Opinion: Is Antonio Conte getting off lightly at Spurs? – Looking at his three shortcomings

Antonio Conte
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The new manager bounce is well and truly over, as I thought it would be. An easy fixture list when Conte came in suggested that things were looking rosier than perhaps they were.

But fast-forward a couple of months, and Spurs have lost three times to Chelsea (all without scoring), failed to progress in the UEFA Europa Conference League, limped past Morecombe in the FA Cup, got beaten at home to Southampton and Wolves in the same week and also lost 1-0 to relegation-threatened Burnley.

Yes, Spurs have also picked up recent wins against Man City and Leeds United, but one step forward then two steps back is often frustrating.

This is not on the manager. We all know the players assembled by Daniel Levy and co. over the years have not been good enough. But this does not mean that our manager is not immune from criticism.

Had some of these decisions been made by Jose Mourinho or Nuno Espirito Santo, there would be uproar. So what recent moments have been questionable?

Starting 11s

This is one factor that has really bugged me. After netting an unbelievable brace against Leicester recently, Steven Bergwijn must have been on cloud nine. Therefore, one can infer that he would be raring to make similar impacts in future games.

But instead of giving the Dutchman more game time, in line with this sudden upturn, he has been used as he was previously – a sub to be brought on with ten minutes to go, and only if we need a goal.

Now was the perfect opportunity to galvanise this forward who has had a disappointing Spurs career thus far. And Conte has not taken advantage of this.

And then there’s the defence. Antonio Conte has, rather embarrassingly, come out and claimed that he may have made mistakes with his selections, particularly regarding the inclusion of Davinson Sanchez, and the omission of Joe Rodon (Daily Mail).

In fact, many believe, including some of the players, Rodon has not been given a fair crack in the first team (Mirror).

Davinson Sanchez has repeatedly made mistakes in his time at Spurs, and yet different managers seem intent on turning him into a world-beater. It was Einstein that said that the definition is insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, and expecting a different result.

In Game-Management

Two examples of tactical ineptitude during recent fixtures have led me to raise an eyebrow. Firstly, at 1-1 against Southampton, Conte prepared to bring Dejan Kulusevski on for Lucas Moura.

Moura then duly puts in a cracking cross, which Son tucks away to put Spurs 2-1 up. Now, instead of realising that this piece of play from the Brazilian was inspired, and therefore keep him on, he did not deviate from his earlier thought and made the change anyway.

Therefore, when we found ourselves facing a 3-2 deficit, one of our most dangerous players found himself on the bench, when we needed him most.

And most recently, the defeat to Burnley encapsulated post-Poch Spurs. We went to Manchester City and beat them in a particularly astute way – keeping men behind the ball, and being clinical on the break.

But why employ exactly the same modus operandi against Burnley?

I may be over-simplifying things, but upon viewing, it appeared that Conte and Spurs were absolutely content with going into half-time at 0-0.

This was always going to be dangerous as, if we had come out firing from the first minute, and nabbed a goal, Burnley’s game-plan would have gone straight into the bin, and they would have been chasing the game.

Again, I say, if this had been Jose Mourinho or Nuno Espirito Santo making these changes, the reaction might have been rather different…

Omissions from the Squad

And something which has not been questioned nearly enough is the group of players that are not even getting a look-in. Jose Mourinho was labelled as someone who did not give youth a chance. And yet it appears that Conte trusts his young players even less!

In all four competitions in which the Italian has selected teams, none of the young, fringe players have made appearances beyond a five-minute cameo for Dane Scarlett yesterday.

Both Scarlett and Harvey White have been in and around the first team for a couple of years now, and yet have not benefited on the pitch.

And as for Dilan Markanday, instead of being rewarded with a call-up to the first team, to add some much-needed firepower, the 20-year-old was shipped off to Blackburn Rovers.

Many fans, I among them, believe the majority of these players are not good enough. So wouldn’t omitting these players be the greatest message to Daniel Levy that they need to be sold?

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