A master of Serie B, is Antonio Conte ready to take on a Serie A side?

With Siena perched in second place in Serie B and looking certain for promotion, all eyes are on Antonio Conte and his future plans as tabloids continue to link him to top tiered jobs. However, considering his somewhat disastrous spell with Atalanta last season, one has to wonder whether Conte is really ready to take on a bigger club with bigger ambitions in the top flight.
To be fair, Conte started off fairly well with Atalanta, securing nine points in seven matches. However, he was unable to maintain positive results and eventually began to lose almost every match. His reluctance to play Cristiano Doni – a firm fan favourite – coupled with his unwavering faith in his preferred 4-4-2 shape resulted in outrage and Conte left his post in the midst of controversy and abuse suffered. Due to all the drama off the pitch, one could argue that the young Coach was not given enough time to create a side in line with his footballing vision.
The problem with Conte’s style of football is that it needs time to work and it requires talent in key areas if it is to take off. An offensive 4-4-2 that morphs into a 4-2-4 when in possession, the formation relies entirely on the offensive potential of the wingers who support the central attacking duo. With the defence usually asked to maintain a high back-line, the central midfield duo has to be quick and hardworking, running back and forth endlessly to bridge the gap between the defence and the attack.
The formation has been behind most of Conte’s success as a Coach both at Bari and currently at Siena. Ironically Atalanta are sitting at the helm of Serie B largely due to their playing style which, if truth be told, is very similar to the shape Conte tried to establish during his time with the club. With wingers Alessio Sestu and Reginaldo tasked with supporting the central attacking pair in a 4-2-4 shape, Siena’s offensive style of play has seen them score 51 goals so far this season –10 more than first placed Atalanta – making them the highest scoring side in Serie B.
Conte’s work with Siena this season has been nothing short of a revelation. Boasting the third best defence in the league and conceding only three more goals than Atalanta, the Bianconeri have also lost the fewest amount of matches this season. Well balanced and exciting, Conte has dispelled accusations of his tactical inflexibility by regularly deploying a 4-3-3 shape and was even seen fielding a diamond shape on certain occasions.
Despite his tactical successes, one has to wonder whether he can handle the pressure of a bigger club especially after his recent outburst aimed at the fans who had been unhappy with recent performances. Whilst he may have been justified, many have criticised him of appearing conceited. Once-upon-a-time Captain of a successful Juventus side founded on gritty play and hard-work, Conte does not take too kindly to criticism and has adopted a somewhat tyrannical approach to coaching in which his demands must be met. When unaspiring Bari President Vincenzo Matarrese failed to give the ex-Juventus player what he wanted, Conte saw no reason to continue his work and left. The Galletti survived the following season mainly because of Giorgio Perinetti excellent eye for talent. And now without either staff member, Bari languishes at the bottom of Serie A.
That is not to say that Conte cannot handle pressure. When Siena suffered from poor form in October, the board was livid and demanded answers from their Coach. With enough hard work and dedication, the Robur went back to winning ways much to the delight of the fans. However, pulling Siena out of their funk is one thing but can he do the same with a club like Juventus that boasts the largest fan base – all of whom are accustomed to winning?

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