Paul Merson says Dele Alli may benefit from Antonio Conte’s arrival at Tottenham, but fears the Harry Kane issue won’t go away.
Antonio Conte is expected to finalise a deal to become Tottenham head coach following Nuno Espirito Santo’s sacking.
Former Chelsea boss Conte, who Spurs targeted before appointing Nuno in the summer, has been offered an 18-month deal.
In his latest column, Merson analyses the circumstances that led to Nuno’s departure, and what Conte’s in-tray currently consists of.
‘Man Utd struggles triggered Nuno sacking’
Wherever you go, the fans get you the sack. It’s very rare a manager gets the sack if the fans are singing your name.
When Nuno made the Lucas Moura-Steven Bergwijn sub in the 3-0 defeat by Manchester United, the fans were booing, and he looked quite lost. I like him as a manager, but it was just the wrong time.
They’ve made a decision, they’ve done it very quickly, only 10 games in.
Before the start of the season, the top four was shut – it was Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United – but I think Spurs have looked at Man Utd and it has been a trigger. There is a gap now, and they can’t miss a trick. That fourth place is 100 per cent up for grabs, and I think that’s why the decision was made quickly.
If Manchester United were flying along like we expected, I don’t think there would have been a rush to sack the manager; they’d have said their league position is realistic. They would have been more patient with him.
Now, with Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggling, I think Arsenal, West Ham and even Spurs have more of a chance of finishing fourth, and that’s what pushed them into sacking Nuno. There’s an opportunity for a top-four place.
The fans will love Conte, but he needs time
Conte came into Chelsea and was brilliant. When they got battered at Arsenal in September 2016, he just went: bang! He turned them to a back three and they never looked back. He’s enthusiastic, he’ll run up the line when they score, and I think the fans will like that.
But it’s going to be hard. He needs to get Kane going, and there’s a midfield three that aren’t going to make too many chances.
The money these managers are on now, I think you’ve got to keep them hungry. Some of them are on as much as the players. And these days, if you’re in management for 18 months, you’re lucky!
If Conte rips it up, I’m sure Daniel Levy will give him a new contract straight away. I think 18 months is about right nowadays for management. They have to cover themselves.
It won’t be a holiday for these players. The energy wasn’t there for Nuno, but Conte will come in and the players will work their socks off. The training sessions will be stop, start, stop, start… “Stand here when this happens, stand there when that happens” – basics until they get it right.
Ask any player, that’s not easy.
Kane saga will start again
The Harry Kane thing starts all over again in January. Look at Man City, they’ve failed to score in six of their 16 games this season, which is unthinkable. I think in January, Kane to City is still alive.
Man City are in danger of falling behind Chelsea at the moment. This is the problem Nuno had, and Conte has the same issue with Kane.
He’ll have to hit the ground running. Spurs fans want to play the ‘Tottenham Way’ – I’m not sure what that is, exactly, as they haven’t won anything.
How Alli could benefit from Conte
Dele Alli might find an advantage here. Spurs will play three at the back – I’d be shocked if they didn’t – then you’ve got to get people in the box.
That could help Dele Alli go back to what made him the name he is – which is getting forward and scoring goals, making runs and getting into the box. He’s a very good finisher. He’s stopped doing that.
He’s started coming short, wanting to spray the ball around the pitch, but without disrespecting him, he’s not that player.
Nobody was like him in the league, and that’s why he was playing for England. He was breaking from midfield and scoring goals. You just want to get hold of Dele Alli, because his career could just pass him by. He’d have had one or two good seasons, and before you know it, it’s finished.
I don’t think players realise, I think they believe they’ve got plenty more years left in the game. He’s at an unbelievable football club.
I’m not blaming him for anything that’s happened – far from it – but I look at him and think it’s such a shame. When he’s doing his thing, he’s better than anybody else.
I think he’s got a chance with Conte – he’s got to be like a Frank Lampard, breaking into the box and scoring goals. It’s always different when a new manager gets in; those who were not getting much time have a chance.