It didn’t take long for Tottenham Hotspur to decide they were going to dispense with the services of Nuno Espirito Santo.
There were some reports that the club may have bided their time after the 3-0 hammering by Manchester United on Saturday afternoon but no, on Monday morning, confirmation came that the Portuguese had been sacked.
Now attention turns to Antonio Conte, who is reportedly in London to discuss the role, having turned it down over the summer.
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Assuming that it is indeed the Italian who replaces Nuno, let’s take a look at some of the tactical and mental changes they may make.

Back three

The most obvious place to start, a back three is the hallmark of Conte’s teams, it’s what he’s built his career off. Conte simply loves having three defenders to give him more solidity. It's not a surprise and not really one we need to spend too much time on.
So you can expect to see Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Cristian Romero playing together on a regular basis. Japhet Tanganga also seems like someone who could absolutely make a Cesar Azpilicueta-esque move into a back three having previously been a full-back. It's worth really pin-pointing Romero, who was one of the best defenders in Italy last season. Expect him to go to a whole new level under Conte.

Antonio Conte gewann im Sommer mit Inter Mailand den Scudetto

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Son as a striker

The next biggest question is what kind of midfield Conte will employ. At times with Juve he alternated between a diamond and a classic 3-5-2, with Chelsea it was a 3-4-3 then with Inter he went back to a 3-5-2.
Despite the presence of Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, it feels as if Conte might be tempted to instead move to a 3-5-2. And if that is indeed the case you can expect a lot of Heung-min Son playing as a striker.

Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-Min celebrates after his cross sets up Tottenham Hotspur's Brazilian midfielder Lucas Moura to score their second goal later given as an own goal during the English Premier League football match between T

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Son might be the most interesting player tactically in the Spurs team and you just know that Conte is going to absolutely adore him. A proven goalscorer with Son’s work-rate and movement? That’s Conte music baby.
There’s a touch of the Lautaro Martinez-Romelu Lukaku about Son and Harry Kane, albeit with some important differences, and it does feel as if Conte will be tempted to play them together. Son can press opposing defenders when needed and his evolution into a player who can score from anywhere makes him a potent threat next to Kane. He also allows Kane a bit more freedom as well as not leaving him so isolated as he is in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1.

Kane’ll keep on movin’

Which brings us nicely to our next point. There has been a lot of frustration amongst pretty much everyone who has watched Kane this season that he is moving too much. Kane constantly drops deeper in order to try and involve himself in the game, often to the detriment of the team as a whole.
However anyone who wants Kane to stay up front as a lone striker a la Diego Costa under Conte is probably going to be sorely disappointed.
One of the hallmarks of Conte’s Inter team was the way in which Lukaku moved around the pitch. Previously just seen (lazily) as a battering ram, Conte was the first manager to really see how well-rounded Lukaku could be. Under the Italian, Lukaku’s game went to a new level, moving out wide to create overloads and pull defenders out of position, and coming deep to allow Martinez and Achraf Hakimi to move off him.

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium

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The problem with Kane going deep up until this point is that he’s never been coached what to do. It’s a leftover from when he was more of a 10 in the youth academy and no manager has been able to stop him doing it or build a coherent tactical plan around it.
That will change with Conte, who as we all know doesn’t suffer fools. Conte will have a strict plan in mind and you can see him trying to recreate what he did with Lukaku by using Son and Emerson Royal. Kane's movement will be encouraged, but on Conte's terms.
The thing people seem to forget, unsurprisingly given how poor he’s been this season, is that Kane is a legitimate playmaker. He’s a great passer and his movement is fantastic. If that is harnessed properly under a tactician like Conte? Hoo-boy that’s going to be fun.

Midfield magic with Alli as the ace in the pack

One of the other reasons you imagine Conte will go with a midfield three and two strikers is because of the players available. Not only does he not have someone like N’Golo Kante, who enables you to happily play a midfield duo with his work-rate, but he also has three unique midfielders who together could be incredible.
Giovani Lo Celso, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele all offer something a little bit different, and that’s why they could be the perfect trio for Conte’s system. Hojbjerg will be the sitter, the one who picks up the ball from the defence and pushes the team upfield. Ndombele is the creator, he can take people on and make things happen for the players in front of him. Lo Celso is the wildcard, he’ll cover ground, create in the final third, and kick the living daylights out of the opposition.

Tottenham Hotspur's Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on October 3, 202

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The great thing is that you can mix and match to some degree, particularly with Hojbjerg and someone like Oliver Skipp can happily act as the sitter, as can Harry Winks.
The wildcard here is Dele Alli. After being so good under Mauricio Pochettino, Alli’s career has fallen off a cliff but if he’s going to get going again Conte could well be the one who gets it going. Alli could be used as a second striker or as the most advanced of the midfield three. If Conte can get him going and working hard he could be Spurs’ version of Ivan Perisic.

More running, lots more running

We all know by now that Nuno’s Tottenham team have the lowest distance covered per game of any team in the Premier League. That won’t be the case under Conte.
The Italian gets his teams to run, hard. There should be willing runners too. The wing-backs are perfect for that, as are players like Son and Lo Celso. Conte’s incessant need for players to work hard and run is part of what makes him such a great manager and helps get extra amounts out of his team. Of course the caveat is that it is also one of the reasons he can quickly fall out with people, but Tottenham have long since given up the idea of being a long-term club. This is for the here and now, and Conte is perfect for that.
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