TOAfter a result like Tottenham’s 2-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea, it’s common to turn the spotlight on the manager and, God knows, Antonio Conte had offered the ammunition. There was a new 4-4-2 starting system from the Spurs manager, with full-backs versus full-backs and little creativity in central midfield.
Messages appeared everywhere. Sergio Reguilón was not there, despite the overload of full-backs, nor was Emerson Royal, for that matter. They would kick their heels on the bench. But at least they were inside the stadium, which is more than could be said for Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli.
Ndombele was last seen walking at a slow pace following his substitution in the FA Cup win over Morecambe on 9 January and as such is the founding member of Conte’s bomb squad. Lo Celso and Alli have been added, with the former making it clear on Instagram that he was 100% fit. Alli’s move on social media involved him uploading a goofy video to TikTok during the game, which he later deleted.
Conte felt he needed to try something different after his side’s losses to Chelsea in both Carabao Cup semi-final matches and the first half went relatively well. Spurs calmed down after a shaky start and, with Steven Bergwijn showing a couple of flashes on the counterattack, were unlucky enough to see Harry Kane’s goal disallowed for a minor foul on Thiago Silva.
Chelsea, however, would show their class after the break and, in the final analysis, Conte’s side had offered little as an attacking force and were clearly second best.
It would not be difficult to imagine the reaction to such a performance by Spurs under José Mourinho or Nuno Espírito Santo. But the point is that Conte is living a honeymoon period in which his many good results are due to his genius as a coach, his drive to instill an obsessively winning mentality, and the losses are evidence of why the team is not good enough. Or, put another way, why the president, Daniel Levy, has to spend some money during the transfer window.
Conte has created this climate first and foremost by being who he is and doing what he does. The series winner inherited a team lacking in confidence and which had lost five of 10 league games under Nuno. Conte’s record shows six wins, three draws and now one loss in the competition. The structure he has put in place has proven effective and, with the fans firmly behind him, there are hopes, previously non-existent, of finishing in the top four this season.
But the Spurs coach has turned around, taking advantage of his reserves of credit through his messages in the media that, at no time, have been particularly flattering about what he has found. In many other moments, especially after losses, do you remember NS Mura in the Europa Conference League? – Conte has been scathing about the level of the squad.
This is what the Italian does. Light fires, stoke creative tensions. He questions everything, suggests that nothing is ever right, including Tottenham’s magnificent training ground and stadium which, he has hinted, could simply be too good.
For Conte, the club’s situation is related to poor recruitment, the lack of adequate replacement of players such as Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembélé and Christian Eriksen, whom he remembers when he first arrived in England. in 2016. -17. In that season he led Chelsea to the title; Spurs were competitive runners-up under Mauricio Pochettino.
Conte’s key lieutenants also played on that team: Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Son Heung-min and Kane, and it’s a macabre game for Spurs support to name the top successful signings since then. Lucas Moura, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Who else?
The coach sees better recruiting as part of the way back, so here we are, putting pressure on Levy and a lot of obstacles from elsewhere, especially Chelsea. The board there got used to hearing Conte describe himself as “just a manager” and how “it was up to the club to make the final decisions”. He has brought up that line several times at Spurs and it has always sounded like a threat.
The economy is a big challenge for Levy, especially with respect to Ndombele and Lo Celso, massive money firms whose values have plummeted. A loan move would make sense for the former – mainly to restart him, with Paris Saint-Germain pressing – and it could be the case for the latter as well. Newcastle are interested in loaning Alli out.
Spurs are confident of signing Adama Traoré from Wolves, who would appear to be a prototype of a Conte player. But what of Bergwijn now, who marked his return from injury last Wednesday with dramatic late goals to earn a 3-2 win at Leicester? Ajax wants to sign him permanently. Meanwhile, Tottenham’s need for a creative central midfielder and additional striker is clear.
Conte has so much faith in his work that he thinks he can engineer a top-four finish, but there is no doubt he would feel more confident with a little help in the January market. Conte will always be restless. Next week promises to be loaded.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism