Antonio Conte: I can’t change Tottenham tactics with these players

Antonio Conte: I can’t change Tottenham tactics with these players

Antonio Conte has defended his tactics ahead of Tottenham's clash at Manchester City tonight, insisting his formation is the best fit for his squad.

In 64 matches in charge of Spurs, Conte has only once deviated from his preferred system of having three centre-backs supported by wing-backs.

Spurs are struggling to replicate last season's form and, ahead of their visit to the Etihad, are five points adrift of fourth place after one win in four League games since the World Cup.

Their form has led some supporters to question if Conte should try a different approach, but the Italian has suggested that he does not have defenders with the right "characteristics" to play a back four.

Conte says his set-up is designed to play to the strengths of a top-heavy squad, though he has suggested he could try something different in future.

Asked by Standard Sport if there were any circumstances in which he would consider a different formation, Conte said: "It could happen, but the system depends a lot on the characteristics of the players, especially the defenders. To play four at the back, you need defenders with specific characteristics.

"Also, the most important area for us is the strikers. In this squad, I have to create a situation to support Sonny [Heung-min Son], [Harry] Kane and [Dejan] Kulusevski or Richarlison."

Conte suggested he could try a formation with all four of his forwards on the pitch — for example, a 4-2-3-1 with Kane as a No10 — but said he would then lack options to change matches from the bench.

"Maybe we'll try to find a solution to put the best players on the pitch, but when you do that, you don't have possibilities to change the game on the bench," Conte said.

"In my career, I've played with a [back] four and won two championships with a 4-2-4 at Juventus. In Chelsea, I started with a 4-2-3-1 and then changed, because the characteristics of the players was not so good to play a back four.

"When I arrived at Tottenham, I found this solution for the characteristics of the players. In my opinion, this is the best solution to exploit the characteristics of the players. In the future, probably we can try to change. But if we lose, I'm justified!"

Meanwhile, Conte says queries about Kane's happiness should be directed to the club.

On Tuesday, Conte said English clubs have a "bad habit" of relying on their managers to front up and face questions in public. But he believes the England captain's situation is not a question for him.

Asked how Kane, who is out of contract in 18 months, was feeling about Tottenham's stuttering form, Conte joked: "When we organise the press conference with the club, you can ask that! Why do I have to answer a difficult question?"

Rodrigo Bentancur is expected to return to the Spurs side tonight, having missed the last five games with an adductor injury sustained with Uruguay at the World Cup.

City will be looking to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat in the Manchester derby and close to within five points of leaders Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola is boosted by the return of John Stones, while Kevin De Bruyne is available following a personal issue.