Give him what he wants. It’s that simple. The future has the potential to be bright for Tottenham and it is down to the decision they made in November when appointing Antonio Conte.
The Italian returns to Stamford Bridge on Sunday on the back of one of the most thrilling Premier League wins we have seen for years, the remarkable transformation in stoppage time at Leicester when the prospect of a first league defeat of his reign was turned into a potentially season-altering result.
One thing I loved amid the drama was seeing Conte’s reaction to it all, his emotional investment in the team and the way he lives every second of what his team is doing. He’s the kind of character that fans bond with and, regardless of his spell at Chelsea, he is becoming loved at Spurs.
Tottenham Hotspur pulled off a masterstroke in appointing Antonio Conte as manager
The Italian has already started to work his magic and is having a positive influence on the team
I’m fascinated to see what is possible for Tottenham under Conte. If I was in charge of one of their rivals the only players I’d seriously consider buying from their squad would be Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
Of course there are other good players, such as Hugo Lloris, Sergio Reguilon and Lucas Moura, and I like the emergence of Japhet Tanganga but there is one reason Tottenham have thrust themselves into contention for a Champions League place — and that is Conte.
It still amazes me Manchester United failed to pursued him. This guy is firmly in the top 10 of managers worldwide — you could argue that he is in the top five — and everything about his CV tells you he has come back to London to win.
Perhaps it is a stretch to see Tottenham challenging for the Premier League anytime soon but Conte has won titles with Bari, Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan and he didn’t accept Daniel Levy’s offer to succeed Nuno Espirito Santo to waste time.
Conte wants to be competitive, to cause problems for Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. That is why it would be crazy if Levy didn’t give him the proper backing to get Tottenham motoring forward again, as was the case under Mauricio Pochettino.
Conte is a proven winner where ever he goes. He is pictured winning Serie A with Inter Milan
Tottenham could challenge the Premier League’s finest again under Conte like they did under previous manager Mauricio Pochettino (left)
Here is a manager who commands respect. He will be tight on discipline and the best evidence of that is the fact he banned ketchup and mayonnaise; it was one of those stories that made me smile but having experienced the Italian way of life, I know why he has done it.
When I moved to Fiorentina in 2014, early on during a couple of team meals I put ketchup on my plate. I got a few looks from some of the other lads around the table as if to say: “are you ok?”
They eat fresh food, everything is salad and olive oil. Conte, clearly, demands physical perfection from his players and the smallest details give you an edge. I lost seven kilos during that season in Florence, as the Italian diet is centred on players being lean and light to move quicker.
You get weighed each morning without fail, the doctors check your body fat and the onus is on you to make sure you are living your life correctly. What the ketchup actually signifies is discipline — doing what the manager asks of you and being invested in his methods.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy (above) would be crazy not to back the Italian to succeed
When the ketchup story emerged it that it was a reflection of Conte being some sort of intense disciplinarian coming so quickly on the back of reports that United steered away from him because of his character.
Do people really feel Conte seeks conflicts? I certainly don’t. I believe he is someone who demands the highest standards, a passionate winner who challenges people to get better. How can you cast doubt on his pedigree or character?
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t expect Tottenham to be in contention for the top four but Levy’s decision to appoint Conte has given them a fantastic opportunity — if they do make it into the Champions League next year, it will be down to him.
To enhance their prospects, however, the right additions this month would be an enormous advantage. Conte has a pull and Spurs must capitalise on that, in the same way Steven Gerrard was able to attract Philippe Coutinho to Aston Villa. That was a club backing their manager.
Conte will return to Chelsea on Sunday where he won the Premier League title in 2017
Returning to Chelsea will be symbolic for Conte, after the two seasons he enjoyed there, but he will also see it as a chance to make a statement. Spurs were undone by individual mistakes when they played there in the Carabao Cup earlier this month and were always on the back foot.
There is a gulf in class between the two teams at present but a Tottenham win would open things up dramatically, leaving them five points behind Chelsea with four games in hand. Considering they were 10 points behind on the day Conte was unveiled, the progress has been good.
Tottenham must maintain it — and to do that, it means giving Conte the opportunity to really enhance this squad. He is the best possible manager they could have wished for at this time. They cannot waste this chance.
Let Webster find his feet
Adam Webster is making good progress in a Brighton side that continue to catch the eye. At a time when we are not overstocked with English central defenders, his name has this week been mentioned in connection with a possible future call-up from Gareth Southgate.
That day may come but, right now, I would be happier to see him getting more experience in the Premier League and continuing to develop than jump on the bandwagon to say he should be in the England squad. Players need time to find their feet rather than getting immediate promotions.
Adam Webster should be given time to develop and build on his excellent form for Brighton
Fan foe Benitez was always likely to fail
I am intrigued to see how Everton respond to Duncan Ferguson when they tackle Aston Villa on Saturday. Ferguson, a club legend, takes over at a time when they are in desperate need of a lift following the sacking of Rafa Benitez.
I really wanted Rafa to do well, he is someone I respect and have had the pleasure of working alongside but — without being disrespectful — Everton had to make a change, not least due to the relationship with the fans. It was always going to be tough for him, given his past allegiances.
Rafa Benitez was always going to find the Everton job tough after not connecting with fans
Micah’s man of the week
Every time I see James Ward-Prowse I never fail to be impressed. He’s a player that seems to go under a lot of people’s radar, but what a Premier League player he is: to reach 300 club appearances for Southampton aged 27 is a testament to his ability and durability.
Ward-Prowse reminds me, in terms of his professionalism, of James Milner, Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry but then you add into the equation his outstanding set-piece ability. He’s scored some amazing goals and hasn’t finished yet — not by a long way.
James Ward-Prowse continues to impress and has excellent professionalism as well as talent