Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham fans should be excited about Antonio Conte

Jude Summerfield
Jun 3, 2021, 9:00 PM GMT+1
It's a bold move for all parties, but definitely one that could pay off
It's a bold move for all parties, but definitely one that could pay off / Soccrates Images/Getty Images
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Being a Tottenham fan means a couple of things.

It means you're often geared to expect the worst from your team, even if things are looking up.

It means thinking you're not allowed nice, shiny, excellent things.

It means copping a load of flack from your friends and colleagues.

But we are allowed nice things, and you're certainly allowed to be optimistic when a good thing - a thing that seemed almost impossible and unthinkable at the start of the year - pokes up out of nowhere with a remarkable, unwarranted interest in taking the club forward.

This good thing is Antonio Conte.

The news of his potential arrival as Spurs' managerial successor for Jose Mourinho has accelerated in the last couple of days, with any reunion with old boss Mauricio Pochettino likely to be put on the backburner for now because of how messy his situation at Paris Saint-Germain is.

What's odd about Conte joining Tottenham is how he doesn't seem to fit many of the specifications typically associated with being the club's manager, especially those that were reiterated by Daniel Levy when he addressed Spurs fans at the end of the club season. He's not seen as a project man - notably only lasting two seasons each with both Chelsea and Inter - while his tactical approach isn't synonymous with a free flowing style of play.

He's even been painted with that same 'winner' brush Tottenham fans were so sick of hearing about former manager Mourinho. But that would be unfair. Not because he isn't a winner - he clearly is, with five top titles to his name with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter - but he does have a clear playing identity, one which is certainly a lot more progressive than 'hoof the ball forward, hope the best players perform outrageously in front of goal and invite pressure onto your own'.

Antonio Conte, N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses
Conte made Moses one of Chelsea's most important players for a season / Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

What is extremely encouraging is how Conte has coerced some brilliant performances from players you'd think were bin fodder. Victor Moses found incredible form at right wing back during Chelsea's Premier League title win in 2016/17, while forgotten former Manchester United defenders Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian played somewhat important roles in Inter's recent triumph.

Tottenham's squad is hardly a blockbuster one, but plenty of fans have been brainwashed into thinking it's full of complete no-hopers. In reality it's good, but they've needed a clean slate for the best part of two years.

They were caught in the fire of a burned out Pochettino's final months at the club, while Mourinho didn't do enough to unite the squad. Instead, divisions appeared and he quickly set out to save his own reputation, deflecting criticism of him onto his players.

Javier Zanetti, Alessandro Antonelli, Steven Zhang, Antonio Conte, Gabriele Oriali, Giuseppe Marotta
Conte won Serie A with Inter in 2020/21 / Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

It's a good squad, even if it still requires some surgery and goodbyes, and if a few of those unreliable defenders can be squeezed out and some better ones brought in to tighten things up, Tottenham will be a better outfit sooner rather than later.

It's quite a stunning move and one that seems to have come out of nowhere. Hilariously, before all that Harry Kane news started to emerge, the calibre of managers being linked were not especially exciting. Robert Martinez, Graham Potter, Nuno Espirito Santo - all fine managers in their own right, but hardly candidates who got the average Spurs fan beating their chest and dreaming of a brighter future. But afterwards? Suddenly Pochettino wanted to come back and now it looks like Daniel Levy has charmed Conte.

Again, like Mourinho, it's an odd partnership. Conte will need summer funds to perform an overhaul, and various reports have claimed Kane won't be sold as the Italian is a big fan - something he's gone on the record about in the past.

The power dynamic will be interesting to see, but there wouldn't be much point appointing Conte if the handbrake was still on. They either give him all the tools to build Tottenham in his image or it'll be a another disastrous 18 months.

Spurs fans are allowed to be excited by Conte. Fresh off a title win, he's a more progressive coach than most give him credit for, and there are enough players in the squad for him to get a tune out of.

Does that make you feel any more optimistic? Probably not if you're of a Tottenham persuasion. It never seems to work out. But the signs are good and the manager is excellent, and that shouldn't get lost in the news cycle, even if the match doesn't quite seem to fit.

For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!

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