Martin Keown has claimed that Antonio Conte’s formation may benefit Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, preventing them from dropping deep to receive possession, while hinting that Eric Dier could slot in well into a back-three.
Tottenham appointed the Italian tactician earlier this week as Nuno Espirito Santo’s replacement, after the Portuguese was received of his duties following a dismal 3-0 defeat to Manchester United.
Conte took charge of his first hame as Spurs boss on Thursday, guiding the side to a 3-2 win over Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League, and altered the club’s system straight away into his own.
The former Chelsea manager deployed his preferred back-three formation, which composed of Dier, Cristian Romero and Ben Davies, while Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon occupied the wing-back slots.
Kane centred a forward three also containing Son and Lucas Moura, and Spurs instantly looked better going forward against the Dutch side despite the limited time Conte had to work with his players.
Former Arsenal star Keown has praised Tottenham for the appointment of Conte, and claims his expertise with a three-man defence can make the side more solid overall.
In his column for the Daily Mail, he wrote: “Tottenham have hired football’s foremost back-three expert in Antonio Conte – a highly-driven individual with a host of successful short to medium-term stints in charge of top clubs.
“His successes are, in no small part, down to his system. He’s got this plug-in, quick-fix, pragmatic approach which can dramatically improve clubs.
“Chelsea went from finishing 10th to champions in his first year in charge. That was the season Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City but he couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Conte transformed his team.”
Keown highlighted the importance of central midfielders in Conte’s systems over the years and has backed his preferred formation to be highly beneficial to forwards Kane and Son in that they won’t have to drop so deep to receive the call.
He also claimed that Dier could be a mainstay in the heart of the back-three as a mimic of Leonardo Bonucci’s role under Conte for Italy during Euro 2016.
He added: “His sides tend to play 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. It starts with a sturdy back three. At Juventus, he had Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. At Chelsea, Conte used 3-4-3, with the incredibly fit N’Golo Kante as one of two central midfielders.
“Most recently at Inter Milan, Conte used three in midfield. Marcelo Brozovic sat deeper than Nicolo Barella and Christian Eriksen, and would cover for the wing-backs when they pushed high up the pitch.
“These wide midfielders cover great distances and are often taken off. If Conte goes with 3-5-2, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will not need to drop deep.
“Tottenham have covered the least distance in matches in the league but that will change. Eden Hazard isn’t a big fan of running but even he realised – it’s Conte’s way or there’s no way you’re starting.
“Spurs have the players to play Conte’s way. Whoever starts in the middle of the back three will need to be able to ping direct passes forward — as Bonucci did for Conte’s Italy at Euro 2016 — and that could be a job for Eric Dier.2
Spurs Web Opinion
Kane and Son are expected to benefit from Conte’s formation, as he has typically deployed solid systems wherever he has managed.
That should be good in terms of them being able to stay up higher. As for Dier, he still has to remove the errors from his game for Conte to fully trust him.
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