Opinion: Antonio Conte – Should Tottenham play manager stick or twist?

Antonio Conte
(Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

Why is this question being asked?

The atmosphere surrounding the fanbase at Tottenham currently is one of frustration and hopelessness. Seemingly no direction or communication from the hierarchy, no willingness to go and sign players to improve the squad in January, and a string of bad results and performances have all added fuel to the fire.

Amidst all this, Antonio Conte is in no hurry to commit to a new contract (Evening Standard) and there is noise that he could leave after his deal expires come the end of the season.

I am going to look at whether it will benefit Tottenham to stick or twist on Conte, and how much of the blame lies on his shoulders for the poor run of results and general negativity surrounding the club.

When Tottenham persuaded Conte to join in November 2021, they would have been fully aware that he was a manager who required backing and that the club needed to follow his vision.

I truly believed that this would happen, as the hiring of Fabio Paratici and news coming out of the club of the improving financial situations were positive signs.

However, this summer, whilst some good signings were made such as Richarlison and Perisic, there seemed to be a lack of willingness to secure Conte’s number-one targets for various positions.

Conte labelled the purchase of Spence as a ‘club signing’ (Talk Sport) and this has shown throughout this season as both players have struggled for game-time and are seemingly very low on confidence.

Conte’s demands:

This January, Conte will be demanding signings to push Tottenham on in the second half of the season. We have fallen behind the top four and are on a bad run of form.

The same players are costing us weekly, yet Tottenham have not invested a single penny in the January transfer window yet, despite all other big six rivals bringing new faces in.

Tottenham are currently in a position where if they don’t back Conte and prove to him that they share his vision for success in this January window,  he will not sign his extension and we will be left by the side of the road with no map to take us to where we need to go.

Owners blame:

I believe that most of the blame lies in the hands of the owners, and their consistent failure since they took the reigns at Spurs. The cycle of top-class managers being acquired on big contracts with lots of empty promises feels like it now must come to an end, and the real problems must be addressed.

The sad truth of the matter is that these owners are going to stick around for the next few years, at a minimum, and you must look at Conte has achieved with what he has, and how motivated he feels.

My feelings towards Conte:

Conte’s time at Spurs has been very mixed, but the main feeling I have always felt with him is uncertainty. We did brilliantly towards the end of last season, picking up some great results to finish in the top four for the first time in over two years.

But I have always felt that despite the good times there is always trouble around the corner. The highs have been good, most notably the 3-0 win against Arsenal, but the lows feel much worse than ever before.

The most notable one for me was our loss against Burnley early on last year, and Conte coming out afterwards, talking in riddles as he normally does, and essentially suggesting he didn’t want to continue and he wasn’t the correct man for the job (The Sun).

This has caused constant questions about Conte’s future this season, and in my opinion, is distracting him from his job. Our performances and results have fallen off a cliff, and every player bar Kane and a few others seem to lack serious confidence.

It does beg the question; how much longer can this continue? If Conte is so unwilling to commit to the club, regardless of the reason for this, is there any point in continuing with him?

Conte’s lack of commitment gives the board even less reason to back him, therefore I believe that we would be better off cutting our losses with him now and getting a new manager. We need one who is young and hungry to succeed and plays an attractive brand of football.

Is Conte getting the best out of the current squad:

Additionally, I believe that, this season, Conte could be getting more out of the squad of players at his disposal. He has a stubborn nature during games and an inability to adapt to situations, which has led to us being beaten comfortably on multiple occasions.

For example, Arsenal dominated in both fixtures, especially at the Emirates, due to midfield dominance. Arteta plays with inverted fullbacks, with Zinchenko coming centrally to create a four-man midfield and completely overloading that area of the pitch. He had our midfield duo chasing shadows during both games, with tactical changes needed to combat this.

Conte failed to adapt on both occasions, and whilst we were better in the second half at the weekend it was still nowhere near good enough. I believe we have a much stronger midfield and attack than defence, yet Conte insists upon using five at the back in every single game.

Changing to a 4-3-3 would allow us to dominate the ball and spend more time attacking. We have the progressive passers and creativity to do this, with players such as Deki, Bentancur and Kane.

We currently set up in a 3-4-3, with the focus on sitting deep, shutting the opposition out and playing on the counter. Unfortunately, we lack the personnel to do this well, with constant pressure being applied to our defence, resulting in mistake after mistake and falling behind in games.

When we react to this and have sustained periods of possession, we do create chances and score goals, but Conte seems to have a real stubbornness to make this change from the start of matches and is not getting the best out of the current squad of players.

Maybe he is sticking like this to put pressure on the board, because he is scared to be more expansive, or even because he doesn’t trust some players who would thrive in a more possession-based style of play such as Bissouma.

Whatever the reason, change is needed and I cannot see a world in which Conte keeps this stubborn stance and is successful with this group of players.

The solution:

The solution is not a simple one, but it never will be with these owners in charge of our club.

But as I said earlier on, that is not going to change anytime soon and so therefore we must look for the best fit for the club. I would personally cut our losses with Conte now, because there is clear intent not to back him and he will not compromise, and we risk the season spiralling out of control with an unhappy Conte.

It’s such a shame as I really like him and wanted it to work out, but it has never been the right fit. I know some fans will hate to hear it but I wouldn’t be against seeing Poch return, or looking elsewhere at a young hungry manager who plays attractive football.

There is also so much deadwood in the squad, which will not help the cause of the manager coming in and certainly hasn’t helped Conte’s cause, but hopefully, we can start to shift it by the summer.

At this current moment, Tottenham are going nowhere, so I say we at least get to see some nice football and good vibes to give us some glimmer of hope. Major change is needed, and I implore the fans to keep making their voices heard for the good of the club.

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