It has been a month-and-a-half since Antonio Conte was appointed Tottenham manager, with the north London club already seeing rapid improvements under the Italian.
Spurs have picked up ten points from a possible 12 in the league under Conte, winning their last three Premier League matches. However, they haven’t played in two weeks after a recent rise in virus cases in the top flight.
The Lilywhites are set to return to Premier League action on Sunday as they host Liverpool in what could prove to be Conte’s toughest test since taking the reins at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The 52-year-old has tinkered with numerous combinations within his preferred three-at-the-back setup, deploying a 3-4-2-1 system since taking over for the clash against Everton in November.
However, one mainstay in the Italian’s team has been defender Eric Dier. The £19.8m-rated Englishman has played every minute of Premier League football under Conte as well as featuring in both Europa Conference League matches against Vitesse Arnhem and NS Mura.
The 27-year-old has certainly impressed, conceding just one goal in those four Premier League games in the middle of a back three alongside various others, solidifying his place in the team.
Now in his eighth year at Tottenham, Dier has been subject to various examples of both stinging criticism and glowing praise, particularly last season in what was an inconsistent campaign.
The Englishman claimed last season that he was the victim of an “unfair narrative” amid criticism from his then-manager José Mourinho, whilst also being handsomely praised by former Spurs player Jermaine Jenas after a “sensational” performance in a win over eventual champions Manchester City.
Tottenham is certainly a work in progress for Conte, particularly having come in mid-season. However, the Italian will be looking to replicate his successes at both Chelsea and Inter Milan, where he won league titles.
Whilst at Spurs’ capital rivals Chelsea, the 52-year-old famously switched to a 3-4-3 formation after losing 3-0 to Arsenal early in the Blues’ title-winning 2016/17 season. This proved to be the catalyst for the west London club’s success, and the use of a back three became a popular tactic in the Premier League, adopted by the likes of former Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
Former England defender Gary Cahill was a mainstay in that title-winning Chelsea defence, making 37 league appearances in the triumphant campaign and proving to be a towering aerial presence, winning 2.5 headers per game. Perhaps Dier can replicate the successes of his former international teammate, with an average of 2.3 aerial duels won per match this season as he also illustrates his ability in that regard under Conte.
In the short-term, the 27-year-old will be looking to contribute to Tottenham finishing as high as possible in the Premier League this season. However, a return to the England setup will surely be on his mind.
It’s been over a year since the 45-cap defender last represented his national team in a 4-0 win over Iceland, and he will certainly look to impress Gareth Southgate over the coming months with the 2022 World Cup now less than a year away.
Life under Conte has started well for Dier, who must remain consistent if he is to seriously excel under the Italian. If he does, he could do for Tottenham what Cahill did for Chelsea when the 52-year-old was on the other side of London a few years ago.