While rumours continue to swirl regarding who might replace Carlo Ancelotti as boss on Merseyside, I have sat considering it myself. I think there are genuine positives to be found about so many of the names that have been floated about, from Nuno Espirito Santo to Graham Potter, Eddie Howe, Andrea Pirlo, Duncan Ferguson and more.
And while a piece could be written regarding just the qualifications, positives and negative of each candidate alone, it makes more sense in my mind to pick the candidate that can keep certain things trending positively and can fix certain other deficiencies, while creating the environment on the blue half of Merseyside that is conducive to attracting and keeping the best players.
Antonio Conte, having just won the Serie A title with Inter Milan, is not the obvious stylistic heir to Ancelotti, yet his teams can score, play with a wonderfully organised, compact defence, and perhaps most importantly of all, attract the best players to play for him and the team. It may be a long shot, but how would it all play out?
Antonio Conte: Loads of credentials on the pitch as player and boss
Conte is no Ancelotti, not by demeanour, style or story, yet he is an excellent, highly credentialed boss. As a player he was able to win Serie A five times, as well as the Champions League, all with Juventus, while as a boss, he won the Italian top-flight three times with the Old Lady. At Chelsea, he won two trophies, the Premier League and FA Cup, before being fired by serial firer Roman Abramovich. He is currently without a job, of course, after managing Inter Milan for two seasons, culminating with that Serie A title.
Which brings us back to the possibility of him now coming to Merseyside. Why would he? Is Everton as illustrious as some of Conte’s past stops? Perhaps not, but Tottenham, who he at least talked to before turning down, is not much more of a decorated, illustrious footballing club than Everton. While clubs like Juventus, Chelsea and Inter have the resources, they also tend to have unreasonably high expectations. Conte has not appeared to enjoy being hassled and doubted by both the media as well as his own club at any of the places he has recently stopped at, and that could potentially bode better for Everton than some might imagine.
This might indicate that Conte is generally less concerned with being at a legendary name and more concerned with being given the means to build the type of team that he desires to manage. The deal with Spurs reportedly fell apart when it came to discuss the resources with which he would have to reconstruct them. For Farhad Moshiri, that cannot happen should he and Marcel Brands have the opportunity to court the Italian.
Offensively and Defensively, Conte brings versatility
Were Conte to deploy his 3-5-2 as he did in Milan, or something more familiar to the players that Everton currently possess, it is likely he would need the promise of hefty financial investment. This is positive because Everton need more support regarding their squad depth, as well as a fresh ideas and energy at Finch Farm and Goodison Park.
Conte’s preferred setup allows for him to utilise a 4-3-3 in offensive positions and fall back into a 5-3-2 for defensive positions. These types of ideas are central to many different Italian tacticians you might watch in Serie A, B or C, yet Conte teaches and uses them perfectly, seemingly wherever he manages. You get a compressed back line in which so many are taking part in the responsibilities, and can then become an attacking-heavy shape that can really pressure opponents. You’ve seen it everywhere he goes in some form or another.
To this end, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a wonderfully tall, strong central forward, getting him a strike partner with some real pace could open up greater scoring chances for either a second striker or a winger. Calvert-Lewin is not Romelu Lukaku, yet he is gaining on the Belgian and if paired with Rafael Leao or someone just as pacey, a similar relationship as that of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez under Conte at Inter have could well develop.
For those who decry the mere mention of this as nonsense or bluster, it is worth noting that everyone was in shock when Moshiri and Brands were able to lure free agent Ancelotti to Goodison after firing Marco Silva. While he proved a bit fair-weather in the end, you’d like to think that Conte would want to build something special wherever he goes next, and Everton would surely be a great, historical team to build something impressive at over the course of a good four or five years.
A boss who can win something special at a club below elite level, no matter its historical stature, is always remembered as a legend at that club. Conte could be that manager for the Blues, and with that choice, he could maintain the attractive nature of the club that Ancelotti tried to promote during his time as boss, through signings of A-listers like James Rodriguez.
Everton is a special and unique club, and players should want to leave their mark on Merseyside in a way that would be truly memorable. A coach like Conte can continue in attracting the players that will, in turn. make coming to Everton a bigger no-brainer than ever before. Ancelotti tried to do it while he was here and succeeded in degrees; Conte can continue that work without - hopefully - departing prematurely.
The club is a family after all, as Moshiri likes to say, and Conte could really make a legacy as venerable on Merseyside as anywhere else in the world by simply propelling a great club into the echelons that they deserve to be in.