The Antonio Conte Revolution: How the former Chelsea manager has transformed Inter Milan into serious Serie A title challengers

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 30 September 2019, 12:20

It was the season after the summer in which England had won the World Cup in 1966. The Italian league had undergone major changes after the ruling authorities had decided to block all sides from fielding any foreign players whatsoever.

Legendary boss Helenio Hererra was facing his seventh season in charge at Inter after having won the Scudetto in the two previous campaigns (1964/65 and 1965/66), that consecutive triumph adding to his first league title with the Nerazzurri in the 1962/63 season.

The goals of Sandro Mazzola helped Herrera’s Inter to win the first six games of the season, a feat that has never been matched. Until now.

Antonio Conte took charge of Inter this summer, following a year away from the game. Since then, the often maniacal tactician has completely revolutionised the way this side play, pulling off wins over Lecce, Cagliari, Udinese, derby rivals Milan, Lazio and Sampdoria.

In doing so, they have conceded just twice, only one more than Hererra’s side did in the opening six matches of the 1966/67 campaign.

Herrera would go on to win a seventh match versus Torino before the streak ended with a 0-0 versus Roma, but it will be a huge ask for Conte to do the same.

That is because the seventh round of the 2019/20 campaign will see Inter host a Juventus side who sit just two points behind them in the table, a 0-0 draw with Fiorentina seeing the Bianconeri fail to match their rivals’ 100% winning record.

“Juventus won eight Serie A titles in a row, often winning hands down,” admitted Conte to Sky Italia following last Saturday’s win over Sampdoria.

“They are a solid team in every sense. We are glad to go into the head-to-head with 18 points under our belts and continue to take it one game at a time.”

He may have downplayed Sunday’s Derby d’Italia clash, but every fibre of Conte’s being will be focussed on that encounter, every thought in his head directed towards how to beat his former side.

This Inter team are, or at least appear to be, the most credible title challenger that Juve have faced in years, and it’s all thanks to how Conte has approached his work since joining the club.

Under previous Coach Luciano Spalletti, Inter lived up to their “pazza” (crazy) nickname. Player rows, unexpected defeats and inconsistency plagued the team, a factor that Conte was ready to stamp out from minute one.

He immediately and publicly named the players whose previous poor behaviour meant they were surplus to requirements at the club and – together with his former Juve colleague Beppe Marotta, now CEO for Sport at Inter – they set about rebuilding the psychological balance of the team.

Next, he moved to ban the club’s anthem “Pazza Inter” that is played before every match, so keen was the Coach to dismiss any remnants of the club’s reputation for turbulent times.

His penchant for demanding constant hard graft on the training ground has brought about a much better work ethic and togetherness amongst the squad, stamping out any inconsistency or excuse-making that was prevalent in the past.

“If you analyse Conte's teams, you see there's a lot involved on every play," Lukaku told ESPN recently.

"When the ball is in a certain area, we make a certain type of movement. If I make a movement, Lautaro [Martinez] should make the opposite movement. And if he makes a movement, I should make the opposite. We should know perfectly well where we need to go."

It is this well-drilled operation that yielded such good results, but emulating Herrera with seven consecutive wins to start the campaign will still be a tough ask.

Even with a new boss in Maurizio Sarri, Juve remain the team to beat in Serie A, and even a draw will be considered as a big achievement by those that follow the league.

Yet for Conte, winning is the only language he understands. He may not be happy to hear that despite that incredible start back in 1966, Herrera’s Inter failed to win the title, missing out on first place on the final game of the season by just one point.

The team that pipped them to the post? Juventus.

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