Tottenham have produced a clear return to form since Antonio Conte took the reins last month, but how will the Italian approach his most difficult test yet when his side host Liverpool in front of Sky cameras this weekend ?
Three wins and a draw in four league games under Conte saw Spurs go through murky waters to seventh in the weekend standings, with three games in hand against all but one above them – potentially nine more points, which as it stands would leave Spurs just three points behind third-placed Chelsea.
This scenario arose against the backdrop of a new wave of Covid-19 cases, with the London club having a game with Burnley postponed due to snow, the game with Brighton canceled due to a Covid outbreak in club and an eleventh hour cancellation at Leicester on Thursday.
Moreover, the fate of Spurs in the first Europa League Conference remains uncertain after the club were forced to call off their game with Rennes due to the virus – a game they had to play and win to secure qualifying for the round. following. .
Addressed exclusively to Air sports, Tottenham manager Antonio Conte explains how the current crisis has rocked the club, the importance of his team behind the scenes, the source of his passion, why he put Spurs back on track and how Liverpool are the model for success …
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Sunday 19 December 4:00 p.m.
Settle in troubling times
âHonestly, it’s not easy right now,â Conte says. “We have three games that we have to play, we don’t know when, and we don’t know if in the future other games will be postponed. With the Covid problem, it’s very difficult for us to think about what will happen.
âWe worked really well for two weeks and then the Covid problems started. Now we played the last game two weeks ago. We had three days at the closed training ground and we didn’t have of workout.
âAnd then a lot of players have been affected by the Covid, and for that reason we have had a lot of training with only 11 or 12 players. It’s not easy: you need the whole team. [in order] to work.”
Despite the current complexities, when asked about his general first impressions of the team, he nods in approval. “The players have been working, to try to improve – to follow our tactical idea. I found that at Tottenham and I think it is very important.”
The backroom team also took shape, comprising Cristian Stellini, Costantino Coratti, Gian Piero Ventrone, Stefano Bruno and his brother Gianluca Conte – an assistant and analyst with a coaching CV spanning 15 years – working exclusively alongside his younger brother. in Bari, Siena, Juventus, the Italian national team, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
“I have an important relationship with my brother. Of course we have many meetings to discuss the analysis of the team that we are going to play, and sometimes he gives me important advice during the match, between the first and the second half. He has an important role in my team. “
Fire and ice
In the usual way, Conte seems cool and serene when answering questions – but where does his passion on the fringes come from? âI like to play with my players,â he said. âI live very intensely.
“When you start playing against your opponent, I want my players to know that I am with them on the pitch and also try to help them if they don’t find a good solution.”
This energy reflects his style of play, with his teams frequently covering above-average distances. Indeed, Conte lifted Chelsea from 17th to seventh in that metric in his first season and to third place in his second term.
However, Tottenham had run less than any other Premier League team when Conte was appointed. Indeed, the team ran considerably less than their opponents in six out of 10 games before Conte’s arrival.
Since his appointment, Spurs have recorded greater distances than their opponents in all four matches, peaking with a record 121km against Norwich last time around – far from 95km against Crystal Palace in September.
“I think that if you want to have a good team, the ambition to work on many aspects [is necessary] – and not only the tactical aspects but also the physical aspects. [In the Premier League], you must have a good physical condition.
“We want to bring intensity and to have intensity in the training sessions. For this reason, it is very important that the team [work with staff on this]. “
The Italian has become almost synonymous with a three-sided system, which he successfully deployed in his first tenure at Chelsea. But, of course, there is a lot more to his preferred playstyle than a choice of system.
“I started my career with four behind, with a 4-2-4 in Serie B, in Italy,” added Conte. âWhen I started my journey with Juventus and Chelsea, I started playing with a 4-2-4 or a 4-2-3-1, but it depends on the characteristics of the players.
“When I arrived at Tottenham I thought it was very important to find a solution and to play three at the back [because] characteristics of the players. I think the most important thing for a team is to find the balance between attack and defense. “
Expectations: A trophy? The four first ?
Conte entered the dazzling arena of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a line of command to President Daniel Levy, who has built a reputation as a savvy and tough businessman, with a vision for the team both on and off the field.
So what is the measure of success for Levy and the club – who have now gone 14 years without a major trophy? “Honestly, we haven’t talked about it [target], says ContÃ©.
We have just started our work. We need patience.
âI wanted to come to Tottenham because I found their characteristics to be what I love working with: a fantastic training ground and stadium. Me and the people know very well that at the moment we are coming. to start our work.We need patience.
“When you start to work, you have to work on many aspects, there are also psychological aspects.”
Liverpool model for success
Question marks remain about the future of Harry Kane – who has scored just one league goal in 13 appearances this season after his transfer to Manchester City collapsed in the summer – and Conte is likely to make its mark on the team when the transfer window opens in two weeks.
Indeed, Conte has been referring to future visitors to Liverpool as a model of success since the club appointed Jurgen Klopp in 2015.
âSunday we play against a team that can teach us a lot, because I think Jurgen Klopp, when he came to Liverpool he started a fantastic job. But the first season they didn’t. [achieve] so much, but the work has started.
“If you want to reach this level, you need work, time, patience and investment. [on transfers]. “
How to stop Liverpool?
The guide to form bodes well for Spurs, but the possible 10 out of 12 points under Conte met with opposition from the bottom half. So are Liverpool surely the biggest test yet for the 52-year-old?
If you want to reach this level, you need work, time, patience, and investment.
“Yes, Liverpool have a lot of solutions during the game. It won’t be easy but we have to work as a team. We are preparing for the game.
“We know very well that we are up against one of the best teams in the world, but at the same time, I think it’s good to have this type of game, because we want to understand [how to face] these top teams. “
Watch Tottenham vs. Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4:15 pm Sunday; kick off 4.30 p.m.