Antonio Conte will have one of the toughest jobs of his career, as he tries to compete for major honours with Tottenham. It is a statement of intent from Spurs and it will be exciting to see how he approaches the task. The Italian rarely takes a job mid-season, as he likes to have a full pre-season to get his ideas across. For this reason, it may take longer than usual for him to implement his style of play.
The former Chelsea manager is best known for his preference for three at the back formations. At Stamford Bridge, he won the league with a 3-4-2-1 formation. Meanwhile, with Italy, Inter Milan and Juventus, he preferred a 3-5-2 set-up. It is likely that he will try to play one of these formations with Tottenham, as this is the set-up that he is most accustomed to. If he is to compete with the best in the Premier League, he is more likely to succeed while playing three at the back. However, during the first few months at Chelsea and during his formative coaching career, he was known to play a 4-2-4 formation. It could be that he uses this with Tottenham to begin with.
That said, Tottenham already have some components to succeed with a three at the back formation. Due to their number of wide attackers (Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Bryan Gil, it is likely that the 3-4-2-1 is a more natural fit to the 3-5-2.
Hugo Lloris will remain the number one for the time being, as his experience and leadership will be key in getting the new tactical ideas across. The back three poses an interesting problem for Conte. It will be a position that he wants to be strengthened as a priority. Cristian Romero will likely be a player that the Italian will want to build around in the middle of the back three. Ben Davies may be the interim choice at left centre-back, as the formation works better with a naturally left-footed player in that role. The Welshman does have experience in a back three with Spurs and the national team. Eric Dier could be exposed in such a system, which is why Davinson Sanchez is likely to get the nod. His recovery pace could help as the team transitions to the system.
The wing-backs pick themselves, with Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon both having the mobility to thrive in Conte’s system. They are both capable in both halves of the pitch. However, Conte will want more strength in depth in these positions. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Matt Doherty is reintegrated. After all, the Italian coach managed to get good performances out of the likes of Victor Moses, Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian at former clubs. All three were seen as write offs, in a similar place to where Doherty is now.
That is one of the greatest strengths of Conte as a coach. He can get the very best out of the players that he works with and Tottenham have plenty in the squad that could benefit from time on the training pitch with the Italian.
Central midfield is another position he will have identified for strengthening. However, there will be a chance for Tanguy Ndomble and Giovani Lo Celso to show their quality before the January transfer window. It is likely the pair will both get an opportunity to partner Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in midfield at different points. Oliver Skipp has done well this season, but it would be surprising if Conte plays him alongside Hojbjerg. The pair might be competing for one place in the starting eleven.
Two players that don’t look to be a natural fit under Conte are Dele Alli and Harry Winks. Both may be available for transfer once the window opens in January.
In attack, two places are obvious. Son and Kane will start. Daniel Levy will be hoping that Conte can revitalise Harry Kane. Romelu Lukaku states that Conte helped him become a world class player. Although the England captain has been unhappy, the chance to work with the Italian should give him motivation that he has lacked.
Lucas Moura is another that should thrive under Conte. His work rate and dynamism makes him a good fit for the 3-4-2-1 formation. Willian and Pedro both did well in a similar role at Chelsea during their title winning season.
This is a new start for everyone at Tottenham. The players haven’t been at the required level since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino. Conte won’t accept the same poor standards that they may have gotten away with under Nuno. There is a good base for Conte to build from.
However, the Italian will quickly make judgements on the playing squad and he will be expecting investment to improve the team when the window opens.