The Antonio Conte experience is a whole new ball game for Tottenham Hotspur.
The north London knew they were getting one of the world’s best coaches but they will also now be fully aware that they have signed up one of the most emotional managers in the game.
On Saturday night at the Etihad Stadium the 52-year-old was declaring that his Spurs players were the best group of players he had ever worked with due to their willingness to learn and improve.
Three days later and Conte was laughing and joking with the media and explaining how he arrived every day at the club’s Hotspur Way training complex with a smile on his face.
One key word the Italian has been preaching throughout recent weeks has been ‘patience’, calling it for it from the Tottenham fans and those within the club.
On Wednesday night, after a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in the swirling rain at Turf Moor, Conte chucked patience out the window.
“Believe me, we are working a lot. We are working a lot, we are working hard every day. I think that we are doing everything to change the situation but maybe it’s not enough,” he told football.london.
“It’s not enough. I repeat, for me it’s very frustrating. Four defeats in the last five games. This is the first time in my life this type of situation has happened.
“Maybe I’m not so good for…. Maybe I’m not so good. Yes, maybe I’m not so good.
“I think Tottenham called me to improve the situation but I’m too honest. I’m too honest to close my eyes, you understand, and to continue to say ‘ok I want to finish the season in this way and ok my salary is good’.
“But I’m not this type of person. I have ambition, I’m a person who has ambition, I hate to lose and we lost, I repeat, four games in the last five games. And for me, I repeat, this is unacceptable.
“I won’t accept this. I want to try to improve the situation and also to make assessment with the club because if we continue in this way, maybe we have to pay great attention because this league we can finish tenth, 12th, 13th the same way that when I arrive here the same position.”
Conte has been reluctant to criticise his players in public but football.london understands that privately he has felt let down by some of their performances, including the latest one on a rain-swept night in Burnley.
How the same starting XI that tore the champions Manchester City apart on numerous occasions on Saturday could struggle to barely make a dent in a team battling against relegation a few days later has brought plenty of frustration to the coaching staff.
His post-match words sounded like he was considering heading off into the sunset, particularly a sentence to the BBC in which he stated: “I came here to help the club and if the problem could be the coach I’m ready to go, no problem.”
However, those around him believe his emotional statements were more of a challenge to the players, putting pressure on them to perform.
Conte is a winner. His CV is stuffed full of the silverware he has won at various clubs in recent years.
In contrast, Tottenham’s players have failed under numerous coaches now as has the structure above them. The ENIC era has brought just one League Cup in 21 years of ownership.
On the pitch, consistency has always been the club’s downfall and how the same players can look so good against Pep Guardiola’s team and then so blunt against Sean Dyche’s sums up a long-term problem at the north London outfit.
Conte came closest to showing his frustration with the players in his interview with Sky after the match.
“It is not only tonight, in the last five games we lost four games. It means there will be an assessment about the club, about me,” he said.
“For me it is very frustrating to lose four games in five. For sure the situation is this, the situation is clear. I am really sorry for the fans because they don’t deserve this, but when you lose four games in the last five it means the club has to make an assessment, to speak together to understand what is the best solution.
“The players are always the same, the club has changed the coaches, but the players are always the same and the results don’t change.
“I repeat, I am too honest to accept this type of situation and for sure we will make an assessment with the club. It is not right, not good everybody to continue to lose. I can’t accept this, it is not good for no one.”
This is not the Tottenham Hotspur Antonio Conte thought he was signing for.
He was made aware of the reality within the club during his initial talks with them and later conversations after joining but he has previously admitted that he was still surprised with what he found within his squad.
His latest set of words are also a message to the club’s board, with his bewilderment at their player recruitment all too clear in recent weeks.
Even his former Juventus colleague Fabio Paratici, who Conte simply refers to as ‘Paratici’ in his press conferences, has not escaped his public questions, not least with suitability of summer signing Bryan Gil to the Premier League.
Conte’s words also heap the pressure on Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, a man who has overseen the progress of Spurs off the pitch but barely on it during the past two decades.
Levy, who turned 60 this month, has gone through managers galore at the club yet has just that one trophy to mark his time in north London.
Four years in the top four under Mauricio Pochettino have been the highlight, including reaching that historic Champions League final, but the Argentine will always be the one who receives the credit for those years as he fostered the closest-knit squad seen at the club before in the Premier League era and since.
Conte knows he has the Spurs fans, on the whole, on his side and should he depart the club then there is only one man the fanbase will point at and it’s not the Italian.
The problem for him though is that there are still three months left of the season before Tottenham can make the big moves Conte wants in the summer transfer window to add more experience and winners to his squad.
The Italian must work with these inconsistent players, who he has repeatedly said that he will improve before the season is done.
Conte is one of the world’s best coaches on the training ground. His sessions are intense and engaging and the players have loved them. You will struggle to find people at the club who would want to see him leave.
Yet while Conte holds all the cards, the more outbursts he produces after matches to remind people just how bad Spurs can be, the more frustrated the fans will also eventually become with him and his tactics and team selections will come under more scrutiny.
For Conte is good enough to get more out of this squad. There can be few complaints about a lack of creativity in his squad because the Italian asked for the exits of four productive players in Gil, Giovani Lo Celso, Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli.
Where Conte can certainly feel aggrieved is that his system relies on the creativity of the wing-backs and it is in that area that the club failed him last month.
Once again on Wednesday night, Emerson Royal showed that he was a right-back very much signed for Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham.
The 23-year-old Brazilian got into plenty of great positions for Spurs but the hesitation in what to do with the ball when he gets there is clear. Winning a corner is often the best case scenario when the young defender gets into those areas, when much more is needed.
On the other side, Conte told football.london that he has high hopes for Ryan Sessegnon but the player himself must believe just how good he can be.
That was on stark display on Wednesday night with plentiful occasions when the 21-year-old could have run at his man but chose instead to play the safe option and pass inside to someone else.
Where is the rampaging youngster who tore defences apart for Fulham and scored 16 goals in one season in the Championship, with eight assists to boot?
Whether his hamstring problems of recent years have brought a filter to his desire to accelerate is unclear but he needs to find his belief again.
His performance against City at the weekend was a mature one, full of discipline, but he can produce so much more in the attacking third and Sergio Reguilon will likely return to the left against Leeds United this weekend.
Conte needed a new right wing-back in January but instead the club flirted with a converted one in Adama Traore for far too long, only to lose him to the club he always wanted in Barcelona, who would play him in his preferred role.
Spurs did similar with the winger Luis Diaz, who always wanted to join Liverpool and his representatives were always keeping them informed. Too much time was wasted.
Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur were good additions to the squad and removing the departed quartet was meant to cleanse the dressing room of unhappy voices and Conte has clearly stated that his squad is more complete, if not numerically weakened.
Yet is it the squad to make Conte’s tactics and philosophy work? On recent evidence it does not seem so.
The coming weeks are going to be crucial to what happens in the long-term for Tottenham.
Levy raised expectations outside and inside the club with his appointment of one of the world’s best managers, but in doing so he appointed someone who must get his way in order to deliver what his CV shows he can.
He must get what he wants from the powers that be and he must also get what he wants from the players at his disposal.
Conte would have woken up this morning at The Lodge within Hotspur Way after Spurs’ late trip back in a less emotional state, but certainly no less frustrated.
He has thrown the gauntlet down to his squad and also laid the foundations for what must come this summer.
Conte will have more emotional outbursts as this season goes on, but Spurs cannot afford to lose him despite the fact that after 14 matches, he has a worse record than Jose Mourinho, a man who also pointed out similar problems with the club’s recent past.
The Italian is used to competing at the top. He does not want this smear on his legacy as one of those who has been unable to change Spurs.
So many managers have come, seen and departed without succeeding that Conte’s appointment feels like the last roll of the dice for not only some of the long-standing members of the squad but also those at the top who are making, or agreeing to, repeated bad decisions that don’t alter the club positively.
Conte has the ability to change the course of Tottenham Hotspur for the better, but will Tottenham Hotspur let him?
Source by Football London