The Tottenham football-puzzle begins to look beyond Conte

Football Football – Premier League – Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur – Turf Moor, Burnley, Great Britain – February 23, 2022 Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte looks down after REUTERS / Craig Brough

February 24, 2022

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – Antonio Conte has won league titles with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan and is considered one of the best coaches in the world, but at Tottenham Hotspur he seems to have known his side.

Following a 1-0 defeat at Burnley on Wednesday, Tottenham’s fourth in five Premier League games, the Italian has openly questioned his future at the club he joined in November.

“I came here to help the club and if the problem can be the coach, I’m ready to go, no problem,” he said.

It was a remarkable statement three days after Tottenham enjoyed a superb 3-2 win over Manchester City, Conte’s best result since replacing Nuno Espirito Santo.

Although Conte avoided defeat in his first nine Premier League games at the helm of the North London club, his motto has always been that they were far behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

When Chelsea outscored the team in the League Cup semi-final, Conte said Tottenham’s level had dropped sharply in recent years.

His hopes of significantly strengthening the team in the January transfer window did not come true.

Tottenham have added Juventus duo Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur to the transfer deadline, but four first-team players – Dele Alli, record signing Tanguy Ndombele, Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso – have all left.

Other targets Luis Diaz and Adama Traore moved to Liverpool and Barcelona respectively.

In an interview with Sky Italia, Conte said Tottenham’s team was “weaker on paper” and while he said those comments were taken out of context, it is clear that Conte is struggling to understand the task.

Under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham have twice threatened to win their first English league title since 1961, become the top four and reach the 2019 Champions League final.

The popular Argentine was sacked in 2019 and replaced by Jose Mourinho, another winner in the series who finally could not turn around the declining fortune of Tottenham.

Conte is hired until 2023 and while it would be a big surprise if he left before the end of the season, Tottenham fans will fear the worst.

He has always been an emotional coach and left Inter Milan last summer despite winning Serie A, upset by the club’s transfer policy.

His comments on Wednesday, when he said he was “not so good at improving the situation”, may have been designed to call him the lighthouse of club president Daniel Levy.

Conte says he wants to talk to the club and will want to know his plans for the summer transfer window when Harry Kane’s future is back in the spotlight.

If he doesn’t get the reassurance he needs, there will no doubt be many suitors next summer for the services of a coach unaccustomed to dealing with mediocrity.

Tottenham, who have dropped to eighth place in the Premier League, face troubled Leeds United on Saturday.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

The Tottenham football-puzzle begins to look beyond Conte

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