What Does Antonio Conte’s Sacking Reveal About Tottenham’s Culture?

By Ian John
March 27, 2023

Yesterday the inevitable happened; Tottenham Hotspur parted ways with their manager Antonio Conte.

The Italian’s removal from his post was a seeming certainty after a 10-minute outburst after the recent Tottenham v Southampton game, where Spurs conceded two late goals against the Premier League’s bottom team to end up drawing the game 3-3.

By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66763265

Conte’s Outburst

In his outburst, Conte lambasted his players, calling them “selfish” and accusing them of not having the heart to dig deep and grind out results when it matters.

“I see only 11 players that play for themselves,” he started after the draw with Southampton, also adding;

“We are not a team. We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart [into it]. This season compared to last, now we are worse in this aspect. When you are not a team you cannot improve.”

“They don’t play for something important, yeah. They don’t want to play under pressure, they don’t want to play under stress. It is easy in this way.”

He also lambasted the club’s culture, stating that Tottenham (and by default its owners) were not willing to take the risks required to make the club a serial winner, stating that the club was happy to remain comfortable, rather than successful.

“Tottenham’s story is this – 20 years and there is this owner and they never won something. Why?”

“The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay[s] here. I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench. You risk to disrupt the figure of the manager and to protect the other situation in every moment.”

“Until now I try to hide the situation but now, no, because I repeat I don’t want to see what I have seen today.”

“If they want to continue in this way, they can change the manager, a lot of managers, but the situation cannot change. Believe me.”

Nobody listening to the interview was in any doubt that this was Conte’s final act as Tottenham manager and the formality of his removal from the post was confirmed yesterday.

The club released a statement that it had “mutually agreed” a deal with Conte to terminate his contract, while assistant manager Cristian Stellini has agreed to step in, along with first team coach Ryan Mason, to oversee the first team until the end of the season.

Dissatisfaction Amongst Players

Tottenham are now 15/8 with bet365 Sport to finish in one of the four Champions League places this season in the Premier League (behind Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd and Newcastle) and their recent indifferent form suggests that they could find the rest of the season a struggle.

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The draw with Southampton has come in a run of results which have seen Spurs go out of the Champions League to AC Milan and lose on the road against Wolves.

However, part of that could well be the issue that Antonio Conte seemed to have with a number of his players in the squad.

There were reports just a few weeks ago that a number of Tottenham stars, who remained anonymous, were unhappy with the Italian, his attitude and his methods and that they had reached out to former boss Mauricio Pochettino to come back and work with the team.

Additionally, their expensive summer signing Richarlison has been very vocal over the last month or so about the lack of playing time he has been afforded since making his big money move from Everton.

Furthermore, Danish international midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg answered some of Conte’s criticism of players following the Southampton game by stating that the Italian manager didn’t communicate effectively to his players.

What Now For Tottenham?

Tottenham owner, Daniel Levy, who while not named was also part of Conte’s criticism of the club, will now begin the process of seeking a long-term replacement for the Italian.

Stellini and Mason will guide the club through the remainder of the season, or at least until a successor is found.

A number of names have already been mentioned including ex-Bayern Munich manager Julien Nagelsman, current Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim and their former head coach Mauricio Pochettino, who left the club to join Paris St Germain a couple of years ago.

In the meantime, Spurs players will be focused on trying to salvage their season by finishing in the Champions League places in the Premier League, ensuring the new manager has a firm footing on which to start in the position next season.

What Now For Antonio Conte?

The fiery Italian has probably endured his worst spell as a manager in the role at Tottenham, but he has built up credit for his successes at other clubs in his career.

After guiding Bari to Serie A from Serie B in 2008-09, Conte had short spells with Atalanta and Siena before landing the Juventus job, where he won three Serie A titles, before becoming the Italian national team manager.

He then moved to Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup, and then from there he moved to Inter, where he landed a Serie A title in 2020/21 before joining Tottenham in November of that year.

A move back to Italy does seem the most likely move for the outspoken Italian with a potential return to Inter Milan or Juventus a possibility.

Does Conte’s Criticism of Tottenham Sand Up to Scrutiny?

What is clear about Conte’s outburst is that he feels the club is too comfortable at present and that this emanates from the owner downwards.

He felt this lack of ambition and happiness in mediocrity stymied the development of the club into a genuine force in European football.

There is no doubt that many people in football have found Spurs owner Daniel Levy difficult to deal with, but generally that has not included the team’s manager.

However, his criticism of the team also doesn’t ring entirely true, as this was a team that not too long ago, reached the Champions League final.

It does seem that there had been a complete breakdown in the relationship between Conte and a good few first team players and that this frustration lay at the heart of Conte’s complaints.

However, the fractious Italian may well be as much to blame for that as the players.

It is clear that the manager, and his squad, have been at odds for some time and that this parting of ways was inevitable.

Conte’s outburst simply brought forward that date from the end of the season, to this week.

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