It’s been about three weeks since Antonio Conte accepted the challenge of becoming Tottenham’s new head coach.
It will be exactly 19 days since his appointment as he goes by dugout for his first Premier League home game against Leeds United, live on Air sports, this Sunday. But already all his behavior is that of contentment, happiness and excitement.
Conte wasted little time adjusting to his new surroundings – what he describes as the best stadium and training ground in the world. He may be long in the tooth in many ways, but in this time of Spurs’ honeymoon, the affable Italian comes across as a youngster in his unbridled enthusiasm for the task at hand.
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Sunday 21 November 4:00 p.m.
For a man who has won five league titles in his last seven seasons in club management while posting the second-best winning ratio in Premier League history, very little has taken him by surprise at his return to England.
For someone who is well known for his strict diet and disciplinary approach to all aspects of football, the eyes of the 52-year-old shone throughout our meeting, immediately recalling how warm and friendly he is in anybody.
This is something this journalist knows all too well having been at The Hawthorns in May 2017 when Conte secured Chelsea a fifth Premier League title with a win over Tony Pulis’ West Brom. His personal characteristics were highlighted once again this week during a social media exchange with former captain John Terry.
There is always room for a good mood and yet when you spend time in his company you see how serious and focused he is, how attentively he listens to every question and answers it in detail, and our last meeting is no different.
“I’m happy to be back,” begins Conte in an exclusive Air sports interview before Super Sunday. “It’s a great club and I really appreciate it. We have an incredible infrastructure in terms of stadium and training center so I think it’s the right place to work as I like it.”
As he pointed out in his internal interviews and press conferences, Conte reiterates here again the “need for a little time”. He is far too humble to say at this point that he will win the Premier League with Tottenham.
The former Inter Milan and Chelsea boss delayed reporters an hour before the pre-match media call against Everton, and Conte acknowledges that it will also take patience, although his tendencies have was to accumulate points quickly.
Among Tottenham’s biggest issues this season are distance traveled, as well as the lack of shots and chances created in open play and high passes per shot – all areas that Conte’s Chelsea have been in. well ranked in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Conte believes the team still lacks an infrastructure worthy of the infrastructure the club currently has, but he can reflect with satisfaction on the work accomplished so far in a short period of time. If he manages to instill his habits and his coaching in the current squad, he will be able to close the gap with the established title contenders.
“I’m not a magician,” Conte continues, raising his right hand as if waving a wand. âI don’t have the capacity to completely change the situation immediately, but honestly I’m happy because I know Tottenham is the right person for me.
“We want to build something strong and important for the present and for the future. We have everything in place around us and now we have to reach that high level with the team.”
Conte took over at clubs that weren’t in their best position, thinking about his moments at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter, but they had all won the title lately. The same cannot be said of Tottenham, the last English champion in 1961. How different is this challenge?
“You are right,” Conte replies. âAt Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan we were underdogs. I remember that initially Juventus were not in Europe while Chelsea were 10th in the season ahead of me. At Inter, c ‘was the same because they hadn’t won the championship in 10 years, but I’m not here just to profit but to build something big.
âI have to be honest with the fans and say that right now and for many reasons there is a gap with at least four teams. We have to work hard to try to close that gap in a short period of time. If you get it. time, you cannot waste it.
“The goal for me and for the club is to be competitive and to try to fight with teams that I think are superior to us at the moment. Getting to the middle of the season is not easy for me and for all the world but that’s another big challenge. It’s maybe a little more of a challenge that I’ve had before in terms of difficulty, but I like that type of situation. “
One never has the impression with Conte that he follows the party line.
Daniel Levy insisted the club would try to embrace the fluid football philosophy as he embarked on his quest for a new manager over the summer, but arriving at Nuno Espirito Santo after a long research, all of the early-season data indicated a more pragmatic approach that contradicted the club’s so-called DNA.
Conte has revealed he needs time to reset after his two years at Inter, but now it looks like Spurs got to the right date late and the team should enjoy the rewards in time. a more concerted approach.
“We still have a very young team despite players who have been here for many years,” he said. “Now is the time to grow together and have a goal because I see no reason why Tottenham couldn’t win if we work hard and are strong mentally. You have to make sacrifices, show passion, heart and have a sense of belonging.
“I’m not interested in talking about the club’s past – I prefer to focus on Tottenham starting a new path to try to have a new era in which they are competitive with the rest of the Premier League for important titles.”
Conte’s quest to boost “world-class” Kane
Harry Kane has had the slowest start to his Premier League career with one goal in his first 10 appearances.
According to each shooting measure below, Kane is having the worst season of his club career so far, and Conte is hoping he can revitalize the 28-year-old in the same way he has worked with so much. of success under his previous attackers.
Mirko Vucinic (29) and Carlos Tevez (30) at Juventus, Diego Costa (29) at Chelsea and Romelu Lukaku (28) at Inter were the league’s top scorers for Conte’s sides during of his last six seasons as a club manager.
Kane returns to Tottenham after scoring seven goals in two World Cup qualifiers for England against Albania and San Marino, but Conte has dismissed suggestions he would need to convince the forward that he is already in the right club to win trophies.
If you are not the coach, you can still know a player, but only superficially. It is only when you are really close to them that you can truly know the level of their talent.
“Honestly, you don’t have to,” Conte replies when asked if he has spoken to Kane about his future. “Harry knows me very well and my story is very clear. I’m not someone who is happy to start somewhere without having a high priority and these are the people I love to work with.
“There is the will to build something big and Harry knows it. I wouldn’t be here if there was no ambition on my part or that of my players. I told them that I was here. am here because I trust them You can stay for many years on the same team but you only make history at this club if you win.
âBy winning trophies you are making club history. I understand Harry is someone who wants to win trophies and he can help us get there because we are talking about a world class player.
“He is a player with great talent and during these eight days that we have worked together I can see that it is enough to tell him once what I want in an instant.
“He understands quickly and he’s shown me he’s a smart player. He assesses every situation and knows exactly where the goalkeeper is whenever he’s inside the box – the near post, the second pole or if he can kick him in the legs.
“If you are not the coach you can still know a player but only superficially. It is only when you are really close to them that you can really know the level of their talent.
“Now that I am working with Harry I have the pleasure and the opportunity to know him, I can tell you that we are talking about a really top player. He wants to win and so do we. After two or three weeks I ‘ I’m sure I didn’t make a mistake in making this decision. “
Tottenham fans have inundated Conte with messages of support since his highly anticipated arrival, and with a serial winner now in the Hotspur hotseat, the man himself is relishing the chance to surrender his faith.
Watch Tottenham vs. Leeds live on Sky Sports
Tottenham vs Leeds is live Sky Sports Premier League starting at 16h ; kick off at 4.30 p.m. Air sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Air sports website and app.
Highlights will also be posted on the Air sports digital platforms and Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle