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Antonio Conte: Should Spurs stick or twist as they hunt top four?

Tottenham Hotspur find themselves in a tough position following Antonio Conte’s outburst following their 3-3 draw with Southampton at the weekend. 

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The Tottenham Hotspur hierarchy find themselves in a tough position following Antonio Conte’s sensational outburst after their 3-3 draw with Southampton at the weekend. Do they stick with a manager who has criticised the entire club and it’s players in the hope he can still secure a top four spot? Or part ways and bring in a new manager for the run-in knowing the gamble could see them miss out on Champions League qualification?

Ask most fans who own Spurs tickets right now, and the majority will say Conte should be sacked immediately. His public outburst on Saturday has thrown the club into turmoil as we head into the business end of the season and many feel it was the Italian’s way of forcing the club to sack him. Conte has cut a frustrated figure for much of the season and even before this weekend, most pundits and journalist believed he would leave Spurs at the end of the campaign. Conte has just a few months left on his contract and there were no signs he’d be offered an extension in the weeks leading up to the Southampton game. He is almost certainly not going to extend his stay in north London beyond June following his scathing press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Tottenham headed to the south coast at the weekend sitting fourth in the Premier League table after beating Nottingham Forest and were set to play against a Southampton side languishing bottom of the division. A win would have taken Spurs into third – above Manchester United who were in FA Cup action. Importantly, victory over the Saints would also have opened a four point gap on fifth-placed Newcastle United, giving Spurs a vital cushion in their quest to secure a top four finish.


All seemed to be going according to plan as Tottenham lead 3-1 with just 15 minutes remaining thanks to goals from Pedro Porro, Harry Kane and Ivan Perisic. The North Londoners looked in complete control and easing to an important three points at St Mary’s Stadium. However, in true Spurs fashion, they imploded. Theo Walcott pulled one back for the hosts in the 77th minute before James Ward-Prowse scored from the spot in stoppage time to make it 3-3 after Southampton were awarded a controversial late penalty.

Managers are understandably irate after a key decision goes against them, particularly when it’s a last gasp penalty that costs them two valuable points. However, nobody could have predicted Conte’s astonishing outburst. The Italian didn’t hold back with his comments aimed at the Tottenham board, the players and the club in general. He questioned the players’ attitude and professionalism, calling some ‘selfish’, questioned the hierarchy’s ambition and suggested the clubs failings were a symptom of their culture.

Speaking at his press conference after the game on Saturday, Conte blasted:

I think that it’s the right moment to speak because I think that after this performance, for me this is unacceptable. We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart.

About being a team, being a team, being a team, it is the most important thing. To understand that we play for the badge. We have to play to make our fans proud of us. We have to pay to show desire. The fire in your eyes to win.

But here we’re used to it for a long time. The club has the responsibility for the transfer market, every coach that stayed here has the responsibility. And the players? The players? Where are the players? I see only 11 players that play for themselves.

You try to find an excuse for the players. OK, continue to do this, to find an excuse for the players. You do only this! Excuses for the players. Excuses. Excuses. Excuse. Try to protect them every time.

Why? Because they are used to it here, they are used to it. They don’t play for something important yeah. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress. It is easy in this way. Tottenham’s story is this. 20 years there is the owner and they never won something but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay here?

What now?

Understandably, Conte’s comments have not gone down well at White Hart Lane. The hierarchy are reportedly fuming that their manager has publicly criticised the entire club in this manner, but the players are also astounded that Conte has been so scathing about them. Widespread reports suggest the majority of players believe the Italian will be sacked in the coming days. As if Conte were to stay, they would no longer play for him. Ultimately, he has ‘lost the dressing room’ and his position has become untenable.

However, there are other reports in the media suggesting that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is yet to make a final decision over Conte’s future at the club. Levy is reluctant to sack the former Chelsea boss as he doesn’t want to pay any compensation and Levy knows it would be a tough job to find a top class manager at this stage of the season who could come in and make an immediate impact.

Rumours suggest Ryan Mason would be installed as caretaker, perhaps until the end of the season, but could the 31-year-old take on such a high-pressure role and lead Tottenham to a top four position? It would be a massive risk.

Conte has been critical of his players in public before, and he often gets a response, so Levy may be quietly hoping that his latest outburst may act as motivation for the Spurs squad. They may want to prove Conte wrong, knowing he’ll be gone at the end of the season regardless. These are professional footballers who will be desperate to play in the Champions League next season, so they aren’t just going to down tools and let Spurs fall down the table if Conte is retained as manager.

So this is a huge decision for Levy to make at such an important time in the season. He could roll the dice, sack Conte and bring in a new manager hoping they can make an immediate impact. Or stick with Conte and pray the players’ desire to play in the Champions League will be worth more than Conte’s criticism of them.

It’s going to be an interesting few days as Levy mulls the decision. As we’re in an international break, the Tottenham chief doesn’t have to make a rash call and can take his time, but it’s going to be fascinating to see who’s in the Tottenham dug out when they take on Everton at Goodison Park on April 3rd.

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