Talking Tactics

Expect Conte to adapt in search of Spurs revival

By Adrian Clarke 18 Nov 2021
Antonio Conte TT TOT training

Adrian Clarke says new head coach will not be afraid to tinker with systems to get results

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Adrian Clarke analyses the tactical impact of new managers and head coaches ahead of Gameweek 12.

Antonio Conte (TOT)

Conte has won the domestic title in five of his last seven seasons in club management, so there is no question Tottenham Hotspur have appointed an elite head coach.

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The 52-year-old is a meticulous tactician, with a clear vision of how he wants his team to play, with and without the ball.

If you compartmentalise Conte's strengths, he is a coach determined to strike the right balance between defence and attack.

In all four of his league triumphs with Juventus and Inter Milan, Conte's side conceded the fewest goals, working incredibly hard out of possession to close down their opponents' space.

Going forward his teams also excite, attacking with pace, aggression, and directness on the counter.

In 2020/21, only two teams across Europe's big five leagues scored more goals than Inter's 89.

Varied formations

Conte is flexible with the systems he uses, but has enjoyed most success with a three-man defence.

His 3-4-3 and 3-4-2-1 formations worked brilliantly during his debut season at Chelsea in 2016/17, winning 30 of 38 matches to win the title with 93 points ahead of second-placed Spurs.

So it was no surprise to see him begin in the Premier League with his new team with three at the back in a goalless draw at Everton.

Conte's formations at Chelsea
Formation Times Formation Times
3-4-2-1 29 3-1-4-2 1
3-4-3 26 3-5-2 1
3-5-1-1 13 4-2-3-1 1
4-1-4-1 5    

However, it is wrongly assumed that Conte sticks to those systems.

Over the course of two successful seasons at Inter, culminating with the Serie A title last term, Conte used 12 different formations.

He enjoyed pairing Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez in a prolific strike partnership. This is a ploy that could be replicated with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min at Spurs.

Conte has always been prepared to tinker with systems, depending on the fixture and tactical blueprint he wants to adopt.

Conte's formations at Inter 
Formation Times Formation Times
3-5-2 23 4-4-2 4
4-2-3-1 13 3-4-1-2 2
3-4-2-1 10 3-5-1-1 2
4-3-3 7 4-4-1-1 2
4-3-1-2 6 4-1-2-1-2 1
5-3-2 5 4-2-2-2 1

Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal are likely to become more prominent under Conte.

Dynamic wing-backs are integral to the way the Italian wants to play, so Conte will be keeping a close eye on how they perform in the weeks ahead.

At Inter last season, Achraf Hakimi and Ivan Perisic were key, producing a combined 23 direct goal involvements in Serie A.

In Conte's first season at Chelsea, Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were his must-picks, as he brought the best out of both. Together they produced 14 direct goal involvements in that campaign.

Bring back counters

Spurs had begun to move away from a counter-attacking style under Nuno Espirito Santo, but Conte is sure to make it a focal point of their approach moving forward.

High levels of possession are not associated with his teams.

They are capable of looking after the ball, but are better known for coming to life when there is an opportunity to break. Last term no Italian side scored more goals on the counter than Inter.

Serie A attacking threat 2020/21
Direct attacks Counter-attack goals
AC Milan 90 Inter 9
Lazio 89 Fiorentina 6
Inter  80 Atalanta 5
Roma 79 AC Milan 5
Atalanta 78 Juventus 5

And as they showed in flashes under Jose Mourinho, Spurs have quick forwards such as Son and Lucas Moura, who can excel from counters and transitions.

Until January, Conte will assess his players’ strengths and work on a system of play that suits.

Conte's first week at Spurs

We may see changes to the formation, but it will be a surprise if they do not operate with a back three in most matches.

Conte will place high physical and mental demands on his players, but his record suggests he can develop a brand of football to help them win more matches.

Also in this series

Part 1: How Gerrard can bring his winning formula to Villa
Part 2: Howe to bring a fresh attacking style to Newcastle

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