With the news of Antonio Conte confirmed, the Italian is now the new man on the touchline for Tottenham Hotspur. In Conte, Spurs are getting a master tactician who will be able to connect better with the players in the squad in comparison to his predecessors at Spurs. With Conte at the helm, there will obviously be players who benefit more under Conte and there will be players who are at a bit more at a disadvantage.
On Tuesday, we identified players who would benefit most under Conte. In this article, let’s take a look at three players I believe could be at a disadvantage.
One point I do want to mention (perhaps to the dismay of some) is that Conte is going to give every single player in this squad a chance. I spoke earlier how Conte will be able to connect with these players better. In reading and watching Conte’s teams over the years, what is for certain is that he is extremely demanding. He is a perfectionist and when he feels crossed or threatened, he can lash out, for better or worse. There is history of Conte lashing out to his club’s hierarchy if he feels he has been crossed — this was the case when Conte gave a middle finger to his former boss at Juventus in Andrea Agnelli. Should a player not do his job, slack off or simply not get on with him, he could be jettisoned from the squad. These are the expectations of a man like Conte who expects to receive the same amount of effort that he himself puts in.
I am sure that Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici have given Conte promises and guarantees regarding future transfers and finances. But still, Spurs supporters are wise enough to know that this marriage certainly has its flaws that could lead to eventual divorce. However, Spurs are getting one of the best managers in all of European football. Now, let’s look at a few players who could be negatively impacted by the appointment of Conte.
Midfielders will probably bode well under Conte, as the Italian manager will likely want to install his 3-4-2-1 or a 3-5-2 tactics. Whereas Nuno Espírito Santo relied almost entirely on the individual brilliance of players for his attack, Conte’s sides are going to be well-drilled and each player involved is going to have specific tasks/roles asked of him in order for the team to function. The way Spurs set up under Nuno was almost entirely predicated on Lucas executing take-on runs from the right wing. In fact, Nuno deployed Lucas a little bit like Adama Traoré in terms of him being the creative engine as well as utilizing free-roam positioning.
But with Conte, Lucas’ role in the side should change immensely. Lucas will no longer be asked to step out of his position and do more than what is asked of him. Perhaps Lucas will change his game to align a bit more to the instruction of Conte, but Lucas is one of the fringe players in the squad that Spurs could actually get a good fee in the January transfer window.
The expectation under Conte is that there will be less players out wide and more so expecting wide players to act as two number tens — that would likely happen in a 3-4-2-1 system. It is hard to push out Lucas here and I can see why: he has a workhorse mentality and has constantly put in a great amount of effort, which is why both Nuno and Mourinho appreciated and used him so frequently early on in their tenures.
Conte has shown a history of repurposing natural wingers and transitioning them into ball-carrying wingbacks. This could be the spot where Lucas finds his place under Conte. However, as mentioned, Spurs could still get a decent fee for Lucas and while Conte may appreciate the player, the lack of consistency paired with likely reinforcements in January could push the Brazilian out of the fray.
Similar to Lucas, Gil is another wide player that excels in dribbling and taking on defenders. While Gil has been seen as one of the better young prospects in Europe, it is hard to see a player like him that Conte has utilized over the years. Due to his stature as well as a lack of concrete position, I am questioning whether we will see Gil’s consistent role under Conte once the manager gets his sides up and running.
While Gil is still young and has the benefit of time to develop, right now it is hard to see him being chosen over the likes of a player like Steven Bergwijn. The Dutch international is a bit more seasoned as a player and should perform better under a bit more tactical instruction where he knows his role and what is needed to exceed in it. Additionally, the prospect of Ryan Sessegnon and his positional flexibility could spell challenges for Gil. We spoke over the summer of deploying Gil more centrally. That could be his best chance of becoming a regular under Conte.
I could be really harsh on Winks. Since his injury a few years ago, he has simply not been the player he once was. When given chances under both Mourinho and Nuno and even under interim manager Ryan Mason, Winks has proven that he needs to leave Spurs to rejuvenate his career. The same can be said for other players in the squad — we have spoken in detail about this.
To be quite honest, Conte’s tactical approach is a bit more in line with some of Winks’ strengths. The tempo will certainly improve in midfield and with a bit more of a focus in having more cover at the back, Winks has a chance to resurrect himself at Spurs. However, I do not see it in large part due to his deference in defense as well as his apprehension to progressive passing. Not known for his athleticism or strength, I see Winks being drummed out of this squad as Conte gets more and more familiar with his new players. Add in the fact that Winks has been rumored to be a source of a lot of the news leaks that has come out of the clubhouse in recent months, Conte could make things miserable for the 25-year-old.
In a famous interview with Thierry Henry, if a player has a bad attitude or is showing to be an issue in the dressing room, Conte has been quoted saying “if someone doesn’t have a good attitude or behavior, I prefer to kill them”. Conte is simply going to take no prisoners and for a player like Winks who has been vocal in his disagreements with other Spurs managers, his future under yet another new manager remains questionable.
Dele Alli: The lie that Dele is lazy and his head is not entirely in football is both rampant and incorrect. While he remains a big personality, proven by his endorsements and increased popularity in social media, Dele is a runner and his elite pressing numbers indicate that he could be quite resourceful under Conte.
In Conte’s past sides, there has always been a midfielder who has goals in him. One of Dele’s strengths has always been his ability to arrive late in the box and get on the end of shots. The last time Conte was in the Premier League, there may not have a been a better younger talent in the country than Dele. Conte’s focus on opposition tactics could really get Dele closer to the player he was a couple of seasons ago. Never known for his individual creativity, Dele will be given specific tasks to complete under Conte. He has versatility, as showcased by his ability to act as a number ten or a number eight, and perhaps Conte could put him a better position to succeed than either Mourinho or Nuno did. Then again, perhaps I am merely projecting my hopes upon him once again.
Eric Dier: Since making the switch to centerback full-time, Dier shown considerable improvement compared to last season, for which he deserves credit. Additionally, he has certainly emerged as a leader in the locker room this season. However, where I struggle with Dier is how he will fit under Conte. In looking at Conte’s most-recent Inter side, does Dier take the role of a Stefan de Vrij? Or Milan Škriniar?
In Conte’s 3-5-2 shape, when his wingbacks move up the pitch, the idea for his three centerbacks is for two of them move out as alternative fullbacks and have one of the deeper-lying midfielders drop into the back line — transitioning the shape from a 3-5-2 to a 4-2-4. Does Dier have the pace or recovery speed to move outside? Likely no, which would mean that he would be more suited to form that centerback pairing with the midfielder who comes back.
For me, Dier’s lack of pace and his propensity to make mistakes could leave Conte to look at options elsewhere. I said in Tuesday’s article how the club will certainly look to improve in this position after the failed summer transfer attempts of Sevilla’s Jules Koundé and Valencia’s Pau Torres. Conte is going to want comfortable and reliable players in defense so while Dier will showcase his blue-collar nature to Conte, the limitations in his game could end up overshadowing him.
Which Spurs do you see at a disadvantage under Conte?
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