the hotseat at Stamford Bridge first.

Hoddle led both clubs to finals, Villas Boas won nothing with either, while Mourinho‘s trophy cabinet is heavily adorned in Chelsea colours.

BT pundit Hoddle is, of course, in a different era to his successors but helped Chelsea push to an FA Cup final, and a semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Blues’ first European campaign for more than 20 years.

He brought Ruud Gullit to the club and despite middling performances in the Premier League, produced a more secure footing for the Blues.

His profile elevated the club in many ways, and the player-manager earned himself the England job.

The situation with Spurs was slightly different as Hoddle entered the fray when the season had already started in order to replace George Graham, and that highlights one of a number of differences in managerial approaches between Tottenham and Chelsea.

The Blues have never been afraid to appoint interim managers in the form of Gus Hiddink and Rafael Benitez, even when the latter was unpopular with the fanbase. Each of Hoddle, Mourinho, Villas Boas and Conte were appointed ahead of the season, while the same can only be said of Villas Boas for Spurs.

The young Portuguese coach is perhaps the only candidate thus far to enjoy a more extended period with Tottenham. Chelsea went on to win the Champions League after being sacked by Chelsea. Villas Boas’ relationship with the squad being unsustainable after he was challenged by senior squad members about his tactics.

That disharmony has been present in the departures of Mourinho and Conte from the Blues too.

Mourinho’s second Stamford Bridge departure saw the Blues lose nine of their opening 16 matches as Premier League title-holders, while Conte had a well-publicised falling out with Diego Costa, as well as conflict with the Blues hierarchy in his second season of the club before being relieved of his duties after an FA Cup win.

In short, in charge at Chelsea you’re always on a tightrope.

Without that pressure, Villas Boas was able to do well at Spurs and broke their points record in the Premier League, but could only finish fifth behind Arsenal. He was able to be the first Spurs boss to win at Old Trafford in 23 years.

While the season offered disappointment, it was by no means a failure and teams such as Real Madrid were linked with approaching the Tottenham coach.

However, the biggest difference between Chelsea and Spurs also became apparent with the sale of Gareth Bale.

Roman Abramovich is about winning now. Finishing fifth and selling your best player isn’t often how you go on to win the league.

It’s clear in the mindset of each coach when joining the respective sides. When Mourinho joined Chelsea, he presented the Special One, on his second unveiling he talked about responsibility because of his previous success at the club.

In his first Spurs press conference the key word was ‘potential’.

“The potential of the club is huge, the potential of the club is great,” said Mourinho. “I am so happy. It was one of the reasons I came because the vision that Mr Levy put in front of me about his club and the quality of the players, the quality of the squad, were the main reasons why I decided to come.”

Despite the progress of Mauricio Pochettino in the time in between, Villas Boas had a similar mantra seven years earlier.

Mourinho’s former protege said: “I have had several discussions with the chairman and the board and I share their vision for the future progress of this club.”

At Chelsea it was more about being ‘confident that I can respond to Chelsea’s expectations and we can focus on the four trophies we have to win’.

It has been a similar story with Conte, who immediately spoke about playing to win the title, despite Chelsea’s 10th place finish the season before.

His first words as Spurs boss were about ambition but of course, with the caveat Spurs may not be there yet.

He said: “I am extremely happy to return to coaching, and to do so at a Premier League club that has the ambition to be a protagonist again.



Antonio Conte has a huge task ahead of him at Tottenham (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

“Tottenham Hotspur has state-of-the-art facilities and one of the best stadiums in the world.

“I can’t wait to start working to convey to the team and the fans the passion, mentality and determination that have always distinguished me, as a player and as a coach.”

Of course, through appointing managers of the calibre of Conte, Daniel Levy hopes to bridge the gap, and for Spurs to lift a trophy that matches their infrastructure. It’s a difficult challenge – while Hoddle instigated the growth at Chelsea, it still required Abramovich’s millions to truly elevate the side.

While there have been murmurings of player unhappiness involved in the departures of some managers at Chelsea, the core group on the Cobham training pitches throughout that time have known all about winning.

The reports of Spurs stars being unhappy with training and coaches is becoming all too common. Pochettino, Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo have all been frustrated with the dressing room. One where few players have accolades to justify their stance.

With an abrasive and demanding personality, Conte will have to overcome that.

That is not the only relationship that needs managing, however. Communication with Levy will be vital.

Speaking on Conte’s appointment, Villas Boss provided his thoughts.

He said: “He is one of those people who puts people into the peaks of performance by motivation, by determining objectives, I think he can be a good fit, depending on that link up with the top.

“In football you always reach stages where that link up to the top has to be there and when you look up most likely it is not there any more. If that link up is fine tuned it can maybe be a good fit.

“I don’t want to turn this into a criticism of Daniel. Everybody has their ups and downs, their strengths and weaknesses, but Daniel is not an easy person to deal with. I said that when Jose (Mourinho) went there and I was at Marseille.

“There are a lot of things that have to be said frontally, face to face, each side with truthfulness. But sometimes they look like they don’t happen that way.

“Coaches have to be judged on their performance, I agree. We lost, miserably, two games that led to us agreeing terms for me to leave but he’s not the easiest person to deal with. But what is easy right now in football?”

At Chelsea, everyone knows the story. Win the biggest trophies or you are gone. With Spurs, it’s more nuanced and where Pochettino had developed a Champions League qualifying team, the search for the next step had made that more precarious, and the managerial seat has become more unstable.

Villas Boas left with a healthy win ratio, Mourinho departed with the club preparing for the Carabao Cup final.

Joe Rodon has played under four different coaches during his first 12 months or so at the club.

As much as Marcel Desailly’s humorous meme may be tongue in cheek, there is now an element where to take the Spurs job isn’t a risk.

You either succeed and do something that hasn’t been done before, or in a decade, or simply become another managerial statistic, or a group of players who aren’t willing to fully embrace their boss. Particularly for managers with the profile of Mourinho and Conte.

At Chelsea, you have the task of proving your ability with a competitive team. That’s the difference.

However, Conte may be a threat to that dichotomy and bring Spurs success, but it will depend on Levy living up to his promises and whether the Italian can stay there long enough.





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