Opinion: Pack mentality – what Antonio Conte needs to establish at Spurs

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Antonio Conte
Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Unity, togetherness, and solidity; all things that are vital for a football team to succeed and contribute to something that so many top teams have; pack mentality.

When you look at multiple underdog stories over the years, you’ll be able to find a common denominator, their unbreakable togetherness and unity as a team, the key teams that come to mind are Burnley, year upon year defying the odds to stay in England’s top flight despite being on a tiny budget and funds that aren’t even comparable to the teams around them.

Another example is Ajax and their incredible run to the Champions League semi-final where they defeated European powerhouses Juventus alongside defeating the holders of the competition, Real Madrid in the round of 16 despite being a young and unproven side Erik Ten Hag led his army through the tournament’s twists and turns; however, all Spurs fans will be very familiar with how the Dutch champions European run ended in the most dramatic fashion…

A less positive memory for Spurs fans will be Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester who completed a fairy-tale story and won the Premier League title, just twelve months after narrowly surviving relegation from the division.

This pack mentality that can carry teams so far happens in all leagues, Nathan Jones at Luton is a clear modern example as the Hatters, much like Leicester, have usually been focused on surviving the drop but this season have carried themselves to a serious play-off push and even went toe-to-toe with European champions Chelsea in the FA Cup this season.

The point of these examples is that mentality and togetherness of a team can change a squad from relegation candidates to promotion or league challengers; and this is a key element that Antonio Conte and his squad are lacking at Spurs.

If there is any manager that can galvanize and inspire a squad of players, it’s Antonio Conte. The Italian is known for his passion and burning desire to win and work hard for that victory which may suggest why he shipped out Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso in the January transfer window. They were clearly two players that were talented but lacked mental strength and work ethic which saw them fall in and out of favour with previous Tottenham managers, and that lack of work ethic and mental strength is undoubtedly what would have driven Antonio Conte to expel the two midfielders from the Tottenham squad.

Despite clearing out a few of the players he doesn’t trust it still seems that Conte lacks the confidence not only in his first eleven but the bench also. This lack of confidence is portrayed through the Tottenham head coaches’ lack of substitutions in games and the fact of his squad being so thin that young players like Harvey White, Dane Scarlett, Matthew Craig and Marcel Lavinier; not to say that these players don’t deserve the opportunity and experience on the bench but if Tottenham are seriously looking to challenge to the league and finish comfortably in the top four then they can’t be having three youth team players making up their bench.

This lack of trust between Conte and some of his squad is what can block this all-important pack mentality and prevent the whole squad from collectively being prepared to ‘run through walls’ for their manager.

So how can it change? It will be crucial for the entire club that they qualify for the Champions League this season, an obvious reason will be the ability to attract a higher calibre of players into joining the club and often with a higher calibre of players comes an elite level of mentality, if the right personality judgements are made by Tottenham’s recruitment.

Tottenham’s elite players are leading their team now; you can identify Lloris, Kane, Son and Romero as elite players and equally as impressive leaders in the team. However, there is only five or six leaders throughout the team when ideally you would want 7, 8 or even 9; when you look at this incredible Liverpool team you could easily name at least eight leaders within their line up and even more throughout their squad. This lack of leadership is perhaps what has caused players to shy away from challenges and bury their head in the sand at any moment of adversity, rather than be strong and valiantly battle on and fight for the game passionately.

The absence of leadership within the Spurs squad may also explain why they have tended to trip up in seemingly easy games or drop valuable points against teams they really should be beating, such as the recent games against Brighton and Brentford where the lilywhites dropped 5 incredibly important points.

Therefore, if Tottenham do qualify for the pinnacle of European football and keep manager Antonio Conte then they should perhaps not instantly fall into the trap of signing the players who will sell shirts and bring attention, but instead, focus on bringing in players who have a perfect mix of both quality and character as that is what Tottenham will require to reach the next step of challenging in all competitions.

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