Antonio Conte is poised to become Tottenham’s new manager on an 18-month contract and the former Chelsea manager could be unveiled as Spurs’ new boss as early as today (Tuesday). Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked on Monday with the north Londoners five points off the Premier League’s top four having lost five of 10 matches. But Conte inherits a squad with the potential to push for Champions League qualification. Express Sport looks at five players the elite-level Italian manager should relish working with on his return to England.
If Conte utilises as a back three as is widely expected, he is likely to use a 3-4-3 or a 5-3-2 system. Either way wing-backs will be vital, just as they were for Conte at Chelsea and Inter.
Achraf Hakimi was immensely successful for Inter under Conte while Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young were both reborn under him in Italy too. Similarly, Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were brilliant when he was at Stamford Bridge.
The attack-minded Reguilon can also be unleashed by his new manager. The six-cap Spain international has excellent ability from out wide and has two assists in nine league games this season, having managed four in 27 last term.
As a wing-back, the former Real Madrid defender will be freer to get forward and make the most of his offensive abilities and if he can recapture his best form from the first half of last season, he can be a massively influential player.
Conte has made clear on several occasions he is a huge admirer of Kane’s. The soon-to-be Spurs manager labelled Kane “a complete player” and “one of the top strikers in the world” back in 2017.
More recently during Euro 2020, he said: “Many praise Kane for his ability to go get the ball and play with the team, such as with the equaliser against Denmark. Of course, he’s good at that too, but it’s in the box where he’s clinical and as a coach, I would always keep him in there because he’s devastating.”
One of Conte’s key briefs will be to get Kane scoring regularly again but that said the England captain’s creative contributions will also be pivotal to any prospective top-four push and Romelu Lukaku’s freedom to float around under him was notable.
Kane looks out of sorts and has just one goal and one assist from nine Premier League appearances, having racked up seven goals and nine assists after the same amount of games last term.
Conte got the best out of Lukaku at Inter Milan and had joy with Diego Costa at Chelsea before an acrimonious exit. Kane is more all-rounded than both and if the manager can get the team’s talisman firing again, his job will be made a lot easier.
Conte will demand greater running from this Spurs side than Nuno and key to that will be the willing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, one of the league’s best ball-winners.
Only Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff has made more tackles and only Southampton’s Oriol Romeu has made more ball recoveries, with Hojbjerg also winning a good percentage of his duels in the middle of the pitch.
Conte will relish having such a player, whom his team-mate Reguilon labelled a “warrior” after a win at Aston Villa, and the energetic Dane is as important on the ball as he is off it.
He is likely to be the beating heart of Conte’s midfield, having made the second-most touches of any player in the Premier League, and will be tasked with being both a defensive shield and also the man to help recycle possession for Spurs.
If Conte is going to love working with Kane, he will adore having Son Heung-min at his disposal too and he may well unleash the South Korean alongside Kane in a two-up-top formation.
The dynamic of the pair, who combined brilliantly under Jose Mourinho, could be somewhat similar to that of the ultra-successful pairing of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez at Inter.
Carlos Vinicius, on loan at Spurs last term, said recently: “They [Kane and Son] make a perfect duo because one fits with the other. In terms of pairings, they are way ahead. What they need is only one title. They deserve it because they are for many years proving they have the quality to be champions. They are top-level players.”
Son’s tireless work ethic, combined with his intelligent movement and his effectiveness in the final third, will surely be adored by Conte whatever position he plays in.
Son already has four goals this season in nine league games having contributed 17 strikes and 10 assists in 37 top-flight outings last term, and has proven himself deadly both as a left-sided forward or in a more central role.
Conte is perhaps unfairly categorised as more of a defensive manager when his true philosophy is more around high pressing but he is famed for organising a team’s back-line.
Both Chelsea and Inter Milan, across two-year spells with each, conceded at most a goal per game across 38-match league seasons and making Spurs more rigid at the back is a key task for a team who have leaked 16 in 10 games so far.
Key to that will be Cristian Romero, though he struggled against Manchester United. The summer signing from Atalanta has generally performed well and is showing why he was named the best defender in Serie A last term.
Conte will know of the Argentine well having gone head-to-head with him in Italy and he will know that in the 23-year-old centre-half, he has a player who can be the leader of his back four – or his back three if he utilises one.
Romero thrived in a back three at Atalanta and could do so for Spurs, with Japhet Tanganga, Joe Rodon, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies all capable of playing next to the South American in such a system.