I just wrote a Twitter thread, but it become long and unwieldy so I’ve decided to bash out a quick blog instead; apologies if it’s a little clunky.
We spoke on The Extra Inch tonight (to be released shortly) about whether we should change Head Coach or not. We could back Antonio Conte now with three or four important signings (say, goalkeeper, centre-back, right wing-back, creative midfielder) in order to attempt to get us back into the Champions League come the end of the season. We would be doing so hoping that he would turn things around with better players and then extend his contract in the summer or, if not, that we could find a new coach that could make use of a squad built for Conte and a back three.
Or we could sack Conte now and let this be day one in building a top-to-bottom club strategy. Working out what we want to be as a club, what we have the means to be, and building in that direction so that the Head Coach is but a cog in the machine, and can leave with the philosophy and strategy remaining. Brighton are a good example of this — Graham Potter leaves and Roberto De Zerbi comes in and can make use of the same group of players and play in a similar way, progressive with some of the same principles.
So this is the choice facing Daniel Levy. My preference is for option two, and here’s why. At this point I’m feeling pretty worn down by Conte’s methodology on and off the field. I find him tactically inflexible, and overly reliant on individuals. We’ve seen Eddie Nketiah — a significantly inferior player to Gabriel Jesus — come into the Arsenal team with minimal drop-off, because they prioritise the system over the individuals within it. Whereas Spurs can’t seem to cope without Rodrigo Bentancur, or Cristian Romero, or especially Dejan Kulusevski.
He’s not developing players or implementing his system well. We’ve seen so few players improve under Conte — on the podcast Bardi suggested Bentancur, and I think that’s a good shout. But I believe more have regressed than improved. Yves Bissouma, as an example, does not seem to have been able to grasp what’s being asked of him, and is a shadow of the player he was in Brighton, where he was a progressive destroyer. Under a good coach a team should be greater than the sum of its parts. Look at Newcastle United, or Brighton & Hove Albion, or Brentford, or Fulham or those horrible lot up the road. For most of this season I believe we have been less than the sum of our parts, and that’s a major concern. Conte is one of the world’s highest paid coaches, and I think we can expect more on the pitch.
And, frankly, I’m tired of his attempts to gain leverage by positioning himself outside the club in his press conferences. He is (temporarily) a part of this club, and it would be good for him to remember that every now and again.
With Conte’s contract nearly up, his tendency not to stay at clubs long, his reliance on recruiting highly specific (and often older players), his desire to only play a back three, and our performances this season, I’m just not sure that backing him at this stage is the prudent thing to do. The doubts are stacking up. We have just enough time to bring in a new guy now and get a couple of players in to support a transition to a new playing style.
Nathan’s concern is that maybe Daniel Levy hedges his bets and does minimal squad-building now (for the reasons stated above) and instead waits and sees how Conte does for the rest of the season, before potentially changing the coach in the summer. This would risk seeing us finishing outside of the European places and having less transfer funds as a result.
A growing number within our fanbase are sick of the ownership and believe that Daniel Levy and ENIC don’t invest enough money in the playing squad. A side note on this is that, even in my Twitter mentions, I’ve seen an increase in anti-Semitic language being used about Levy — please think carefully before using the term parasite. My own personal belief has always been that, once the stadium arrived, we would begin to see significant outlay. I believe that that has begun now and I expect it to continue. But I think it’s important that we spend wisely as we do not have the unlimited funds of Manchester City or Newcastle United.
I remain unconvinced that Daniel Levy has it in him to develop and implement a whole club strategy. I would love for him to step back and delegate this, but not to Fabio Paratici, who I simply don’t trust to identify and attract Head Coaches or oversee a modern recruitment department.
Ultimately I think we’ll be ~fine either way. We are — in my opinion – set-up to be a sustainably wealthy club forever more (and Levy deserves credit for that). But it’s unbelievably frustrating, because we could be tremendously successful if we were run just a little bit smarter.