Antonio Conte’s press conference after the match against Southampton was a masterclass of self sabotage. The Italian manager is obviously fed up with Tottenham and is willing to launch himself out the exit door. All this continues to muddy the once solid reputation of a talented manager.
The presser following Tottenham’s disappointing draw with the Saints was just Giorgio Chiellini’s infamous Tottenham quip in long form. Conte threw everyone under the bus from players to the front office in a desperate bid to leave.
At one point in time, Conte was the next big managerial prospect. He had, almost, single handedly revived a Juve side that was dead in the water. Following his Juve departure, he had good stints with Chelsea, Inter and the Italian national team.
However, since his departure from Juve, a pattern has emerged of the Italian’s cycle. It’s almost guaranteed that he will revive a side and carry them to new heights. Once those heights are reached, things will go downhill as Conte demands more control of the team.
Recent years have made it harder to gauge what Conte’s managerial legacy will be. Will it be that of a transformative coach or an egomaniac?
Cutting his teeth in the dormant Serie A with Juventus in the early 2010s, Conte made a new by dragging the Italian giants back to relevancy. His following stints would follow a similar pattern where the Italian would instill his tactics to revive sides.
When Conte took over Juve in 2011, the Turin club was still in a downward spiral after the 2006 calciopoli scandal. With a talented squad and a great tactical mind, Conte led the team to three straight scudetti. He would leave the side following the 2013-14 season, but the way he had set up Juve would help them dominate Italy for the rest of the 2010s.
The Italian national team would be the highly sought after manager’s next job. Conte wasn’t inheriting the 2006 world champions, rather he took over a side fresh from a disappointing World Cup. At the 2016 Euros, he would push a subpar Italian team to the quarterfinals.
Chelsea fans have fond memories of the Italian roaming the touchline, yelling at the top of his lungs for his players to drop back. This was also the first time he truly had control of a world class side full of top class players. While he struggled in Europe, the Italian quickly ruled the Prem and his tactical choices are still being used across England to this day.
Same thing happened to Inter where Conte managed them to a Europa League Final and scudetto. It became clear that Conte was a winning manager that any club would love to have.
Across his spells, Conte was famous for his demanding practices and tactical decisions that played defense on a pedestal. Bringing a three man backline out of the 80s, Conte built his sides from the center backs up. The focus on defending and hitting teams on the counter were a stark contrast to the tiki taka that was ruling Europe at the time, but it’s now become the norm.
Practically every club wanted Conte following his time with Inter, so it was quite the coup for Tottenham to land him. Surely with a record like his, it would only be a matter of time until the Spurs hoisted a trophy.
At first glance, Conte is the ideal manager who poses few flaws. Once a closer examination at how his time with some of his teams ended is taken, cracks start appearing.
While this pattern has appeared at all his domestic clubs, Conte’s Juve end is the best example. After rebuilding Juve, it was clear that the club had achieved everything it could with Conte in Europe. His sides could still dominate Italy without breaking a sweat, but that success could never translate to European competition.
Conte grew more and more angry with Juventus management, criticizing their lack of support in the transfer market and demanding more say in moves. This was in spite of Juve making excellent moves such as the Pogba and Tevez deals which gave Conte two cornerstones. While they were no Barcelona or Real, his Juve sides had the talent to put up a good fight against anyone.
His more open frustration with management led to his departure in 2014 and he was replaced by Max Allegri. With pretty much the same side, Allegri reached a Champions League final in 2015 and placed an aura of doubt over Conte’s remarks.
This same pattern is happening with Tottenham as his prolonged honeymoon period is coming to its predictable end. As other sides creep up on them, Spurs’ Champions League chase is just about cooked. Rather than trying to dig himself out of this hole, Conte just wants things to end.
Despite moves being made across his Tottenham tenure to shore up the squad, Conte is blaming both the players and front office for the team’s failures. While management should face more scrutiny, Tottenham’s management has been willing to help Conte achieve his goals. For the most part, the players have played well even as Conte throws them under the bus.
The cracks are there once Conte’s cycles start to spin out. While he may help bring instant success, the chaos Conte’s style brings may outweigh the benefits for certain teams.
Conte’s breakout with Juve should have signified the Italian’s rise to managerial greatness. There is still a great manager inside Conte, but his demanding nature may hurt his future ambitions. Perhaps the game has just gone past Conte.
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