Tottenham and Antonio Conte remain on a collision course with a mutual parting of ways in the ongoing aftermath of the former Italian international’s uncensored post-match tirade after Spurs’ 3-3 draw against Southampton at the weekend.
In what has now clearly become an untenable situation between the Lecce native and Spurs, club chairman Daniel Levy is expected to pull the trigger on officially moving on from the veteran manager this week. Inevitably, the question of who will be next to step into the breach once again bubbles to the surface for a club that has yet to find the right managerial formula in the post-Pochettino landscape.
In terms of [managerial] parameters, I think the biggest thing for me would be an acceptance that Spurs do not have the budget to get several 60m+ signings in each summer. We may have the capacity to do that, but likely the manager will need to understand they will get about 2 big signings each summer, and quite a number of younger prospects (but Spurs have been relatively poor there recently, although partially down to a disconnect between those players and the manager’s style/preference).
The profile I want to see is a manager who isn’t “proven” yet, in terms of not someone like Mourinho, Conte, who have failed for us. Someone with a distinct playstyle too, as Nuno wasn’t as hard-and-fast “this is how I play” as some might think, and led to him playing much differently than at Wolves (he’s also much different at Al-Ittihad now too). Someone with good performances from their team, a willingness to use young players, and at least decent results. Preferably someone ready to spend at least 5 years building a team that will always be in a shout for top 4 at the end of the season.— Spurs supporter Ben Griffis (@BeGriffis); when asked on what the next step post-Conte should be
But what is undeniably clear is that Tottenham is not - and perhaps never was - in a position to be a club that can accommodate the appointment(s) of plug-and-play managers that rely on the necessity of specific player profiles to make their tactical schematics work as intended.
Regarding Conte, on the surface, his level of success as a manager was undeniable, but it was also clear that Spurs were not prepared to supply him with the players he needed for his system, which heavily revolved around a trusted back-three, and thus the club never it the level that Conte himself will expect given his success with Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan.
What must happen now, almost assuredly, is that Levy and the Tottenham board consider potential candidates that are not tied to a remit that can be loosely described as “buy now, win now.” Instead, a slow-burn approach is arguably the best way forward, under a manager that can countenance incremental gains year-on-year while truly building a foundation of success; dare I say, akin to what Arsenal has done with Mikel Arteta.
With that in mind, here are four potential candidates that Tottenham could consider as the club approaches a critical juncture in their Premier League evolution on and off the pitch.
Luis Enrique (unattached)
Making the move from international management to club level typically is a road laden with potholes, but in the case of Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona and Spanish international midfielder has already cut his teeth in the technical area at Barça B, AS Roma, and Celta Vigo before return to Barça to manage the full senior side to eight major honors, including a Champions League win in 2014-15.
But perhaps what is most noteworthy about Enrique past his desire to instill a modern possession-based system, as evidenced by his time with Barcelona and the Spanish national team respectively, is the notion that he is not afraid to put faith in talented young players that are good enough for senior football.
During four years at the helm of La Roja, Enrique trusted players the likes of Gavi, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde, Nico Williams, and Yeremy Pino. Granted, Spain hardly struggles to churn out young talent while remaining one of the world’s top youth pipelines anywhere in the world, but access to young talent has never been a guarantee of their utilization. If his time with Barcelona and Spain is anything to go by, Luis Enrique comes in as a managerial candidate that ticks the boxes of a new direction while also offering the stability of longevity on the touchline.
Rúben Amorim (Sporting Clube de Portugal)
Overreaction’s aside in the wake of Sporting’s Europa League result to get past Premier League leaders Arsenal while advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition, Rúben Amorim has shown himself to be incredibly resourceful at a club that specializes in youth development either through their academy or the acquisition of rough-cut diamonds that can be polished expertly.
One prime example of Amorim’s work in that area comes by way of the rapid development of Ivorian center-back Ousmane Diomandé. Before the current 2022-23 season, Diomandé's only taste of senior football was the prior season during a loan spell with second-division outfit Clube Desportivo Mafra away from Danish outfit FC Midtjylland; where he made zero appearances before moving to Sporting in the summer. Since his arrival, the 19-year-old has quickly risen to become one of the most highly-touted defensive prospects anywhere on the continent, and a large part of that comes down to Amorim’s guiding hand.
Given the notion that Spurs are a club that is willing to bring in young talent, Amorim certainly ticks that box a few times over. Tactically, Amorim’s abilities on that front were on display against Arsenal after his fine-tuning of his approach was able to ruthlessly expose one of the only weaknesses the Gunners have shown this season. Beyond that, the technical quality Amorim preaches on the pitch would certainly help Spurs move the needle past the Conte regime.
Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Few managers have come into the Premier League from outside of the English sphere of influence and immediately made an impact in the way that Italian tactical Roberto De Zerbi has since his arrival at Brighton in the aftermath of Graham Potter’s move to Chelsea this season. Not an up-and-coming manager by any stretch of the imagination, the 43-year-old first tested himself in the lower rungs of the Italian pyramid with Darfo Boario and Calcio Foggia before unimpressive stints with Palermo and Benevento led him to his breakout with Sassuolo between 2018-21. From there, Shakhtar Donetsk would provide him with European nights to hone his tradecraft further; which fans on the south coast are currently reaping the benefits of.
Under De Zerbi, Brighton has now been rapidly reconfigured into a high-octane attacking side that is an even better version of itself than it was under the credible work of Potter and is in with a serious chance of qualifying for European football next season. At the time of writing, the Seagulls boast 56.7% of the ball in the Premier League, with only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool ahead of them, while also generating 14.5 shots/match; also fourth among PL sides.
Additionally, their efficiency in possession cannot be understated on the back of only City and Arsenal owning a higher pass completion rate than Brighton’s 85.5%. All this, with the club still heavily relying on “smaller” market acquisitions while extracting maximum performances of those players would suit Tottenham to the very ground. He may be nearly impossible to get, however, but he’d arguably be perfect.
Vincent Kompany (Burnley)
The dark horse candidate of the bunch, former Manchester City star and Belgian international icon Vincent Kompany is already making waves in England on the touchline since his return to the country after his first managerial appointment with domestic giants RSC Anderlecht. Now at Burnley, Kompany has done precisely what Spurs are so desperately in need of; modernization.
One of the chief complaints of Conte’s reign at Tottenham Hotspur stadium, beyond inconsistency on the pitch, was his insistence on utilizing a back three that lacked the refinement necessary to take Spurs to a higher level of performance necessary to truly compete with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United. Kompany has always shown himself adept at ripping up a current tactical remit and instilling his own in rapid order, to the point where Burnley is topping the Championship in a way that most fans will not have ever thought possible when under Sean Dyche.
Coupled with his immense experience at club level in the Premier League while being influenced by Pep Guardiola, it is no surprise that Burnley’s rebranding on the pitch has taken the direction it has. Like Enrique and Amorim, Kompany is also no stranger to the utilization of younger talent, either, which should only accentuate his CV if he was to be considered. It could be the type of surprise appointment that dreams are made of.