Antonio Conte celebrates a year at the helm of Tottenham Hotspur next week but all signs point to it not going to be a happy anniversary.
The former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss has had at least relative success so far, rescuing what seemed a hopeless situation when he joined the club last November. By the end of the season he had guided the team into the Champions League after a late run that saw Spurs overtake Arsenal to finish fourth last week.
Conte did what Conte does. He’s the ultimate quick-fix coach – he brings fitness and organization, demands absolute focus and commitment from his players, and that blueprint allowed Spurs to climb from ninth to fourth on the day of his arrival, with a two -Points advantage. at the end of the campaign.
That performance allowed Conte to demand and receive strong support in the summer transfer market as Spurs invested over £150m in new players – including striker Richarlison, midfielder Yves Bissouma and defender Cristian Romero (whose loan was permanent) – on Transform the team from a team with top 4 ambitions into a side that could be in contention for the Premier League title.
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But despite monitoring Tottenham’s best start to a Premier League season, recent results have lowered expectations significantly and the storm clouds that Conte are never far away are beginning to return. The initial sugar rush his teams always seem to enjoy when he takes over has gradually faded and history shows that once the 53-year-old loses that early momentum, the trajectory of results and fan satisfaction tends to go in only one direction .
That’s why Manchester United turned down the chance to pursue Conte a year ago when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost sight of the manager’s job at Old Trafford. Sources told ESPN that the club hierarchy wanted to avoid hiring Conte due to the short-term nature of his coaching career and concerns his methods would only work for United’s players for so long.
But could United’s concerns about Conte surface at Tottenham? The next week should show whether the cracks that are emerging can be smoothed out or become even larger.
The trip to Bournemouth on Saturday is a must after back-to-back defeats, while Tuesday’s final Champions League group game against Marseille at the Stade Velodrome is another game Spurs cannot afford to lose. And then comes the visit of Liverpool a week on Sunday – a team who have faltered but are unbeaten in 10 games against Spurs since October 2017.
With Spurs fans now beginning to complain about Conte’s style of football and the nostalgic glamor of Mauricio Pochettino’s squads casting the Italian’s side in an unfavorable light, a failure to emerge from the current malaise in these games will spell the test of the strengthen trainers.
Conte’s reaction to Harry Kane’s VAR-disallowed winner against Sporting CP on Wednesday – which earned him a red card from the referee – underscored his mounting frustration. And it’s a frustration that comes from his team’s repeated failure to show they’re capable of making the move to a winning team rather than being an unreliable and inconsistent one.
Quite simply, when Spurs were asked to make a statement this season, they failed. Conte’s side have lost to Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle – three direct rivals for the top four – and their indifferent form in the Champions League has meant they have had to travel to Marseille next Tuesday to avoid defeat to qualify for to qualify for the knockout stages.
Injuries have no doubt hampered the team’s progress, particularly with Dejan Kulusevski sidelined since mid-September and Richarlison struggling to recover ahead of next month’s World Cup, but the inescapable fact with the Spurs is that they continue to rely fully on goals from Kane and Conte have done nothing to change that. The England captain has scored 11 goals in 15 games – including 10 of the side’s 23 in the league – and carries the team again. Unless Conte finds a way to spread the goal load across the team, Spurs will be on a tightrope until the end of the season.
Being coached by Conte is often a balancing act for the clubs that employ him due to the way he works and his challenging personality. Conte is rarely calm, but rather a constant smoldering tension with players, leaders, referees or fans.
The uncertainty about his future at Spurs – his contract expires at the end of the season, Spurs have a one-year extension option – does not offer the calm they need and the team are now looking to step into the state of change that is eventually affecting all sides of it. The storm clouds begin to rumble and Conte’s first anniversary next Wednesday will be accompanied by the soundtrack of thunder as Marseille tear Spurs out of the Champions League.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/tottenham-hotspur-engtottenham/story/4782604/tottenhams-antonio-conte-under-pressure-ahead-of-big-week Tottenham’s Antonio Conte under pressure ahead of big week