Antonio Conte has always been a coach you can learn from. With extensive experience throughout Europe, the Italian is back to the English Premiership for a second bite of the cherry after being sacked by Chelsea in 2018.
At the time of writing at the beginning of January 2022, Spurs have gone 9 games without defeat in the league since Conte took over, a record for run for any new Tottenham manager. It seems that Conte has finally found a club that reflects his idea of the game.
So, what are the tactical secrets of Conte at Spurs? Tomás Alfonso, analyst at Colón Santa Fe, talks us through them with an analysis created with KlipDraw in conjunction with Nacsport.
Let’s take a closer look…
On the offense, Conte usually lines his men up in a 3-4-2-1 formation. In fact, this formation has been used in every Premiership match that the Italian has been in charge, except against Klopp's Liverpool.
This is no great surprise, to be honest. Anyone who has followed Conte’s evolution as a coach will know that his favourite formation at Inter Milan was a similar 3-5-2.
Related content: Tactical analysis of Inter FC by Antonio Conte (2021)
Tottenham begin the offensive phase low, trying to progress to the other end of the park, pulling their opponent towards them and trying to take advantage of the spaces created out wide and, of course, the speed of Son, Kane and Moura.
As during his time at Inter, Conte’s idea is that as many players as possible attack the opponent’s area.
As we can see in the image above, Moura supports the wingers, who make rapid runs, attacking the open spaces in the opponent’s defense.
This transition from defense to attack concludes with four players attacking the box. As we can see in the above image, the winger on the opposite side, in this case the Spaniard Ruguilón, also gets into an attacking position inside the box.
In the above photo, we can see the start of the offensive build up, kicking off with the three defenders, as is typical of Conte’s game. The central midfielder is always the first passing option. Good driving skills and excellent short passing are essential skills for Conte’s back three.
Here we can see how Tanganga drives forward and is forced to play it forward to the midfield. In this case, Moura falls back to provide support.
The idea is that Spurs always begin the offensive phase in the low block, keeping numerical superiority to get the ball moving forwards. In this photo, we can see that Spurs hold a 5 vs 4 advantage with Skipp appearing as the free man, generating passing options.
Skipp himself looks for space behind the opposition lines, creating alternative passing options. Moura provides support to Skipp while Reguilón waits out on the wings.
As we have already said, starting in the low block is a typical tactic of Conte’s teams, generally pulling the opposition forward to meet them, opening spaces in the process, and allowing the team to push forward. In this case, Moura drops back to support and receive a pass from Tanganga while Skipp remains free to receive a back pass.
Once this initial pressure has been overcome, they attack the opposing goal line. Both wingers stay wide to receive passes. In this case, Son makes a break, pulling his marker with him, while Kane enters the scene.
The pattern of attack is repeated again with the winger on the opposite side getting into the box.
In this image, in the match against Southampton, the same pattern of play is repeated. Spurs begin their offense in the low block with the participation of the three defenders who try to attract their opponents and disorganise them, generating space behind the lines.
Objective achieved. In this case, we can see how they have pulled their opponents out wide, allowing them to attack the opposite side which is now unguarded and weak.
Emerson links up with Kane in order to get out of the pressure zone while Kane has the intention of playing it over to the weak side. Kane’s role during the offensive stage is similar to that which Lukaku or Lautaro performed at Inter Milan.
With the support of Kane, the game is switched to the opposite wing. Meanwhile, Son drags his marker in the opposite direction to facilitate this action.
Another common aspect of Conte’s tactics is the connection between the midfielders. At Inter, the connection between Barella and Hakimi paid dividends for him. At Spurs, this role falls to Emerson Royal and Dele Alli.
The first receives the ball high, moving inwards before breaking outwards to generate space and receive the ball free. Barella at Inter used to do the same thing regularly.
Here we can observe the progress of play. Dele Alli has already created space out front, into which he receives the high pass from Emerson, allowing the team to advance.
You can often see this process of attacking one side before switching to the other in Conte’s tactics.
In this case, Emerson has found space on the opposite side, giving him time to look for teammates like Moura, who break into spaces behind enemy lines.
In defense, Conte favours a 5-4-1 which occasionally morphs into a 5-3-2. Son and Lucas are recruited into the defensive phase.
The formation varies according to the opponent. When it comes to pressing, Conte repeats the same tactic that stood him in good stead at Inter. The inside passing options are covered, and the opposition is forced out wide where pressure is applied and numerical superiority created.
In the game against Liverpool, Conte favoured the same scheme as that used at Inter, a 5-3-2 with a 5-3 defensive structure, positioned habitually in the medium-low block.
The idea here was to force them out wide where they would be smothered and prevented from progressing. Pressure is applied on the wings. To do this, Spurs leave the wings open, enticing the opposition to play there.
Here, we can see the 5-3 structure. We can see how the inside passing lanes are blocked so the opponent is forced wide where they are instantly pressed. Everyone is evenly matched and it is almost impossible for Liverpool to break the lines of pressure and progress.
So, there we have a brief overview of the attacking and defensive phases of Conte’s Spurs. Undoubtedly, these tactics are paying off for the team, with a fantastic run of results in the league. How long can Conte keep up his unbeaten league record? Only time will tell.
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