Dubai: Antonio Conte’s tenure as Tottenham Hotspur manager may be coming to a close, but goodness me, he is determined to go out with a bang - and take a few people down with him.
After Tottenham surrendered a 3-1 lead to draw with Southampton in the Premier League, the Italian coach publicly aired his long-simmering frustrations and discontent with the club and its players in a post-match inquest that was as explosive as it was inflammatory. It sure made incredible viewing. But I think he has now surely lost the dressing room after his comments.
He delivered a scathing assessment of the club’s culture and his players’ performances, warning that even if he were to be sacked, the club’s years without success would continue unless there was a significant change. In an increasingly tense relationship between the club and the manager, Conte accused his players of being “selfish” and even took verbal shots at the owners.
It was an extraordinary rant from a man clearly fed up. Is he trying to get himself the sack, or is this another one of his outbursts to get the players to improve? He tried the same thing last season and it did the trick, but has the former Chelsea boss gone too far this time? I really think he has. This approach is always risky as it can either motivate players to prove a coach wrong or lead to a revolt against the manager who has publicly criticized them. I believe the latter could happen.
He argued that Spurs fall short because the players are accustomed to mediocrity and are not motivated to play for something important or to perform under pressure. He pointed out that despite the club’s long history, they have not won any significant trophies during the twenty years that the current owner, Daniel Levy, has been in charge. Although Spurs did win the League Cup in 2008, his point about the lack of success is still clear.
It remains to be seen how Levy will react to Conte’s criticism but the immediate concern is how the players will respond to being publicly lambasted by their manager at such a crucial point in the season. With fourth place still in reach, Levy may need to address the situation immediately, but he may also choose to wait until the end of the season when Conte’s contract expires to part ways with him.
There is a growing feeling that Conte is acting as though he is doing Spurs a favour by managing them. But I highly doubt he will survive until the end of the season - but clearly he will not go down without a fight.
With the international break up ahead Spurs would have time to find a suitable replacement. And that could be former coach Mauricio Pochettino. He would improve the mood inside the club and that would be very beneficial ahead of the last 10 games of the campaign which include testing clashes against Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester United, Liverpool and Brentford. Qualifying for next year’s Champions League otherwise looks unlikely, even though Spurs are at present fourth in the table. But following his latest tirade the longer Conte hangs around, the worse their situation could get.