Opinion: Five things that caused Tottenham’s season to curtail this year

Spurs seemingly had an impressive transfer window with the additions of Richarlison, Djed Spence, Yves Bissouma, Clement Lenglet, Ivan Perisic and Fraser Forster for a combined total of £172m (Transfermarket).

However, ultimately it came down to how the players performed on the pitch.

The 22/23 season started off brightly for Spurs, remaining unbeaten in the first seven league fixtures.

Fans quickly gained optimism about what Antonio Conte could bring to the North London club. There was a real sense of identity from Spurs on the run they pulled together at the start of the campaign.

However, this honeymoon period eventually would expire, as results would start to spiral in the wrong direction. A cause of this is down to a variety of things that went wrong, and today I will be examining five factors as to why Spurs’ season has curtailed.

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

1. The 3-1 North-London defeat in September.

Coming into this fixture Spurs fans were relatively hopeful that Antonio Conte could set up in a way in which they could take points off their North London counterparts. However, these hopes were quickly diminished, as Conte set up Spurs in such a way that Arsenal would leave the Emirates Stadium with all 3 points.

Spurs were largely pinned back in their own half for most of the game, despite looking dangerous on the counterattack. The most frustrating thing about this loss was the goals Tottenham conceded, excluding the wonder strike from Thomas Partey, you got the feeling that Spurs should’ve really done better with the rather cheap goals they conceded – in particular Arsenal’s second goal scored by Gabriel Jesus after a mix up between Hugo Lloris and Cristian Romero.

A reason why Spurs were simply outclassed on the day was perhaps down to the system Antonio Conte laid out for Spurs which only resulted in Arsenal keeping the ball and pinning The Lillywhites back. For example, one fault in the way Spurs set up was the lack of bodies in midfield. With Arsenal having three in midfield in contrast to Spurs having two in the centre of midfield it wasn’t a surprise to see Arsenal winning almost every midfield battle.

Furthermore, this was the first time domestically that Spurs were this exposed after the superb start to the season they endured which added to the sense of disappointment after Granit Xhaka further added to the Gunners’ lead which gave the home side a tighter grip on their 3 points which they successfully picked up in the first North London derby of the season.

2. The lack of recruitment in the January winter window.

Following from some disappointing results, it was clear Tottenham needed some reinforcements – especially in defence. The goals Spurs were throwing away prior to the World Cup break was nothing short of jarring. This theme of cheapish goals that predominantly led from Spurs errors continued going into 2023, with an appalling 0-2 loss to Aston Villa. This loss only just further backed this idea that reinforces were necessary in January if Spurs wanted to finish in the top 4.

With the delight of the Spurs fans, Daniel Levy backed this idea after tying down Pedro Porro’s signature on an initial loan with an obligation to buy in the summer for a fee of just under £40 million (Sky Sports)

However, this wasn’t the only addition Spurs managed to bring in. After heavy speculation of Everton plotting a move for Villareal winger Arnaut Danjuma, Tottenham seemingly hijacked the move, as the Dutch international opted for a move to the London club. Many fans suggested that perhaps this deal wasn’t necessary, and priorities should have been on bringing in defensive reinforcements.

The somewhat disapproval of the January transfer window from the fans added to the theme of Spurs being their own worst enemy, as defensive mistakes continued to be a burden for Antonio Conte.

3. The premature exit of the FA Cup. Sheffield United 2-0 Spurs.

With progression into the UEFA Champions League quarter-final looking in jeopardy, Spurs had one final shot at realistic glory. The FA Cup. Spurs would travel north to Sheffield, as they took on EFL Championship hopefuls, Sheffield United. Just days after Tottenham clinched a victory over London rivals Chelsea, there was a sense of belief that Antonio Conte’s men could turn over the stubborn Sheffield United side.

However, as events from this game unfolded, it was the home side who dominated as a matter of fact, as The Blades carved out a narrow 1-0 win to see progression to the last eight of the FA Cup.

This loss seemed to hit hard within the Spurs fanbase, with many implying that progression under Antonio Conte looked unlikely.

This loss arguably had a detrimental impact on the confidence of the players, as just three days after The Lillywhites would travel to Wolverhampton to take on Premier League strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers. Spurs would put in a mediocre performance, as Tottenham would take another blow to their top 4 hopes.

Whether Antonio Conte was the right man for Spurs was a debate amongst the Spurs fanbase, with many fans urging Daniel Levy to appoint former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino as the successor to Antonio Conte should the Italian be sacked after the concerning run of results pulled together from the ‘serial winner’.

4. The Antonio Conte outburst following Southampton 3-3 Spurs.

After Spurs threw away a 1-3 lead in an inexplicit style, it was fair to say Antonio Conte was seething in his post-match press conference, the Italian would go on to have a dig at the players, the ownership of the club and why Spurs have saw a lack of glory. Conte said:

“The problem is we have shown we are not a team. We are 11 players. I see selfish players. I see players that don’t want to help each other, don’t play with heart.

“It is the same every season, no matter who the manager is. They’re used to it here,” (TalkSport).

This rather bizarre outburst sent shockwaves to the Spurs fans and the press, with many speculating if he could come back from this. Conte also suggested that the culture within the players is also a reason why Spurs have won one trophy since Daniel Levy took over in 2001, by branding the players as ‘selfish’, who play with no ‘heart’.

This attack on the Tottenham players emphasised why the players haven’t come close to any glory this season after crashing out of the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup prematurely to the hands of Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United.

The sacking of Antonio Conte looked inevitable at this point, fans protested and argued on social media that while the things Antonio Conte said were correct, it was still unacceptable and perhaps this stinging attack was launched, as the Italian knew that he wouldn’t be at the club come the restart of the league following from the March international break.

5. The eventual sacking of Antonio Conte

Days after the outburst from the Spurs gaffer, it was eventually announced that Antonio Conte would depart the club immediately, and his assistant, Cristian Stellini would take over in a caretaker role until the end of the season.

What looked to be a season to remember for Spurs after the tremendous run of form pulled together at the start of the season quickly turned into one to forget with a collection of disasters occurring on and off the playing field.

Now onto another busy summer in North London… what will it be this time?

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