Is Antonio Conte the man to finally end the Spurs trophy drought?

Is Antonio Conte the man to finally end the Spurs trophy drought?

As Josh Coburn wheeled away to the Middlesborough fans in extra-time on a cold evening in Teesside, Tottenham Hotspur’s wait for a trophy would be extended to 15 years. Eliminated from the FA Cup and miles behind title challengers Liverpool and Manchester City, Antonio Conte had his work cut out for him in north London. Perhaps overachieving in his first campaign back in English football, the Italian ensured Spurs would return to the Champions League with a fourth-place league finish, but that burning desire for a trophy continues to plague many Spurs fans.

You would have to go back to February 2008 for the last time silverware was placed in the Tottenham trophy cabinet. Back then the side played at White Hart Lane and were managed by Juande Ramos. They beat Chelsea at Wembley courtesy of a 94th minute Jonathan Woodgate winner.

Of course, Spurs have come close since. Had they not capitulated on consecutive occasions in 2016 and 2017 under Mauricio Pochettino they could have won a maiden Premier League title. And despite one of the most miraculous comebacks in Champions League history, beating Ajax away to reach the final in Madrid, they were outclassed by a more experienced Liverpool side who, ironically, could decide their fate for this season as well.

Indeed, Liverpool represent the sternest test Conte’s side face in their quest for the title until the World Cup winter break. The Reds have certainly struggled themselves this season, with an inconsistent start due to their lack of squad depth and injury crisis. Despite both sides’ inconsistences, Conte’s side just edge the Tottenham v Liverpool betting at the time of writing. However, Jürgen Klopp still has some world-class players at his disposal, and is unbeaten at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Although they lost the North London Derby, Spurs have done well to dust themselves down and regain form to maintain their position behind Arsenal and City in the title race. Third at the time of writing, their ability to grind out results and punish teams on the break, combined with their manager’s tactical flexibility suggests they have more longevity than the Gunners, with Conte winning the league already when in charge of Chelsea. He’s reinvented Harry Kane into a deep-lying playmaker, with the England captain optimising his creativity as well as finding the back of the net.

Kane and strike-partner Heung-Min Son will need to be on top form to beat Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk has been an ever-present thorn in their side and despite injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joël Matip, the last thing Spurs can afford to do it is be complacent. Both sides are still managing their respective European campaigns, with games coming thick and fast before the World Cup.

It is certainly optimistic to suggest Spurs can win the Champions League, but the English domestic competitions could be the way for them to end their trophy drought. Granted, they face difficult opposition in fellow Premier League side Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in the League Cup, but should they navigate their way through the trip to the East Midlands, Wembley is on the horizon.

Last season Conte let himself down in the FA Cup when his side were outfoxed by Middlesborough. The defeat might have been a reality check for the Italian, who won the competition in 2018 by rotating his star players and integrating the future of the club in the academy. Spurs fans are desperate for that first piece of silverware since moving stadiums and you feel if Conte can be the man to deliver it in any capacity he would earn cult status amongst the Lilywhite contingent forever.