Antonio Conte’s tenure as manager of Tottenham Hotspur may be in the books, but it is obvious that the Italian will leave his mark by leaving a few people behind.
As Tottenham blew a 3-1 lead to draw at struggling Southampton, Conte delivered an explosive post-game interview, which caused all the simmering anger and disappointment to come to a public head.
He gave a harsh evaluation of his team and the club’s culture, stating that unless things change, Spurs would continue to struggle even after he is fired.
Conte called his players “selfish” and even made a reference to the owners of the Tottenham Hotspurs as he flung verbal jabs in all ways in what appears to be a loveless marriage between club and manager.
Conte gave his explanation for why Spurs struggle when he said: “simply because they are accustomed to it. They’re accustomed to it. They don’t compete for a significant goal. They do not wish to perform under duress. They prefer not to perform under pressure. This makes it simple. The tale of Tottenham is this. The owner has been here for 20 years, yet they have never won anything. Why is that?”
Although it is true that Spurs did win the League Cup in 2008, the larger significance of Conte’s remark is obvious.
The chairman Daniel Levy’s exact reaction to Conte’s verbal assault on his team and the club may not be known for some time, but the more pressing concern is how a bunch of players will react while fourth place is still very much up for grabs.
With the season at such a pivotal moment, does Levy confront the matter right away, or will he wait until Conte’s contract expires at the conclusion of the season to provide a natural dividing line?
Conte laid the blame for Spurs’ lacklustre season at the feet of his players, but he must also accept responsibility for his part, and there is a growing perception that he is acting as though managing Spurs is doing them a favour.
In a ten-minute tirade that got more agitated, he said: “The issue is that we once again shown that we are not a team. There are 11 of us who enter the field. I observe athletes who are heartless, egotistical, and unwilling to put others before themselves.”
Conte may be correct, but it is also his responsibility to fix this problem. He cannot escape responsibility for actions as pathetic as the goalless draw that saw Tottenham lose to AC Milan at home in the Champions League or the giving up of a good position at St. Mary’s.
It’s not like he has no influence over the situation or his players. He is a contributor to Spurs’ issues.
He claimed that people who attempted to take into account his own contract status—or lack thereof—were looking for a “alibi” for the Spurs players. If Spurs were still in fourth place with ten games remaining and this was an effort to bribe the same players into responding, it was a risky tactic.
There are two possible outcomes.
The Spurs players have the option of going above and above to disprove Conte or revolting against a manager who has made such a spectacle of them.
It doesn’t help that Conte seems to have no desire to continue his connection with Spurs or vice versa.
Conte’s contract expires at the end of the current campaign, and rather than whether he will extend it, the lingering concern following his scathing remarks at Southampton was if he will really see out the remainder of his agreement.
Daniel Levy, the chairman of Spurs, has an impending international break to consider, which heightens the suspense.