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How Antonio Conte has turned the tide at Tottenham after breaking into the top four

Once Antonio Conte teams get going they can be very difficult to stop.

In his 2016/17 title-winning season at Chelsea, the Blues did not look back after they climbed into top spot, staying there from November to the very end of that record-setting season.

Before that at Juventus, Conte won the title in each of his three seasons. In the first, Juve spent just one week outside the top two.

In the second, they finished every round of games in first place bar the opening weekend.

Antonio Conte is finally getting a tune out of his Tottenham side but it has taken some time 

Spurs are now in pole position for a top four spot with just seven Premier League games left

Spurs are now in pole position for a top four spot with just seven Premier League games left

In his final year top spot was Juve’s from November along with a Serie A record points haul of 102 as Conte won the Scudetto once more.

When he returned to Italian club football in 2019, Conte laid the foundations in his first year at Inter.

The next, his Inter side began making their move in November again, occupied second until February and once they edged into first they did not let go of it, ending Juve’s nine year dominance of Italy’s top flight and winning the Nerazzurri’s first Serie A for 11 years.

As he has not been afraid to highlight since taking over at Tottenham, chasing titles is what Conte is all about, rather than the top four.

Conte's teams are usually hard to stop once they get going and history could repeat itself

Conte’s teams are usually hard to stop once they get going and history could repeat itself 

But still, with a different target, history is starting to repeat itself with his Spurs team now gathering a growing momentum that has seen them surge past their rivals, in this case, for the final Champions League place.

Conte has had to lower his sights for a season but given the timing of his arrival and strength of the competition leading Spurs back into Europe’s elite competition would remain a significant achievement.

It has taken time for Conte to see the signs his team are heading in the right direction, for the methods that have brought him such success and understanding of his favoured system to seep in at Spurs but there is mitigation.

And it is intriguing to wonder where Spurs might be had he arrived last summer, as they initially hoped, rather than when he eventually did.

Morale was on the floor when Conte arrived and he did not have an immediate impact

Morale was on the floor when Conte arrived and he did not have an immediate impact

Spurs were inconsistent as they struggled to get up to speed across many competitions

Spurs were inconsistent as they struggled to get up to speed across many competitions 

Conte was not appointed until November and was immediately playing catch-up.

Spurs were eighth when he arrived and the morale of the squad he inherited was on the floor after it was sapped out of them by Nuno Espirito Santo.

He prefers to start jobs in the summer because the foundations laid in pre-season are vital to his work.

Conte places huge emphasis on fitness as underlined almost immediately by the transformation in Spurs’ running stats following his arrival, from the lowest in the league to the highest.

He also brought three fitness coaches with him – Costantino Coratti, Gian Piero Ventrone and Stefano Bruno – to supplement the club’s existing sports science staff. Nuno had just one.

Conte has upped the squad's fitness and they now have the best running stats in the league

Conte has upped the squad’s fitness and they now have the best running stats in the league

He has brought three new fitness coaches, including Gian Piero Vetrone

Costantino Coratti is also in the staff ranks

He has three fitness coaches – including Gian Piero Vetrone (L) and Costantino Coratti (R) 

It was not easy to get his players up to the speed he demands when, in his first couple of months Spurs were still in Europe and the Carabao Cup, their packed schedule hindering Conte’s attempts to go into the level of detail he likes to on and off the training pitch.

Daily video analysis sessions are part of his approach along with minute detail on the grass.

That is a lot easier to do when it can be spread out across a week rather than crammed into a couple of days.

And the correlation between Spurs’s better results and performances and the time Conte has had to prepare for them has been no coincidence.

While he might not say it publicly there was a silver lining to being chucked out of the Europa Conference League – more time to train his players – despite the annoyance about the circumstances that led to UEFA’s controversial decision.

It is no coincidence Conte's players have performed better after exiting both cup competitions

It is no coincidence Conte’s players have performed better after exiting both cup competitions

He has also improved displays by introducing daily video analysis sessions at Hotspur Way

He has also improved displays by introducing daily video analysis sessions at Hotspur Way

The closure of the transfer window was another key point. Following the rumblings of discontent during January, its end meant there was little to be gained by Conte continuing to voice his frustration or concerns about transfers.

He had the squad he had with no further chance to change it bringing clarity and Conte mellowed, a little at least.

It helped that he was able to clear the decks a little by letting go of players he felt were not pulling in the right direction and bringing in two – Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski – who have slotted perfectly into his plans.

There was still a rocky period to navigate with Spurs flip-flopping between wins and defeats for a while but even in some of the setbacks Conte found cause for encouragement.

Spurs’s defeat at Manchester United was one such occasion when they were the better side overall at Old Trafford, only a ruthless display from Cristiano Ronaldo denying them deserved reward.

Conte continues to demand more of his Tottenham stars and they have kept on responding

Conte continues to demand more of his Tottenham stars and they have kept on responding

And such was the improvement Conte was detecting he was confident enough to mention both publically and privately that he would like to see how his team now would fare against Chelsea, who outclassed Spurs on three separate occasions in January.

As Conte has continued to demand more and more from his players since then they have kept responding. Better results and displays have been a key factor in Conte continuing to secure that buy-in.

Of course, it also helps when you have a brilliant front three like Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Kulusevski spearheading your team.

Since coming together they have hit it off instantly, their scintillating form underpinning Spurs’s upturn in form and leaving their Champions League prospects looking bright.

Equally, Conte’s past bodes well for Spurs’s future too.

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