Opinion: Why Conte’s arrival at Tottenham should not come as a surprise

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Antonio Conte
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Of the few managers in today’s game that can be considered elite, very few like to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to switching clubs.

Pep Guardiola has spent his entire managerial career at the world’s biggest clubs, while Zinedine Zidane seems perfectly content with staying out of management until Real Madrid inevitably come calling again.

Another manager who unquestionably belongs in this elite bracket but takes a slightly different approach to his career is Tottenham’s very own Antonio Conte.

After weeks of speculation linking the Italian to the Old Trafford dugout, it has taken many by surprise to see the serial winner head to North London following the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo.

But just a brief look at Conte’s résumé would suggest that his arrival at Spurs is far from shocking given how much he seems to relish a challenge.

When Conte took the Juventus job in 2011, the Serie A side had finished 7th the season before. Italy had been knocked out of the group stages of the last two World Cups when he was appointed their head coach in 2014.

Chelsea finished 1 point behind Stoke in 10th in the 2015-16 season, while Inter were 21 points off the top of Serie A when Conte agreed to join them.

Conte’s experience with coming into a struggling squad and revitalising them quickly is what should make him such a perfect fit for Tottenham despite the club’s on-field struggles.

The last ‘super manager’ Spurs had in Jose Mourinho had promising spells but was unable to mask his disappointment with some of the shortcomings on the pitch.

Conte will be far from tolerant of poor performances but his record of working with squads with obvious flaws will make him more suited to the task than Mourinho was.

His ability to get the best out of his forwards, contrary to the misguided assumption of him being a defensive manager, should see Harry Kane return to his world-class form and help Spurs’ other attackers get on the scoresheet more frequently.

As for the other end of the pitch, Conte was able to turn Victor Moses into a genuinely good wing-back for a season and made David Luiz look somewhat reliable at Chelsea, so should be up to the challenge of working with Eric Dier and Matt Doherty.

The squad does also contain talent and is not as far off returning to the top spots of the table as recent performances might suggest, especially after this appointment.

As seen by his time at Spurs and United, Mourinho struggled when not given the exact tools he wanted, while Nuno was simply out of his depth from the beginning.

Conte will still have considerable demands regarding player recruitment, but won’t face the same issues Nuno did in dealing with the pressure of managing Spurs.

The club will now be linked with a host of possible signings for the January window, but for the time being the development of the players we currently have is in very safe hands.

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