With the end of this season, Tottenham have finally begun to reap the benefits of Antonio Conte’s influence. What changes will Mauricio Pochettino make in his coaching style next season?
Tottenham has begun to reflect the influence of Antonio Conte as the end of their trophy drought is in sight. They have a chance at winning the Premier League title this season with 2 games left.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Antonio Conte has been tasked with changing Tottenham Hotspur into a club that no longer wilts when a trophy is in sight, and the 2-1 victory against West Ham United on Wednesday will provide him with an early indication of his progress.
His face lit up with delight when he discovered that Spurs’ Carabao Cup semifinal opponents would be his old club, Chelsea, and that Arsenal would play Liverpool in the other fixture, highlighting how difficult this tournament continues to win.
Conte, who led Chelsea from 2016 to 2018, said, “First and foremost, it is excellent for Tottenham to reach the semifinal of this championship.” “You can see the teams who made it to the semifinals — Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal are among them.” This implies that every club is vying for the prize.
“This trophy, I recall, was not secondary at Chelsea in the past, but you used it to play with young players, guys who didn’t typically start. Now I understand how tough it is to win a title in England, and tonight we played West Ham, who defeated [Manchester] United and [Manchester] City. Winning anything in England is quite tough.”
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Spurs have had it more difficult than most. They haven’t won a trophy since 2008, a streak that includes losses in the 2019 Champions League final and, most recently, a loss to Manchester City in the competition’s final last season.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, the club made huge gains but failed to produce any real results in the shape of trophies, a problem Jose Mourinho failed to address before Nuno Espirito Santo’s 17-game spell. Conte was recruited at a high cost to turn the team around, and his early success demonstrates the 52-year-techniques old’s and the buy-in he has received from the whole squad.
That manifested itself in two ways: peripheral squad members stepping forward before a collective rearguard action helped repel West Ham, who dominated the second half but ultimately fell short, despite being without a centre-forward after Michail Antonio tested positive for COVID-19 in the build-up.
Steven Bergwijn was the most significant character in the first section. Despite the fact that the winger is widely expected to be made available in January — Ajax are confident of securing his signature either on loan or permanently — the Netherlands international responded with a goal and an assist on his first start of the season, which ultimately decided the game in Tottenham’s favor.
Early on, the 24-year-old had some nervous moments. Within the first 10 minutes, Bergwijn received the ball in a hazardous position on the outside of the box from Sergio Reguilon and chose to throw it back rather than risk losing control, as he had done on many occasions in the early exchanges.
What happened next was a sharp contrast.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg surged into the box and swapped passes with Bergwijn before finding a threatening square pass after a mostly quiet first 29 minutes. After Jarrod Bowen had levelled, Bergwijn turned provider to fly past Manuel Lanzini before crossing for Lucas Moura to restore Spurs’ lead.
Bergwijn demonstrated his readiness to respond to the challenge of playing for his Tottenham career in a way that reflects highly on both the player and his manager, after Dele Alli’s devoted showing on his return from the wilderness in Sunday’s spirited 2-2 draw against Liverpool.
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Spurs’ situation became more precarious in the last 30 minutes. West Ham steadily established possession and territorial domination, but they lacked a penalty-box focal point to generate serious opportunities without Antonio. Hugo Lloris was hardly forced into action, with substitute Andriy Yarmolenko hitting the crossbar in stoppage time with a deflected drive.
Conte went to a 5-3-2 formation, which aided in the strong performance against Liverpool, and blamed the late slump on COVID-19 difficulties, which prompted the closure of Tottenham’s training site and the delay of three matches.
“Many of the players had COVID, and the intensity of the game fell at one point,” Conte said. “As a result, I made the necessary changes. It was fantastic to avoid conceding a goal and go to the semifinals, but we must handle this scenario on Sunday and Tuesday — this will be a difficult moment for us. We have a significant issue with COVID, which we must address.”
After overcoming United and City to go this far, West Ham manager David Moyes was left to lament the scheduling of this match, which came at a time when Spurs were gaining traction. “Reinvigorated,” as Moyes put it, “playing with a lot more drive only lately.”
Conte’s impact is becoming more visible.