How Antonio Conte will use international break to whip Tottenham into shape
A clear fortnight of sessions can only be of a certain value when eight of the XI from Conte’s his first two matches are away with their countries but the Italian is desperate for time on the training pitch to begin transforming his squad’s fitness and teaching his players the fundamentals of his approach.
Conte’s schedule for the next two weeks includes a number of days of double training sessions at Hotspur Way, and is set to focus above all on conditioning.
The remaining players were given yesterday and today off, and will return on Wednesday for what promises to be a mini pre-season of gruelling fitness and tactical work.
Three of Conte’s six-strong core staff are conditioning specialists and Spurs can expect to return to being one of the fittest sides in the League after the squad’s condition badly declined under Jose Mourinho.
One of Conte’s fitness coaches, Gian Piero Ventrone, is notorious in Italian football circles and was nicknamed ‘the Marine’ by Juve’s squad, which included Conte, in the ‘90s.
Ventrone’s approach was summed up by three ominous mottos – ‘Work today to run tomorrow’; ‘Die but finish’; and ‘Victory belongs to the strong’ – and among his techniques was “the bell of shame”, a bell the players had to ring when they could no longer keep going.
Ventrone described the bell as “a stimulus to overcome one’s limits” and he also believed in playing music during drills, including Wagner’s iconic ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ when the exercises became particularly intense. Gianluca Vialli became so enraged with Ventrone, he once locked him in a cupboard and called the police.
Constantino Coratti, another fitness coach, is one of Conte’s most trusted lieutenants, having worked under him with Juve, Italy, Chelsea and Inter, while Stefano Bruno has been poached from Inter, where he impressed Conte as rehabilitation specialist.
Their drills are likely to have changed over the years but Tottenham’s remaining players can expect to be pushed to their limits in the days ahead.
Ryan Mason, who has joined Conte’s staff, is also a believer in tough love, having come through the academy under John McDermott and faced a similar regime to Conte’s with Mauricio Pochettino and his assistant Jesus Perez. Mason has even credited their uncompromising approach with helping him recover from a fractured skull.
Conte’s charismatic brother Gianluca, who is already popular at Hotspur Way, will lead the cohort of analysts while the new assistant head-coach is Cristian Stellini, another close associate of Conte who worked with him at Juve.
When the players are finally out on their feet, they can expect more lengthy video sessions, which were a feature of Conte’s first week in the job.
Sergio Reguilon, who was a surprise omission from Spain’s squad, revealed that he has already watched footage of Conte’s title-winning Chelsea and Inter sides, and is preparing to “run double” as a wing-back.
There was some evidence of heavy legs, as well as the beginnings of Conte’s tactical approach, in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Everton, suggesting his drills and messaging are already having the desired impact, despite a difficult first week which included a two-day wait for a visa and Thursday’s European game against Vitesse Arnhem.
Among others, the squad for the next fortnight includes Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Tanguy Ndombele all of whom have struggled for consistent form under the last two managers.
Conte is frustrated at losing his internationals while he is still getting to know the squad, although there is less to learn about the established players, like Hugo Lloris Harry Kane and Heung-min Son. Having a smaller group for the next two weeks will, at least, give Conte and his coaches the chance to closely assess some of the Spurs player with the most to prove.