MARTIN KEOWN: Eric Dier could be the perfect fit for back-three

MARTIN KEOWN: Eric Dier could be the perfect fit for a Tottenham back-three… while Antonio Conte’s new formation could prevent Harry Kane and Son Heung-min from dropping deep

  • Tottenham have hired football’s foremost back-three expert in Antonio Conte
  • Chelsea went from finishing 10th to champions during his first year in charge 
  • That was the season star boss Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City
  • If Conte goes with 3-5-2, Kane and Son Heung-min will not need to drop deep 

Tottenham have hired football’s foremost back-three expert in Antonio Conte — a highly-driven individual with a host of successful short to medium-term stints in charge of top clubs.

His successes are, in no small part, down to his system. He’s got this plug-in, quick-fix, pragmatic approach which can dramatically improve clubs.

Chelsea went from finishing 10th to champions in his first year in charge. That was the season Pep Guardiola took charge of Manchester City but he couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Conte transformed his team.

Tottenham have hired football’s foremost back-three expert in Antonio Conte (above) 

His sides tend to play 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. It starts with a sturdy back three. At Juventus, he had Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

At Chelsea, Conte used 3-4-3, with the incredibly fit N’Golo Kante as one of two central midfielders.

Most recently at Inter Milan, Conte used three in midfield. Marcelo Brozovic sat deeper than Nicolo Barella and Christian Eriksen, and would cover for the wing-backs when they pushed high up the pitch. 

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Chelsea went from finishing 10th to champions during Conte’s first year in charge

That was the season Pep Guardiola (above) took charge of Manchester City but he couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Conte transformed his team

These wide midfielders cover great distances and are often taken off. If Conte goes with 3-5-2, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will not need to drop deep.

Tottenham have covered the least distance in matches in the league but that will change. Eden Hazard isn’t a big fan of running but even he realised — it’s Conte’s way or there’s no way you’re starting. 

Spurs have the players to play Conte’s way. Whoever starts in the middle of the back three will need to be able to ping direct passes forward — as Bonucci did for Conte’s Italy at Euro 2016 — and that could be a job for Eric Dier.

If Conte goes with 3-5-2, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will not need to drop deep

Whoever starts in the middle of the back three will need to be able to ping direct passes forward — as Bonucci did for Conte’s Italy at Euro 2016 — and that could be a job for Eric Dier

Who he uses at right wing-back will be interesting, too. At Chelsea, Victor Moses went from being surplus to a regular starter. That included Cesar Azpilicueta being moved to the right of the back three. 

We could even see Lucas Moura at right wing-back and Emerson Royal as a central defender. We played with three at the back under Bruce Rioch at Arsenal and always had questions about it. It takes intelligence to implement.

Thankfully for Tottenham, they’ve appointed a master at teaching players in double-quick time.




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