If Tottenham Hotspur are serious about fighting for trophies and ridding the club, once and for all, of its reputation for promising a lot but delivering nothing, chairman Daniel Levy should respond to the manager’s remarkable post-match rant Antonio Conte at Southampton offering him a new long-term contract. temporal agreement.
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It would be a high-risk strategy, one that would almost certainly lead to some veteran players looking for the exit door at the end of the season. But the choice facing Levy now is this: either back a group of players who have failed repeatedly under successive coaches, or gamble on giving Conte the license to dismantle the team and surround himself with players who share his demanding, winning mentality.
If it’s the latter, those players who believe they are now enduring the last days of an unpopular manager before welcoming a new one in the summer will find that Conte is stronger than ever, with the club backing him to make tough decisions. . It would be shock therapy, but that’s what it takes.
After watching his team relinquish a 3-1 lead to a 3-3 draw at St Mary’s on Saturday, former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager Conte made a brutal 10-minute post-match assessment of his team’s mentality. players. It will do little for the harmony of the squad and only serve to increase any hostility towards him, but that is a risk he was prepared to take.
“We are not a team,” Conte said. “We are 11 players who went out onto the field. I see selfish players, players who don’t want to put their hearts into it.
“They are used to it here. They don’t play for something important, they don’t want to play under pressure. They don’t want to play under stress. This is Tottenham’s story. The owner has been there for twenty years and they never won anything.
“They change coaches, many coaches, but the situation cannot change, believe me.”
When the players began to lose faith in the methods of Mauricio Pochettino and José Mourinho, Levy fired the managers and hit the reset button by hiring a new manager. The easiest option now would be to do the same with Conte, whose contract expires in the summer, and clear the air by giving yet another new boss the chance to be the one to finally crack the code at the club. But taking the easy option is precisely what Conte criticizes and that is the dilemma Levy faces: accept the coach’s uncomfortable truths or agree with him by firing him and allowing the players to calm down again.
Conte is not to blame for yet another trophyless season for Spurs after two particularly dismal cup outings against Sheffield United in the FA Cup and AC Milan in the Champions League. He is abrasive, publicly criticizing his players and his tactical approach often clashes with Tottenham’s identity as a club that plays exciting attacking football. But when he surveys the dressing room and looks at his players, there’s no denying that he sees a great group that has survived failure for far too long at Tottenham.
Eight of his veteran players were either signed by Pochettino or given a big break at the team thanks to the manager who left in November 2019, six months after leading Spurs to the Champions League final. Hugo Lloris, eric dier, harry kane, son heung min, ben davies, lucas moura, davinson sanchez and ryan sessegnon they all date from Pochettino’s time and have nothing to show for their time at the club. Some of them have survived too long under successive managers, while others, like Kane and Son, should have brought their talents to a club better able to provide them with a platform for success.
Kane and Son are examples of players who have not played under the pressure or stress Conte refers to, but whether he is exposing an apparent lack of ambition in those two or suggesting they have been let down by their teammates is an open question. . to debate Son signed a four-year contract less than two years ago, when he was at the peak of his form, but a more ruthless and ambitious player might well have lost patience with the Tottenham project and moved elsewhere.
But the Spurs offer a comfort zone for their players. The club plays in the best stadium in the Premier League and is a member of the so-called Big Six, though its lack of trophies – only one Carabao Cup this century – suggests it really is a Big Five, with Spurs only bracketed by Arsenal. , Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United due to their stadium.
They have all the credentials to become a great club, one that wins trophies, plus perhaps the most important thing: the mentality. Conte has that in abundance, having won league titles at Juventus, Inter and Chelsea, so his impatience and anger with Tottenham’s recurring missteps, on and off the pitch, is understandable.
But it would take a culture change at Spurs for Conte to be endorsed in front of the players. Nobody expects that to happen, because Tottenham don’t learn from his mistakes. They just repeat them.