Tottenham Hotspur cruised to Champions League football thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of already-relegated Norwich City on the final day of the Premier League season.
Antonio Conte’s men needed just a point to finish in the top four of the Premier League, owing to their superior goal difference against rivals Arsenal, but there was no surprise when they cruised to a 1-0 lead after just 16 minutes through Dejan Kulusevski.
Harry Kane made it 2-0 just before half time because Kulusevski scored again and Son Heung-min added a brace to make things comfortable and secure a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
But Conte has to get a lot of credit for the work he has done, turning things around at Tottenham since replacing Nuno Espirito Santo. So what’s next?
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1. A born winner
Antonio Conte did not have the best of starts to his managerial career, suffering relegation in his first season – in Serie B with Arezzo in 2006/07 – and then leaving Atalanta in a dangerous position four years later, from which they wouldn’t not recover.
Since then, though, there have been a lot of wins. After gaining promotion to Serie A with Siena in 2010/11, Conte joined Juventus and led the Old Lady to three straight league titles, starting their domination of the top flight before leaving for the Italy job.
Spending two years with the national team, Conte returned to club football in the summer of 2016 and went straight back to winning. It took a few weeks for things to be sorted out at Chelsea but Conte turned the Blues from a side that had finished 10th in 2015/16 to Premier League winners with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso at wing-back. Things fell apart ever so slightly in the second season, leading to Conte’s departure but he will always have that Premier League-winning season.
Conte’s next job took him back to Italy this time with Inter Milan and after a solid first season laying the foundations, Conte scooped his fifth top-flight league title, ending the Juventus domination of Serie A that he had started. And now, although it wasn’t a trophy, Conte has to be happy with the job he has done so far at Tottenham turning their season around to secure Champions League football.
Focussing on just his full seasons, Conte has won a title on six occasions, only failing to win a title three times. That’s a 66% success rate. Time to get the parade bus booked for next May?
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2. A proven Premier League contender
The two best managers in the Premier League right now are Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, and there’s a pretty big gap until the next group. Between them, Klopp and Guardiola have won the past five Premier League titles and they could win the next five unless a challenger steps up.
And that challenger could be Conte. The Italian was the last manager pre-Guardiola and Klopp to win the Premier League and he did it when both were in managing in the division – the only manager to beat both to the title.
The 2016/17 was supposed to be Guardiola’s. It was the former Barcelona’s bosses first in England after leaving Bayern Munich and the league was there for the taking, with Leicester City the defending champions. Things were less ready for Klopp at Anfield, with the foundations for his 2019/20 title-winning side barely built, but anything could have happened.
In the end it was a Conte title win, built on an excellent 13-match winning run between October and January as Chelsea became the first Premier League team to win 30 games in a single season. Conte also did the double over Guardiola, winning 3-1 at the Etihad and 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, but could only take one point from a possible six against Klopp, losing 2-1 at Stamford Bridge pre-back three.
- The best goalkeepers in the Premier League
- The best defensive midfielders in the Premier League
- The best full-backs in the Premier League
3. The turnaround
Conte was never meant to take Tottenham to the Champions League this season. Sure, that would have been the dream, but his first job was to steady a rocking ship that had been left by Nuno Espirito Santo. Tottenham could have stayed with Santo but they decided to pull the trigger with Conte available and it has worked wonderfully.
Since Conte took over at Tottenham across 28 league games, the London club have won 17 matches (third-most), scored 58 goals (third-most), conceded 23 goals (third-fewest) and won 56 points (third-most). Of course, the only two teams above Tottenham during that run are Man City and Liverpool.
There have been some big results across the campaign too for Conte. As part of a nine-match unbeaten run at the start of his campaign, Conte oversaw a 2-2 draw with Liverpool and he then completed Tottenham’s double over Man City with a 3-2 win at the Etihad. Conte took more points off Klopp just a few weeks ago, this time at Anfield, and it was a game that Tottenham would have felt disappointed in drawing given their performance.
And of course there was the 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that put them in control of the top four race.
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4. Expected differences
Games are won on goals actually scored and conceded but football isn’t as simple as that when looking at how good a team is playing. You’ve got to look at the Expected Goals too.
Expected Goals allows you to analyse just how good a team is playing and the quality of the chances they are creating, taking things like luck in finishing and goalkeeping quality briefly out of the equation. One again, Tottenham are amongst the best teams in the Premier League for xG, with only Man City (69.54) and Liverpool (64.23) having more than their 53.45.
Defensively Tottenham have been solid too, with only Man City (18.75), Liverpool (23.76) and Chelsea this time (27.87) having lower Expected Goals Against than Tottenham’s 28.44. On differential it’s just Man City (50.79) and Liverpool (40.47) better than Tottenham (25.01). These are all promising signs and a positive for Tottenham is that they have the players to convert on their xG.